Friday, March 26, 2010

Money, Mortgages and Marriage

Here is another area where the reprehensibly criminal behavior of the banking and finance industries has done immeasurable damage - the area of family life.

Financial problems are one of the major stressors on a marriage.  The issues that money represents are deeper than the actual dollars and cents; money represents power, control, independence, self-worth, security - issues that cut to the core of a relationship. But what is sad is that, at the very time when partners need each other's support the most - during hard times - is often the time when the pressures of financial trouble cause them to lash out at the closest person to them - their spouse. And even the best marriages have their weak spots, which under pressure can turn into ruptures.

That is the cruelest blow of all. It's one thing to lose a structure. As much as we value our house, in the end it's just a 'thing'. But our spouse, our family - that is what really matters, and unfortunately that can also become a casualty in the war being waged against the middle class and poor.

My husband and I are determined that, no matter what, our money problems are not going to cost us our treasure, which is our marriage and kids. These thieves cannot take that away from us. So we have talked about it and made a pact that we are going to pull closer together instead of being driven apart by the pressures of foreclosure and bankruptcy.

When we get irritated, frustrated, fearful or anxious - as we will and we do - we are going to stop and think before we snap at each other. And if one of us does 'snap', the other will not take it to the next level, but understand that we are both under enormous pressure and let it go. And the one who snaps knows that it's important to apologize.

We are not going to blame each other for the situation we're in. We know whose fault it is that we - and millions of other Americans - are in this mess, and that we both have done the best we can. Instead, we are going to work together to try to get out of it. If I 'win' and you 'lose', I lose too. Who wins? The banks.

We are not going to isolate ourselves from each other. Not that we both don't need some alone time, but to disconnect emotionally from each other is the death knell for a relationship.

We are going to make the extra effort to 'woo' each other, and be conscious of why we fell in love in the first place. We remember that of all the people in the world, our spouse and kids are the ones in our corner, and the ones it is most important to treat with kindness and respect.

We are going to appreciate and be grateful for what we do have, and not take it for granted or focus on what we don't have. We know so many people who have every material thing you could want and more, and very few of those people have happy family lives - acquiring and keeping all that stuff tends to require a kind of single-mindedness that can take precendence over a spouse and kids.

The banksters may be able to take away our house, but they can't take away our home unless we let them. If I let them take my home, where my heart is, then they really do win. And that is a price I will not pay.

Our Mortgage Journey - What's Next?

Since we are right smack in the middle of working on a loan modification, and since I have decided to share our story in the interests of giving information to others who may be in the same boat and shining a light on the process, I am inviting you, my friends, to come along with us as we navigate the shark-infested waters.

I have absolutely no idea how this is going to end up. My best hope is that OneWest decides to give us a loan mod with a decent interest rate, maybe a principal reduction, so that we can afford to stay in the house. Whether this will happen or not, I can't begin to tell you. We may lose the house to foreclosure; we may do a short sale - who knows? All I know is that we are going to fight hard to keep this house.

Our house was scheduled to be sold at auction on March 15th, but my husband went down to the courthouse that day with our bankruptcy paperwork to make sure they did not sell it. Our new sale date is sometime around the end of April.

On March 2nd, we requested RESPA documents by registered mail. We got a signed receipt by return mail, but we have not received the documents as of yet.

Tomorrow, we will be meeting with our mortgage broker, who has been working tirelessly to help us keep our house. I call her St. June. We will talk with her to determine what our next step will be.

I'll fill you in tomorrow. Wish us luck!

Monday, March 22, 2010

A New Resource For Mortgage Issues -!

I am very pleased to announce that I will be writing for a great new blog dedicated to exposing the shameful truth about what is happening in the banking and finance industries, written by people who are dealing with the reality of the loan modification process that was intended to help people stay in their homes, but instead has given the banks more incentive to foreclose. It's called, run by Huffington Post mortgage blogger Richard Zombeck, and will make its official debut tomorrow.

While blogging over the last few days about my own mortgage woes, I came across his excellent post "I Refuse to be Ripped Off". You know me - a post with that title is sure to catch my eye, so I read it and followed the link to his own site, where I commented on another of his articles, "Loan Modifications: a $4 Billion Con Game". He contacted me and invited me to join the Shame the Banks team, and now I will be hooked up with all the most pertinent information, as well as contributing to a blog that I feel should be required reading for anyone with any connection at all to the home loan situation.

