Archives for category: Economy

A rock-star economist says it’s much simpler than you think. Daron Acemoglu, M.I.T. Professor, and his collaborator have found that the wealth of a country is most closely correlated with the degree to which the average person shares in the overall growth of its economy. When the poorest and least educated citizens have some shot at improving their own lives—through property rights, a reliable judicial system or access to markets—these citizens do what it takes to make themselves and their country richer. A comparison of related countries bears this out, e.g. the Dominican Republic vs. Haiti (two halves of the same island!) or Thailand vs. Burma (now Myanmar). It has also been true historically that fairly open and prosperous societies can revert to closed and impoverished autocracies. (NY Times Magazine, 3/18/12)

Britain already has a tax on share trading. France has just proposed a new tax for every stock trade in their country, excepting bonds. It is time that the US set a miniscule tax on each Wall Street trade, raising tens of billion dollars annually with little impact on actual investment. Such a tax would reduce speculation and outrageous bankers’ bonuses. Only 1/20th of 1% on each Wall Street trade is proposed by the American Dream Movement. The resulting income could then be used toward Main Street job creation, i.e. benefiting the rest of us 99%.

On Monday, we attended the 130th Birthday Party of FDR at Hyde Park. The park even welcomed Occupy New Paltz, who were encouraged to participate in the ceremony and have birthday cake. We were reminded of how differently FDR looked at the problems of his day:

“I see one third of a nation ill housed, ill clad, ill nourished…. The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.”

FDR’s Second Inaugural Address, January 20, 1937

We should remember his words, since the 33% has not changed.

VICTORY FIGHTING FORECLOSURES IN SAN FRANCISCO

A small neighborhood in San Francisco, California has come together to save neighbors’ homes from the foreclosures happening all over our country.  Bernal Heights neighbors have joined together in Occupy Bernal Heights.  88 houses in this neighborhood with a population of 25,000 have been indentified as being in danger of foreclosure.  Members of Occupy Bernal have been going door to door to these houses offering assistance for people who are faced with losing their homes.   There are counselors available through various HUD and other housing agencies in San Francisco.  Then there is the support from neighbors, which has proved invaluable.

Many of these houses have mortgages with Wells Fargo Bank.  Members of Occupy Bernal,  including  homeowners at risk of losing their homes, have been in negotiation with elected officials and Wells Fargo executives.  Up to this date, two housing auctions have been postponed due to community  pressure.  This will enable time for loans to be renegotiated and people to stay in their homes.

We are developing strategies to help our neighbors negotiate with the banks.  Elected officials contacted by neighbors have been helping people meet with bank executives to negotiate.  Banks are reporting record profits in this time of financial trouble, and there are ways to make them accountable to the people who have trusted them for their mortgages.

Here are some guidelines for helping neighbors facing default or foreclosure:

1. Identify neighbors either in foreclosure or in default, the step immediately preceding foreclosure.  Default means that people have fallen  behind on their mortgage payments,  their property taxes, or insurance.

2. Contact HUD certified Foreclosure counselors in your county.  These are found on HUD websites.  Find out their availability for people.

3. Contact the foreclosee/defaultee. Tell them you are neighbors concerned about the impact of the foreclosure on the community.  You are not experts on the issue, but know of some experts who would assist them if they want your help.  Emphasize that you want to work with them to help them keep their homes, and preserve your community.

4. Connect them with a HUD certified foreclosure counselor.  The counselor can assist them in negotiations with the lender at any point in the process if they sign a third party authorization” form, available from the counselor, permitting them to contact the lender on the borrower’s behalf.

5. Neighbors, with the permission of the homeowner, could help get local media coverage of the situation.

6. Neighbors can also contact a local lender official and request a meeting.

7. Local elected officials can be contacted on the behalf of the homeowner, if they agree to help support their fight to stay in their home.

