___Taxpayers will ease banks' costs in mortgage deal WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Consumer advocates have complained that U.S. mortgage lenders are getting off easy in a deal to settle charges that they wrongfully foreclosed on many homeowners. Now it turns out the deal is even sweeter for the lenders than it appears: Taxpayers will subsidize them for the money they're ponying up. The Internal Revenue Service regards the lenders' compensation to homeowners as a cost incurred in the course of doing business. Result: It's fully tax-deductible. Critics argue that big banks that were bailed out by taxpayers during the financial crisis are again being favored over the victims of mortgage abuses. ___ Poll: Most see damage if US debt limit not raised WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ Most Americans think jarring economic problems will erupt if lawmakers fail to increase the government's borrowing limit. Yet they're torn over how or even whether to raise it, leaning toward Republican demands that any boost be accompanied by spending cuts. According to an Associated Press-GfK poll, 53 percent say that if the debt limit is not extended and the U.S. defaults, the country will face a major economic crisis. An additional 27 percent say such a crisis would be somewhat likely, while just 17 percent largely dismiss the prospects of such damage. Separately Republican officials said that GOP lawmakers may seek a short-term extension of the debt limit, thus avoiding a default as early as next month by the U.S. Treasury while they try to negotiate spending cuts with President Barack Obama over the next few months. ___ US home construction in 2012 highest in 4 years WASHINGTON (AP) â¿¿ U.S. builders started work on homes in December at the fastest pace in 4 Â½ years and finished 2012 as their best year for residential construction since the early stages of the housing crisis.