About Shame the Banks:

This site has been created for me, for you, and for millions of other Americans fighting the banking system to save the roof over their heads.  This site is not just about shaming the banks however; it’s about shaming each and every person that any of us have reached out to for assistance only to be denied, pushed aside and lied to.
It has become abundantly clear that Congress, Wall Street and the Banks are not concerned about the American Family.  Daily we  turn on the TV and watch the endless Dog and Pony shows that are created to distract Americans from the real issues facing us and our families.
We are done being lied to and done being treated as second hand citizens. It is time that the truth is told and we, who have been - and still are being - dragged thru the dirty cogs of the Banking Industry, are going to tell it.  It is time that each and every member of Congress is held accountable for their actions or inactions that has led this great Nation to what it has become today.
At Shame the Banks, there are articles covering the latest developments in foreclosure and mortgage issues, as well as upcoming focus on credit card and student loan issues, blogs, and also personal stories from the people who are going through the process of attempting to keep their houses after being lied to, scammed and cheated by the banksters.

If you have a story or are involved in or considering a loan mod, I urge you to go over to Shame the Banks and share it. The more people stand up and speak out on this, the more the public will learn the reality of what's going on in the mortgage crisis, not the media spin.

Plus, I'll be there with you!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Please, Bite the Fattest, Whitest Part of My Ass, John Boehner

 (Warning: the following post contains subject matter and language that some readers may find objectionable. Including me.)

Now, it's personal.

I thought I was pissed off before.


Is there no end to the gall, the hubris, the entitlement, the greed, the stunning hypocrisy of these disgusting sons of bitches?

I was kick-started into blogging for real in early 2005, with the advent of the Bankruptcy Bill, one of the foulest and most vile pieces of legislation to be excreted from the alimentary tract of Congress. Elizabeth Warren was writing about it at the time, which was when I began following her work. It's five years later, and I am now one of the people who has been sucker-punched by the end result of the long-term thievery by these white-collar criminals who have re-distributed the nation's wealth topward with the blessing of the system.

Class warfare? Damn skippy. The same kind of warfare that was waged against Iraq - a weakened, destitute and war-ravaged country, with no military to speak of, yet possessed of resources that Bushco and the neocons were determined to make their own, by hook or by crook.

And now House Minority Leader John Boehner (yeah, sure, it's pronounced 'Bay-ner'. Uh huh. Right.) is standing proudly in solidarity with the poor beleaguered banksters against the might of those little punk staffers all-powerful regulators who are determined to crush these fragile blossoms beneath the heel of their regulatory jackboots, so of course this will only mean that banks will have no alternative but to... deny credit and raise fees. See, it was those darn oppressive regulations that caused the financial industry to collapse in the first place. If only there were less regulation, everything would have been just fine! If it wasn't for those rich and powerful homeowners, having the nerve to complain about being used as ATMs for the financial sector, and not just handing over their homes at gunpoint, this whole unpleasantness could have been avoided.

See what they made us do?

It's gotten to the point where the oligarchs don't even try to pretend to care abut what they've done to the rest of America. When the House Minority Leader can openly proclaim his disdain for the people who are trying, however ineffectively, to find a way to prevent more of the uncontrolled speculation and thievery that has plunged us into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and shamelessly suck up to the perpetrators of this disaster, we know that they are secure in the knowledge that the game continues to be rigged in Wall Street's favor, and that the noise from Main Street is nothing more than the irritating buzzing of mosquitos.

And the idea that people have a right to be protected from the excesses of banking financial speculation? Ask Boehner:
Boehner said he urged bankers not to be shy when meeting with the lawmaker staff members and to send a message that new regulations and taxes translates to into banks having less available for lending.
"Don't let those little punk staffers take advantage of you and stand up for yourselves," Boehner said. "All of us are hearing from our friends and constituents on lack of credit, you can't get a loan, the more your government takes and taxes, the more regulations you have to comply with the more cost you have there and less amount you are going to have available to loan to customers."
And what is the solution?
The banking committee is concerned about the bill's intention to create an independent consumer financial protection division, with a presidentially appointed chairperson, within the Federal Reserve. They argue that bank regulators should continue to be responsible for protecting consumers as well as making sure financial institutions have sufficient capital. The proposed consumer unit would write rules for mortgages and credit card products. (emphasis mine)
There you have it, friends.