Here’s a short explanation of the foreclosure process and some information about predatory loans.  The process of default or foreclosure begins  when a homeowner  is unable to pay his/her mortgage or taxes.

a. The lender can then call for them to pay all past charges, – including any balloon payments or deferred interest.
b. If they don’t pay, the lender can place them in foreclosure.
c. Foreclosure can lead to the lender selling their property at a public auction.
d. If someone buys the property, the new owner can move to evict them.

Why are so many people in foreclosure or default?  In our economy, with so many people out of work, people are falling behind on payments for their homes. Another reason is the predatory loans which some banks have been issuing to people.  Predatory loans are often marketed to the vulnerable, people with poor credit or the inability to refinance under more favorable terms.  Such loans often permit the borrower to pay only a portion of the interest on the loan for a period of time, – say only 1% on a 6% loan for 3 to 5 years.  Then, after that period, all of that deferred interest can be called in by the lender, often resulting in default followed by foreclosure, auction sale and eviction.  This is just a short statement about a larger problem.

More than 65,000 Rebuild the Dream members signed a petition to help save a community church from an unfair foreclosure and eviction by BB&T, one of the ten biggest banks in the country. The 99% stood up and the bank backed down!

After an intense, 3-hour negotiation, BB&T backed down and agreed to a fair deal with the Higher Ground Empowerment Center church that was about to lose its building to the bank. This victory was a complete turnaround, led by local activists at Occupy Atlanta and Rainbow PUSH Coalition. The sudden groundswell of media coverage, local community action, and MoveOn’s Rebuild the Dream national petition forced BB&T’s hand.

This outcome shows: when we’re united, we can stop big banks in their tracks and get them to treat people with dignity. The more banks that have public re-negotiations like this, the bigger the momentum will be for millions of other struggling homeowners who are in the same boat.

Bill Moyers, who has been a voice of truth and courage in the face of years of media pressure, has a new TV show – Moyers and Company – in which he discusses issues of interest to us all. The premiere episode of Moyers & Company explores how America’s gross inequality is no accident, but was in fact “politically engineered,” with insight from Winner-Take-All Politics authors Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson. Also: A Bill Moyers essay on how Occupy Wall Street is waking us up to economic inequality. It airs on PBS – WMHT locally – on Saturdays at 7:00PM.

Yesterday, in New Hampshire, George Romney said he likes to FIRE PEOPLE.

Yesterday, something big happened in New York City. The City Council passed a resolution—by resounding voice vote—declaring that corporations are not people.

Unlimited corporate spending on elections (the kind made possible by the Supreme Court’s misguided Citizens United decision) corrupts our democracy. Corporate money drowns out citizens’ voices, and that’s what really violates the First Amendment.

Please urge your local leaders/councils to pass the same or similar resolutions.

Last week the investment company PNC Wealth Management issued its annual “True Cost of Christmas” index which reported that purchasing all the items mentioned in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” costs more than ever — $101,000, up 4.4 percent from last year.

The high price of gold sent retail demand plummeting so the cost of the five golden rings actually went down.

Seven-swans-a-swimming rose by 13 percent.

Pipers piping and drummers drumming “saw modest increases, both up 3%.”

But the cost of eight-maids-a-milking, representing the only unskilled labor, remained unchanged — there was no increase this year in the minimum wage.

The extra money that the very wealthy get through the Bush tax cuts does not, as claimed by those who fund right-wing causes, create jobs in the U.S. through investment. In fact, a large proportion of these funds are invested overseas, where they create jobs for people in India and China (and some elsewhere too) – jobs that compete with Americans, and encourage more U.S. companies to move overseas.

In other words, rich Americans – the 1% – are betting against their own country. And against American workers. Not only is the tax credit undeserved and unneeded, but it noticeably hinders the recovery of our economy. So much for the loud-mouthed patriotism of the Koch brothers, Newt Gingrich and other GOP Presidential hopefuls, and the Republicans in the House and Senate who steadfastly kill any attempt to get the 1% to pay their fair share.

Check out Paul Sullivan’s column about this. He writes about strategies that the wealthy use to manage their money and their overall well-being.