On Wednesday I wrote a piece on Huffington Post and another at Open Left talking about the centrality of fixing the foreclosure crisis to any recovery from the economic meltdown. Since the toxic assets at the center of the meltdown are based on mortgages that are entering foreclosure at a rate of one every 13 seconds, we have to address foreclosure as a part of getting America back on its feet.
The Homeowner Affordability and Stabilization Plan (HASP), announced in Phoenix on Wednesday by President Obama, which will help up to an estimated 9 million families, is a good first step - and the first serious effort by the Federal government to confront the challenge. But just because there was an announcement does not lessen the urgency of the problem. We are still in a situation where four families every minute enter the foreclosure process. We believe there must be a moratorium on foreclosures until HASP is fully implemented.
So yesterday we at ACORN launched the Home Defenders campaign in seven cities - a campaign to force the question of moratoriums and to press the urgency of this crisis into the consciousness of elected officials on the state and national levels. This is a campaign of refusal and resistance, refusal by distressed homeowners to cooperate with the foreclosure process and resistance to attempts to evict them from their homes. And in some cases it is a campaign of getting people back into their homes.
I wanted to give everyone a report-back from our activities yesterday, which you can find in the extended entry.
William Greider has covered politics from the nation's capital for The Washington Post and for Rolling Stone Magazine for 30 years. He has also worked as a correspondent for PBS' Frontline. He currently writes for The Nation, the oldest political journal in the country. Mr. Greider's most recent book, Come Home America, examines the implications of the country's predicament. In this segment, he talks about the Democrats role in deregulating the financial markets and their current dilemma between representing their Wall Street funders and their working class constituency. Is the Democratic party at the crossroads? Is Mr. Greider correct that the Democratic Party faces "a moment of reckoning"? Can it reconcile its working class roots with its ties to the nation's economic elite? Are these forces not contradictory and might not they tear the party apart or lead it to irrelevancy? Can the Democrats represent the interests of the working class or are they just paying lip service to New Deal ideology as they buy time to save the system that works for Wall Street but not Main Street? Can both interests be served?
If you were not one of the 2 million people watching the inauguration on the Mall in Washington, you could watch the spectacle on any number of television channels. Flipping between ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS would have yielded different commentary but largely the same mood: euphoria, awe at the magnitude of electing the first African-American president, and somber urgency about what confronts our financial system and the world. Yet, even as Obama warned of a difficult road, the crowds were wildly enthusiastic, and millions were moved. Main Street has turned a corner.
The recent upheaval of the world economic markets has been as confusing as it has been severe. Massive amounts of money, debt and uncertainty flood the markets and the lives of us all. People turn to "experts" from many fields such as economics, finance, politics, defense, sociology and others. We want to know how this happened and how it will end. The problem is that these experts are not much help. As Chris Hedges describes in his brilliant post, The Idiots Who Rule America, the experts are a product of the broken system and can no more fix it that a flat tire can change itself.
Since the experts have yet to prove themselves useful, I have decided to look elsewhere for answers. I went to the people that know nothing about economics. People like you and me. I went to the water cooler at my office, in the break room and interviewed people there. I asked about the economy, where it was going and how we got here. The answers were candid and unlike the double-speak or canned responses we hear over and over again.
The following is an excerpt from an article of mine that recently appeared in Newsweek. For links to this and other writings please visit River Twice Research.
There has never been a week like this!""There is no playbook!""The worst financial crisis since the Great Depression!" These phrases and others of equal hyperbole were repeated any number of times on Wall Street these past weeks. No doubt the drama has been spectacular. In the space of ten days, the U.S. government took over two mortgage-bond behemoths, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and assumed de facto control of one of the world's largest insurance companies, AIG. Two of the oldest and most renowned investment banks, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, came to an end; Merrill was acquired by Bank of America for about $50 billion; and Lehman was forced into bankruptcy, with some of its more-valuable assets and employees picked up for pennies by Britain's Barclays Bank. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs saw their stocks plummet and then boomerang back up. Global stock indices lost and then gained trillions in value, and central banks injected hundreds of billions to prevent the global economic system from freezing. To cap it off, the U.S. government announced a far-reaching plan to assume responsibility for the bad mortgages that triggered all this in the first place.
When someone shouts "Fire" in a crowded theater, the person who stands up and asks for calm usually get knocked down. That doesn't make him wrong. The suggestion that the current crisis may not be quite so critical isn't finding much traction these days, but that doesn't make it false.