Just let the banks regulate themselves.

After all, it's worked marvelously so far.

And we certainly can't have the poor widdle banks being taken advantage of, now, can we, John? They should no longer continue to cower and cringe meekly in a corner while the thuggish regulators run rough-shod all over them, am I right?

Banks? Taken advantage of by Congressional staffers? Are you motherfucking kidding me?

Well, John Boehner,  you and your bankster butt-buddies can kiss my whole entire ass. And go fuck yourselves crosswise while you're at it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Go Visit My Friend's New Blog - "Metamemes and Hyper-Hypocrisy"

My friend zenguitarguy is a very talented, smart and thoughtful person - we've played together on and off for many years, and in fact did a gig in Bali together a while back. He has a new blog worth checking out called Metamemes and Hyper-Hypocrisy. Go there - you'll be intrigued, I promise you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Interesting Article On IndyMac/OneWest

Here's an interesting article on the banks that are trying to kick us out of our home.

And an interesting video...
Nineteen months after the catastrophic failure of one of Sacramento's top lenders, Pasadena-based IndyMac Bank, a flurry of local lawsuits alleges that the bank's successor – OneWest Bank – is systematically working to push home loan borrowers into foreclosure.

The allegations filed in the Eastern District of U.S. Bankruptcy Court claim that OneWest can make more money by foreclosing than by keeping borrowers in their homes. That's due to its so-called "shared-loss" agreement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., at least 10 local lawsuits allege.

A video made in Fairfield and circulating widely on the Internet also alleges that OneWest stands to earn millions from taxpayers by foreclosing on borrowers as a result of its shared-loss agreement with the FDIC.

The FDIC declined to comment on the lawsuits, but it recently denounced the video's "blatantly false claims." The agency told The Bee that its agreement with OneWest contains provisions to make sure the lender is taking adequate steps to modify loans.

OneWest declined to comment on either the lawsuits or the video.

The FDIC, which seized IndyMac in July 2008, sold the failed institution to Pasadena-based OneWest in March 2009.

As part of the deal, the FDIC agreed to absorb some losses from the troubled loan portfolio. That's after OneWest absorbs the first $2.5 billion in losses, the FDIC said.

But Sacramento bankruptcy lawyer Peter Macaluso claims the shared-loss agreement will reward OneWest for foreclosing on homes. Here's how, he said: The company bought IndyMac's troubled portfolio at a 30 percent discount. It can count on the FDIC eventually reimbursing 80 percent or more of its losses – and also can keep proceeds from the foreclosure sales.

"They're deliberately blowing people out in a systematic pattern," said Macaluso.
He has filed eight lawsuits in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on behalf of area IndyMac borrowers who have filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection.

Read more:

Monday, March 15, 2010

Safe For At Least Six Weeks!

Update -  the next sale date is in six weeks; a lot can happen in that time.

Thanks to all for the encouragement!

It's Her Fault, Your Honor - She Was Asking For It!

“You should have never taken that loan, you should have just moved out of your house; you don’t know anything about money, budgeting, etc., etc. It’s all your own fault so why should you be able to stay in a house you can’t afford?” And then someone will inquire as to whether you eat out in restaurants for lunch when you should be brown-bagging it.

Well, I can tell you that, in spite of the ups and downs of our finances, we would have been able to afford the house if we had not been charged a usurious interest rate after the year that we agreed to suck it up for. When all the ‘best’ financial advice at the time was to refinance, that was what we did. We sucked it up and did whatever it took to make those crazy payments on time for a year. But for the next 2 years we had been paying that same crazy money, and that was what broke us.

If I hear one more know-it-all lecture us on ‘budgeting’, I think I will scream. When you NEVER know exactly how much money you will be making from month to month, you can’t make up a budget. A budget consists of income as well as outgo, and that is something we never can figure. But until this particular debacle, we have managed to do well enough - not rich or even well-off, but able to stretch the ‘up’ times enough to cover the ‘down’ times. There were  plenty of times that we made large chunks of money that were enough to pay our bills through the lean times. My husband once wrote a TV theme song (in half an hour) that beat out hundreds of other submissions and that one song paid our bills for 5 years. You work every single day - some of it pays off and some does not. As a session singer/songwriter, that is the way the work goes - you just throw everything you have against the wall, and some of it sticks.

