It’s Time for Home Opportunity

Dramatic developments this month have underscored our nation’s progress, as well as our continuing peril, when it comes to Home Opportunity—the deeply held idea that everyone should have access to an affordable home under fair conditions. These developments, both positive and negative, should inform the national choices ahead, including in the presidential race.

On July 11th, California lawmakers enacted the groundbreaking California Homeowner Bill of Rights, halting unfair bank practices that have forced thousands of Californians into foreclosure. Among other protections, it restricts “dual-track” foreclosures, in which lenders preemptively foreclose on homeowners who are in active negotiations to save their homes. Importantly, the law also empowers consumers to hold lenders accountable in court.

Just a day later, the U.S. Justice Department announced a landmark settlement of lending discrimination charges against Wells Fargo. The settlement provides $125 million in compensation for borrowers who the Justice Department says Wells Fargo or its brokers steered into risky and expensive subprime mortgages, or charged higher fees and rates than white borrowers, solely because of their race. The discrimination “resulted in more than 34,000 African-American and Hispanic borrowers paying an increased rate for loans simply due to the color of their skin,” according to Deputy Attorney General James Cole.

The Wells Fargo agreement builds on an earlier Justice Department settlement—the largest ever—against Countrywide Financial Corporation for racial discrimination that included a widespread pattern of discrimination against qualified African-American and Hispanic borrowers in mortgage lending. And on July 20, the Justice Department asked a judge to compel New York’s Westchester County to provide information on local zoning practices that might be racially discriminatory. This was a long-overdue step, since Westchester has consistently flouted the terms of a historic fair housing settlement it agreed to three years ago after decades of fostering neighborhood segregation.

These are important developments that, together, help to address the harm that years of lender misconduct and lax rules and enforcement have done to millions of American homeowners and our larger economy. They are making a difference, with the number of Americans facing foreclosure activity declining 11 percent in the first half of 2012, compared with the same period last year.

But much more is needed. Over one million homes and properties still saw foreclosure filings in the first half of this year. That’s hundreds of thousands of senior citizens losing their economic security, children and families disrupted, neighborhoods blighted with vacant properties, lifetimes of economic security destroyed.

And the financial institutions that wrecked our economy have continued their misconduct in different forms. This week, for example, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay $100 million to settle a lawsuit filed by its customers accusing the firm of improperly increasing minimum payments on borrowers whom they knew could not afford to pay more, generating ill gotten income from the resulting late fees. This, after JPMorgan gambled and lost its clients’ money to the tune of at least $5.8 billion.

And after the British bank Barclays settled with U.S. and British regulators for $453 million, admitting to manipulating the London interbank offered rate, or Libor (a benchmark that underpins hundreds of trillions of dollars in contracts), over a dozen additional banks are now being investigated for similarly rigging exchange rates on international markets.

It’s time for Home Opportunity—American homeownership, fair lending, fair housing—to return to the national debate. That has begun, with the rise of Home for Good, a national campaign driven by people and organizations throughout the nation concerned about the enduring foreclosure and housing crisis. That effort is equipped with clear, practical solutions, in the form of a Compact for Home Opportunity developed by housing, lending, and consumer protection experts around the country.

With the presidential contest now in full swing, it’s time for the candidates to take a stand on this crucial economic and moral issue. President Obama has taken important steps, yet he’s avoided some of the most bold and effective remedies that are available to him. Governor Romney has been mostly silent on what his Administration would do to restore Home Opportunity. It’s time we demanded clarity and commitment from each of them.



North Carolina: One key to an Obama victory lies within Mecklenburg County

When looking at the various regions of North Carolina and assessing which areas of the state are least/most likely to vote overwhelmingly for Obama, it can be more than likely to fall this way:

1) Triangle/RDU - the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill region is Obama's most loyal base area, especially considering how "liberal" this section of the state tends to be with all of the universities, colleges, and medical-oriented companies that comprise most of the 'Research Triangle Park'.  So...Obama win big time here.

2) Triad - the Greensboro/Winston-Salem/High Point region also offers it's own large, collegiate pocket of liberal voters, but not as many as the Triangle.  For every Obama vote here, McCain is able to match with one of his own.  McCain's vote in this area comes from the agricultural/manufacturing voter who is more culturally conservative.  So...Obama probably will win (barely), but it wouldn't be a shocker to see McCain win either - 50/50.

and lastly, one major KEY to an Obama victory...

3) The Queen City - Charlotte, the state's largest city, is also the nation's 2nd largest banking center behind New York.  Lots of colleges and universities here as well, but none with the international recognition like Duke, UNC, or NC State up in the Triangle.  Where the Raleigh-Durham area has an overwhelming "medical" tilt, Charlotte has an overwhelming "banking" tilt.  Charlotte, and the entire Mecklenburg County area tends to be the conservative counterpart to the Triangle's liberal sibling.  BUT, BUT, BUT, here is the reason why Mecklenburg County's vote will probably seal a win or a loss for Obama in the state: (after the jump)

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To The Hon. Sen. Barack Obama

Dear Mr. Obama,

Sir. You may be aware that your opponent, in this race, is a member of a party known for ground campaigns that turn out a surprising number of General election voters to the polls. With campaign statistics flying, I agree with you regarding your assertion that now is not the time to rest upon our laurels.

Now, hear my plea: the opposition turns out those voters precisely because they energize their base. Mr. Obama, a trip to our fair city of Atlanta, would accomplish such an action for your campaign and your electoral chances.

I have been a supporter of you since the moments before your win in Iowa, having supported Bill Richardson in the primary. I am now a resident of the fine state of Georgia, and would like to offer that the Senate race is tightening here precisely , sir, because you have long coat-tails. Those coat-tails would lengthen should you arrive, and appear onstage with the Democrat that will guarantee your party a filibuster-proof Majority in the Senate.

It is my assertion that should you choose to rally your base, the juxtaposition of your speeches and presence in the home city of Martin Luther King , Jr. - would send an unmistakeable message to everyone that we have evolved as a country. Dr. King's message resonates deeply with me, as a white american voter, and I would be honored greatly if you should choose to visit our fair city.

Such a visit would accomplish a strategic win that would force your opponent to shore up his ever weakening base of support. I would also remind you, sir, that you were leading in the polls here in our state, 4 months ago, 44 percent to 42 percent, and you are currently leading early voting by 6 percentage points.

Please visit Atlanta.

Thank you.

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middle-brow Brokaw never was a GREAT journalist.

A lot of us remember vividly how Brokaw has done his best to humiliate Democratic candidates in the past few years.  He will probably do the same against Obama.

Tom Brokaw never was a great reporter or anchorman.  Capable?  Yes, but not great.  He doesn't hold a candle to Walter Cronkite or David Brinkley (at his best), and he's piss poor compared to Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil.  John Chancellor, for most of his career, was head and shoulders above Brokaw at his crappy best.

Brokaw - has no one ever noticed? - has a bad speech impediment.  He mumbles, doesn't even pronounce his words clearly, and has always sounded like a heavy drinker, almost slurring his words.

Brokaw is no brainiac.  What's much worse - he is a shill for the CEO class that runs GE and NBC.  He's an obsequious semi-moron.

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the older white-haired fellow who was obviously too afraid of his opponent to look him in the eye.

McCain campaign on McCain:
"There was one man who was presidential tonight, that man was John McCain."

Let's see ... McCain never looked at Obama during the debate.

Not looking at your opponent is "presidential?"

This very much was the "don't talk to your enemies - don't look them in the eye" foreign policy expert practicing his "presidential" craft for a nationwide audience.

McCain campaign continues:

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