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More thinking: No to the bailout, protective actions already underway

Words of wisdom from my friend Grace in Massachusetts and from Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending.

Don’t buy the “they have to do something!” language. Good protective actions are already being taken.


Dear friends,

While the house side of Congress voted down the bail-out
the first time as we told them to, they vote again tomorrow
Thursday.

Tell them “No!” – we’d rather they wait and put together a bill
to fix the mortgage crisis that underlies the credit problems
and the damage to our neighbors and communities.

On Monday, Congresspeople’s offices were swamped with
calls opposing the bailout – but only some of them listened.
See “Background” below for more extensive explanation of what
lead to this crisis and this vote.

We must call our Congressional Reps and make them hear tomorrow,
thursday.

The Senate is supposed to have already voted.

Call your Congressional Representative, toll-free 800-830-5738
or 202-224-3121 and ask for your Congressional representatives
to not vote for the bailout
and if they do, demand:

—–

{Demands compiled by the
Mass Alliance Against Predatory Lending}:

Help For Homeowners & Tenants

o Bankruptcy Protection for Homeowners: Amend bankruptcy law
to allow federal bankruptcy judges to modify the mortgage terms
on a principal residence, like they can on vacation homes.

o Automatic Modifications for Homeowners with Mortgages: Modify
all “underwater” mortgages to fixed, 30-year mortgages based
on present appraised value, not to exceed 38% debt to income
ratio, such as has been attained by the FDIC in its takeover
of the IndyMac portfolio.  This provision would apply to any
home mortgages, either wholly owned or included in securities
owned by a financial institution.

o Protect Tenants: Any participating financial institution
must allow occupants who pay rent and fulfill other tenant
obligations to remain in their homes.

o Six Month Moratorium on Foreclosures

o Credit Repair: the credit reports of homeowners facing
foreclosure or foreclosed upon should not include either
sub-prime mortgage-related bad credit or associated bad credit
incurred by homeowner while trying to stave off foreclosure.

o Any new legislation shall preserve current claims and defenses
the homeowner has against the lender or assignee as well as
respect existing civil rights laws.

Regulation of Financial Institutions To Prevent Future Abuses

o Re-regulate the financial industry: Any financial institution
that benefits from the bailout must provide government
equity in proportion to their bail-out and be subject to the
Community Reinvestment Act requiring them to invest in low-
and moderate-income communities.

o Enact Anti-Predatory Lending legislation to ensure this does
not happen again.

o Those responsible for financial crisis cannot benefit
from bail-out.

o No salary, stock options or parachutes for CEOs and top
executives who created this situation until they start turning
their financial institutions around.

o Increase transparency, return to and expand regulatory
oversight on all financial institutions – include GAO and
congressional oversight of the bail-out itself.

o Bail-out funds cannot be used for lobbying by financial
institutions.

—–

Background:

The truth of the situation –

1.  Don’t buy the “they have to do something!” language.
Good protective actions are already being taken.

A.  The FDIC is successfully protecting most people through
the insurance on up to 100K for each checking and savings
account – don’t panic about those!

B.  The FDIC and Treasury are already taking care of banks if
they go under – arranging buy-outs that are ready to implement
if an institution is really going under.  They are doing it
reasonably cheaply and in the case of Indy Mac where the FDIC
took it over itself, they are already rewriting almost all
the bad mortgages into longer term sustainable mortgages that
borrowers are being able to pay for.  National activists also
give very good reports about the head of the FDIC.

Wall St. problems were not sudden: it has been buckling slowly
for a number of months because there have been some fundamental
problems most clearly traced to the deregulation that lead to
the explosion of the sub-prime mortgage industry and millions
of sub-prime and other questionable mortgage products.

There is a credit crunch but (and it took days for this to
become clear to me and others with wider reach) no economist
-right, left or center – was willing to say this bail-out would
actually address the fundamental problems; it would purchase
some short-term stability at the best.

When the proposed bail-out was first announced, the activists,
lawyers & experts I work with at the Mass Alliance Against
Predatory Lending made some really awesome demands and included
some smart initiatives a number of networks with slightly
different expertise were spreading around.  Even with lots of
calls and emails, very few of these are included.

While compiling the demands, part of me suspected a more
fundamental problem with the bailout proposal, which took a few
days to confirm.  The problem was the inherently flawed proposal
these demands were being attached too – a huge (truly huge)
expenditure of tax-payer funds for very questionable purchases
with no prediction of actual fundamental improvement even for
Wall St.

700 billion on top of our existing out of control national debt
is enough to indenture our future, our children’s future and
perhaps their children’s.  What would our national leaders
then claim there is no money for? Our economic survival?
Our health? Our environment? (To give you a sense of
comparison, McCain and Obama have been vociferously haggling
over McCain’s statement that he will remove all earmarks
from the Congressional budget, McCain claims will make a huge
difference; that is $18 billion in expenditures).

Bush’s people have tried to terrify us and insist that Congress
fast track this.  Congress must respond to the overwhelming
calls against the bail-out and honor public opinion and stand
up to the Bush adminstration.  Meanwhile they put aside a job
package that might have really helped Main St.

The public is right to be angry – the biggest divide between
the rich and the rest of us in US history and they are possibly
going to take our tax-payer dollars, more than for any single
initiative ever, and it was going to the biggest lenders who
had the worst performing assets – that is the most questionable
investments!

And we already sit amidst possibly the largest wealth transfer
in short period – up from primarily working class especially
African American and Latino communities to the very wealthiest
(you have to be in the top 100th of 1% to have multiplied your
wealth significantly in the last fifteen years) thanks to the
sub-prime mortgage scam and concomitant price inflation by
appraisers etc.  – and more and more middle class homeowners
are adding to wealth transfer as their homes go under.

There were two other options: that would cost less and experts
say would deal with the actual problem without targeting
reward to the worst elements of the financial industry.
Already using tools from the Depression, the FDIC has taken
over financial institutions and renegotiated sales – that
are actually working and costing less.  Even better would be
for the national government to purchase the actual failing
mortgages – they can do it with eminent domain powers at real
present day prices.  Without inflated property values, the
government could rewrite mortgages that many of those presently
in trouble would then be able to afford.  The losses would
be born by the financial players who fueled this balloon.
Although I think these estimates are low – initial estimates
by those in the field say that this process would only cost
$25-50 billion to do.

Instead, the proposal that has been resurrected would buy
bundled securities

– the good and bad investments that were opaquely bundled
together to sell to investors who reaped immediate profits
from the upfront inflated fees and value of the assets.
These bundles of securities are mixed, hard to actually
appraise and potentially misrepresented at the original sales –
which means there are potential illegal acts attached to these
asset bundles.  Is this why Bush wanted to purchase at this
problematic level? To make sure these potentially illegal
bundling products are taken over the government?

And the top leadership of the Congressional democrats are
going to join the Bushies in making this happen? Was this
because they wanted to stave off a market melt down hopefully
long enough to put it after the November elections and this
was the only one they thought Bush would sign?

If they revisit this – we want not only all our demands,
we want a fundamentally different and functional bailout plan.

Please pass this along and support people to know our
instincts were right that this is outrageously wrong – no
matter how much top leaders tell the public that they know
better than we do!

Thanks for your attention, yours, Grace

PS.  Be in touch if you wish!

_________________________________________________

[Editor’s refrain: Republican John McCain is for this Wall Street Bailout. Democrat Barack Obama is for this Wall Street Bailout. Some progressive leaders who are against the bailout in the manner it is being considered are: Green Party Presidential candidate and Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, independent candidate for Congress (against Nancy Pelosi) and Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader, Congressman Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.]

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