My point in writing about entrepreneurship and risk is to point out that - yes, the nature of our business involves risk. Nobody pays us a salary to do music. And there is no other work that we are qualified to do that will pay us more than what we make in the music business.

So does the fact that we have a high-risk business mean that we can be screwed with impunity? We can be cheated, stolen from and lied to, and dealt with in bad faith, and we have no right to complain? And when the companies that cheated us and lied to us go under, they can get bailed out and we can’t even get, not a bailout, but restitution? The banks took risks in order to make more profit than they could if they were obeying the law. We took risks to keep our family in our home.

It really reminds me of a rape case, where the rapist attacks the victim’s character as a defense - “It’s her fault, Your Honor - she was asking for it! Did you see that short skirt she had on? She was a total slut! What was she doing in a nightclub if she didn’t want it?”

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Entrepreneurship, Risk, ‘Moral Hazard' and Music

My husband and I are on the verge of losing the house he bought in 1983. We are musicians by profession, with all the financial ups and downs that go with our job, but until a few years ago, we were able to make the 'up' times last us through the 'down' times. Due to a particularly long
'down time' we refinanced our home, and ended up with a predatory loan. We were told that if we accepted a very high rate for a year and paid on time, at the end of that year we would be able to get a more affordable loan. Of course, this did not happen. Now we are fighting an uphill battle to keep the house. There are many people that say we deserve what we get for taking the predatory loan. I can see their point, but I would also like to present my views on this subject.

It’s easy to sit back smugly, point one’s finger and say, “You should never have taken out that loan. You don’t deserve to own a home.” But I think this is part of a bigger question, and this question involves the role of entrepreneurship and risk, and how these are viewed in our society, both socially and legally.

What is the ultimate rationale for allowing unlimited profits to businesses? What is the reason we lower taxes on the wealthiest? What is the philosophical underpinning of American capitalism itself? Ask any self-styled ‘free-market capitalist’ and he will say “To reward risk.” To do away with that precept is nothing but the foulest, vilest, nanny-statest socialism. What he means by that is that to limit the amount of profit that a person or a business can make is to make that person or business unwilling to take the risks that need to be taken in order to be successful.

Regulation in business, likewise, is frowned upon by those who would promote the prevailing view of ‘free-market capitalism.’ They argue that this is what makes America great - to start with nothing but your own two hands and by investing one’s capital, be it only one’s physical labor, to gain returns from that investment. Now, to ‘invest’ is different than to be ‘employed’. Employment is a contract between employer and employee where the employee is guaranteed payment in exchange for labor. Investment, on the other hand, is guaranteed no such thing. An investment can fail. But when an investment pays off, the payoff for the investor will be larger than what would have been earned through simple employment, thus ‘creating wealth.’ This is the very core of the American Dream, and supposedly what sets us above and apart from all other nations (American exceptionalism).

Those who engender great profits from investing - risk-taking - are lauded in our society, regardless of the means used to reap these gains. And great care is taken legally to ensure that investors and entrepreneurs are richly rewarded for their willingness to risk their capital. The idea is to reward initiative and risk, and to put caps on what can be earned through initiative and risk is to thwart the incentive to take those risks.

This, by the way, is the same rationale used to justify multi-million-dollar bonuses to the CEOs of the biggest banks and investment firms. In this instance, their ‘capital’ is their experience with being CEOs of banks and investment firms. Heaven forbid, if they are not paid gazillions of dollars, they might be reluctant to take the helms of these corporations, and do the magnificent jobs that they have been doing so far.

So I think it is fair to say that our current system is set up to reward risk in order to ‘create wealth.’ And those who take risks and become wealthy are held up and touted as an example of what America is all about. But there is risk, and there is risk.

In the world of big business, most risk is taken with OPM - other people’s money. There are very few entrepreneurs at the upper levels of business who actually ‘risk’ their own ability to buy food and have a roof over their head, or medical care should they become sick. And if they fail in their risk-taking, it is the people at the bottom of the chain who pay the price; who lose their pensions, lose their jobs, lose their homes. When a big company is failing, the first thing to be done is to lay off employees - who have not signed up for risk-taking, but have done their jobs in the expectation that they would be paid for their work, and that the money set aside from their paychecks to fund their retirement would be intact.

