Washington has failed us: Where to turn?
By Mike Krauss
Bucks County Courier Times
Home ownership has been the defining characteristic of the American middle class. It has been the basis of physical and economic security; and in turn, the foundation of a stable society.
According to Realty Trac, the trade group most often cited in news reports, in 2006 there were about 267,000 home foreclosures in the United States. In 2007 the number jumped to 405,000. In 2008 it soared to 2.2 million. In 2009, 2.8 million foreclosures were reported; and in 2010, 2.9 million.
Last year the number dropped to 2.6 million as the banks held off on foreclosures while they negotiated a deal with the administration to pardon the colossal fraud in the industry.
But now that the administration has given the biggest banks and their executives a “get-out-of-jail-free” deal, industry experts forecast another tidal wave of foreclosures in 2012. The AP reports that more than 12 million mortgages in the U.S. are now “underwater.”
Let’s say the number of foreclosures for 2012 comes in at “only” at 3 million. That means that in the five years, 2008-2012, 13.5 million homes will have been foreclosed.
On the assumption that most of these were not the homes of individuals, but of families — say two adults and one child — that means that even by this conservative estimate, 40.5 million Americans will have lost their homes over the past five years.
The American middle class is being destroyed.
The deal with the banks heralded by the administration is hopelessly inadequate to the dimension of the need. Only one million out of the 12 million whose mortgages are underwater today may receive a $25,000 reduction in the principal of their loan. And perhaps 750,000 who have already lost their homes will get a check for $2,000.
As one commentator observed, it is as if someone stole your car, and offered to give back the hubcaps.
It is rapacious. And it is virtually unopposed by the nation’s political elite. For example, the GOP candidates for president have met the deal with — silence. Why?
For the same reason all the talk of jobs in 2008 faded with the election. Our federal elections are a sham. The White House and the Congress are for sale.
Until 2010, there were some restraints on the selling and buying of elections. The maximum amount one person could give to a candidate was $2,500; to a political action committee, $5,000, and for a political party committee, $30,800.
But with its high regard for “free speech,” the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that for the new “Super Pacs” and other so called “civic leagues or organizations not organized for profit,” there is no limit to what one person can contribute; and more, the contribution may be kept secret.
The big money started to flow. The price tag for federal elections (president and Congress) in 2008 was about $5 billion. Watchdog groups estimate the price for 2012 at $7 billion.
Do you actually believe that “small donors” in a nation in which 40.5 million people have recently lost their home and millions can find no work are going to provide that kind of money?
It will come from people like the corporate take-over specialist who has contributed $12 million to a GOP Super Pac, and the casino owner who has ponied up $10 million for Newt Gingrich, so far.
Who will the elected then represent? The same people they do now: the less than 1 percent. And what will those they represent get for their money?
More indifference to the unemployed and the homeless, the ill-fed, ill clothed and just plain ill; more ill-advised and fruitless (but money making) military adventures, more license to cheat buyers and investors, and more of what the 1 percent already have in abundance: physical and economic security, and opportunity.
The world will be their oyster.
At the same time, the one third of American young people who do not graduate high school, the one third who graduate with no useful skills, and a generation of college graduates already saddled with huge debt will be lucky to get a job, shucking oysters in the swell restaurants where the 1 percent dine.
There is only one way for the American middle class to begin to take back our democracy and recover its stolen prosperity. People must be put back to work and back in homes.
Homes and jobs will provide the initial relief from the physical and economic insecurity that now afflict tens of millions of Americans, and give the nation an opening to the future.
But don’t look to Washington, Congress or the president for help. To one degree or another, they have all bought into more subsidies for business as a way to “stimulate” the private sector and jobs creation, and a sweetheart deal for the banks that will do nothing to deal with homelessness, and has sold out justice.
The key to the future is local housing initiatives and jobs creation on a heroic scale; to unlock the diversity, talent, industry and faith of the American people.
Washington has failed the American people, and will go on failing for the foreseeable future. Time to look elsewhere.