Even when these ‘big cheeses’ fail (like Donald Trump), over and over, they are admired for their willingness to take risks. And I would  bet that Donald Trump has never had a day where he could not buy groceries for his kids, or had to sleep in his car, no matter how many millions or billions of dollars he loses in investments, and is given the credit to do it all over again.

Now, let’s talk about capital. Every person possesses capital - whether it be tangible or intangible. It could be financial, or it could be a physical or mental skill-set. It could be education, appearance, or connections. And that capital can either be exchanged or invested.

My husband and I are entrepreneurs, and our ‘capital’ is our music. This capital has been gained through great risk. Every artist who develops their art to a degree which makes it competitive in the market has done so with absolutely no guarantee that it will ever pay off financially. To a certain extent you can say that about anyone who invests in their education, but most skill-sets that one gains through a college education has a specific application that can be counted on to bring in a certain amount of money through the exchange of employment.

An artist has no such guarantee. Yet, everyone listens to music; buys CDs (or mp3s), goes to the movies, goes to concerts, watches television, reads books, has paintings or photographs on their walls. They go to the ballet, to the opera; they go to baseball games, football games, basketball games, monster-truck pulls, NASCAR races. Entertainers are often dismissed as frivolous and unneccesary, but can you, for one minute, imagine your life without any form of entertainment?

I am serious as a heart attack. Do it right now.

Just picture your day. No music of any kind, no TV to watch, no art to look at, no books to read, no movie to see, no game to go to. To the people who belittle my choice of career, or my right to live like other working people because I have chosen to be an artist, I want to say to them, “Where do you live? I’m coming to your house and I am going to take away all your CDs. I’m taking the pictures off of your walls. I’m taking the TV. I’m taking the books off of your shelves. These are not things that you have put any value upon, so you don’t need them.”

Every artist, no matter how successful right now, began their career with no guarantee that they would ever make a dime from their art. But to truly develop their art to a level which is, as I said before, ‘competitive in the market’, it takes a commitment that consumes 100% of your time and passion. (And please don’t bother giving me examples of people who just ‘happened to make it’  accidentally, or without much effort on their part, or who became famous while just doing their thing on weekends, or whatever - the ‘American Idol’ phenomenon. These examples, while high-profile, are anomalies.) Everyone is eager to embrace the art and the artist once they are ‘successful’ but don’t give much thought to what it took to get there. Do they just think all this art that they profess to love so much, and that they depend on for emotional sustenance (and don’t say you don’t, unless you don’t ever listen to music, watch TV, read, go to movies or concerts or sporting events) just dropped out of the sky? The people who make art have sacrificed much of the security that most other people take for granted - that if you work, you will get money in return.

I believe that being a musician is one of the most noble callings on this earth, and I take the responsibility of this gift we have been given very seriously. Every single CD you listen to, each and every book you read, every picture you look at, was created by someone who was consumed by the love of their art, and the dedication to give it everything they have. And, no - it’s not an ‘easy’ life. Nothing worth doing is ‘easy’. But the rest of the public gets to enjoy it without having to go through what these artists (famous or unknown) went through to get where they are. So it’s easy to be smug about what an irresponsible job choice it is. Irresponsible? We are a conduit for the emotions, the love, the hurt, the passion of the world; we connect hearts; we are translators of the soul. I think that is a very serious responsibility indeed.

As a nation, we have gradually devalued the importance of art, and of art education. When Reagan came into office, one of the first things he did (besides union-busting) was to slash art from the budget. Yet there is still a market and a deep need for art in our lives - I would posit more than ever, given the economic circumstances we face right now. During the Great Depression, people flocked to entertainment to give them some solace and distraction from the dire straits they were in. And to say that artists should be able to create great art as a side hobby is ridiculously unrealistic and shows complete ignorance of what Art really entails.

Am I saying that artists do not need to be responsible for themselves and their expenses? Absolutely not. And most artists have chosen to live as small as possible, foregoing many of the comforts that most people expect out of their lives, in order to devote themselves to their art. But the life of an artist is a series of ups and downs - much like Big Business.

This brings us back to entrepreneurship.

In the world of Big Business, great care is taken to ensure that risk-takers are rewarded. Although lip-service is paid to the ‘free market’, in reality, these big businesses are able to take these huge investment risks because they know they have a safety net - the American taxpayer. And, as we have seen, the results of these policies is to ‘privatize the profits and socialize the losses’. Otherwise, there would be no ‘wealth creation’! These businesses need the incentive of limitless wealth in order to take the risks to create it. And even when they do fail so spectacularly, you will not find these people who actually created the collapse without food, without a roof over their heads. They will just move on to the next company they can ransack, all while living a suitably lavish lifestyle - perhaps they’ll have to sell a plane, but they won’t be going without food, shelter or medical care.

The theory is that this sort of incentive is necessary to promote entrepreneurship, and without it there will be no innovation - that entrepreneurs will say “Why should I bother busting my ass to create a business or develop a product if my rewards are going to be limited?” This theory is flawed.

The truth is, you and I know that the entrepreneurial personality will take risks and gamble no matter what - it’s built into their DNA. If they’re in prison they’ll wheel and deal for cigarettes. A true entrepreneur innovates for the sheer challenge of it and will do it regardless of the circumstances, just like an artist creates art from that same deep need.

When regular people take financial risks, expecting to be bailed out if they fail, this is called ‘moral hazard’. Notice the word ‘moral’. There is a metaphor that many people carry around in their subconscious that says “wealth=morality”. This is ‘what’s the matter with Kansas’. This is why poor grandmas on welfare will donate their Social Security money to wealthy televangelists, and why they don’t resent the trappings of success that these TV preachers have - in fact, it is just the opposite. When they see the planes, the mansions, the lavish church buildings, they feel that these people must be being rewarded by God for being morally superior. And even people who are non-religious still see the wealthiest among us as being morally superior - harder-working,  smarter, more virtuous - even if the reality is that they have engendered this wealth through no effort of their own or by less-than-honorable means. This is not a conscious revelation - if asked, very few people will say, “Yes, they’re better people than I am because they’re rich” but subconsciously this is a powerful metaphor. And the corollary to this, of course, is “poverty=immorality”. This translates into “The reason you’re poor is because you are lazy, dishonest, irresponsible and greedy.”

My husband and I did not get into the music business to get rich. We are musicians because we have the ‘have-to’ that drives creative people, and we have worked hard all our lives to develop our talents and skills. There have been times in our careers that we have been extremely well-rewarded financially, and there are times that we have not. We are aware that the ‘up’ times do not make us more worthy, and the ‘down’ times do not make us less worthy.We know that great art often goes unnoticed and unrewarded, and that mediocre art is often rewarded lavishly, and that financial success or failure is not an indication of its intrinsic worth. And we are willing to take the vicissitudes of our business as they come. But we are not willing to lay down and accept being cheated. If I am dealt with in bad faith, it is not being ‘moral’ and ‘responsible’ to let them take my home without a fight. If I am stolen from, it is not immoral to ask for help in taking back what’s been taken from me. And I will not accept the label of ‘moral hazard’ until it applies across the board.

When it comes right down to it, it’s not just people like my husband and me who are the risk-takers. Every single person lives their life with a certain amount of risk. When you have a regular job with a regular paycheck, you are betting that your paycheck will arrive next Friday, that you will still have a job next week. The risk is much less than mine, but the risk is there nevertheless. Ask the people who worked for Enron. People like my husband and me are the canaries in the coal mine. Because of the nature of what we do, we will be the first to suffer losses during times of economic crisis. But this is not just happening to us - it’s happening to people with steady jobs, steady paychecks, who have never been late on a payment. When you’re laid off, how can you be blamed when you can’t meet your financial obligations? Are you suddenly morally deficient? Should you be living in a cardboard box because of the chance that someday you may not be able to afford your home?

And it is the very people who have caused these circumstances through their excessive and illegal risk-taking who have brought this situation about - and they have been bailed out. They have been bailed out by the people who did not take those risks, who did not reap the incredible wealth that came from high-risk investments, and who are now losing the very food from their mouths and roofs over their heads. And I will not accept insult on top of injury from those who feel they are in a position to judge who is ‘responsible’ and who is not.

Maybe we will lose our house. I hope not, but I will not let it go without a fight because The Powers That Be tell me I should be a good little peon. Do I think I’m ‘entitled’ to keep it? No, but was Wall Street ‘entitled’ to a bailout? When these standards are held consistently across the board, then we can talk. But we as a society need to think about what ‘risk’ and ‘entrepreneurship’ really mean, and not only have a safety net for those who are ‘too big to fail’.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Bank Is Stealing My House THIS Monday

(Update - to all of you who have taken the time to stop by with your support and advice - thank you! I really appreciate it.)

After writing to my friend Blue Gal, and getting my situation on paper, so to speak, I've decided to put it on my blog. This is the one of the hardest things I've ever done as a blogger. The last thing I want to do is have a pity-party for myself. I am really blessed in spite of what's happening now; I have my family, my health, my friends and my faith, and I know that I am luckier than most people in the world. Nevertheless, these criminals have to be brought into the light, and maybe the more people who speak out about how these banking institutions who have brought us to this place are using the bailout money that we taxpayers have given them, the more pressure will be put on Congress to change things.

Here's my letter:


Hi Blue Gal -

You may not have heard much from me lately; I haven't been blogging, or writing, or doing anything politically. This is because I have been spending every ounce of physical, mental and emotional energy I possess trying to keep our family afloat and save our house. We were the victims of a predatory loan from one of the most egregiously criminal offenders, IndyMac Bank. I have not wanted to go public with our situation; partly out of pride, partly out of the hope that we would be able to get the bank to work with us. But it looks like this is not going to happen, and I am out of options. We filed for emergency bankruptcy yesterday, to get 15 days' respite to make one more last-ditch effort, but the way that the bank bailout was set up, IndyMac has no incentive to work with us - they get money from the government immediately when they foreclose. They stand to gain nothing, short-term (which is all the balance sheets deal with), by keeping us in our house. So my only hope at this point is to try to make as big a stink as possible in the hopes that negative publicity would give them a reason to do the right thing. And if they want to take our house, by God they are going to have to break a sweat. We are not just going to roll over.

Here's the letter I wrote to explain our situation:

Dear -------

My husband and I are, at least for the next few days, California homeowners. Despite our best efforts, IndyMac Bank is preparing to sell the house that my husband purchased in 1983 on Monday, March 15.

This chain of events began when we refinanced our house in 2006. We are musicians by profession, and the unpredictability of our income has made it difficult to preserve a pristine credit score - although we are not always able to pay our bills exactly on time, we do pay them; nevertheless this negatively affects our credit score. Because of this, the loan we ended up with was a terrible one. We were told that if we made the payments on time on this overpriced loan for a year, at the end of that year we would be eligible for a more reasonable loan. This looked like a way to be able to improve our credit score and get the loan we wanted, so we agreed to it; even though a payment of $3500 a month (for our 2+1 house) was unsustainable and unaffordable, we figured it would be worth it if after a year we would get something we could afford.

Of course, the year goes by, we make every payment on time, and we are declined for another loan. Now we are struggling with a payment that we cannot possibly afford, and it makes all of our other bills more and more difficult to pay. Since 2006 we have been spiraling downward financially. When the Administration began its bank bailouts and loan modification programs, we hoped we would be eligible for this. About six months ago, our mortgage broker sent 65 pages of documents to IndyMac to begin negotiations, and never heard back from them. Then a couple of weeks ago we got a notice on the door that our house would be up for sale on Monday, March 15. They had simply ignored our broker and begun foreclosure proceedings.

Our broker sent them a RESPA request, and in speaking with IndyMac, they suggested 'a loan modification' to her. But they do not seem ready to work with us in good faith, and rather than trust to their honesty in negotiation, we have filed emergency bankruptcy proceedings to give us a couple of weeks to try to keep the house from being sold out from under us while they pretend to be negotiating. It does not seem to be in their interest to help us stay in the house; from my understanding they get money from the government when they do a foreclosure, and there is nothing to motivate them to work with us.

We are at the end of our rope. My husband is 62, I am 50 and our 3 kids at home are 11, 13, and 18. The idea of being out on the street at this point in our lives - and our kids lives - and losing the house that my husband has owned since 1983 is just shattering. We are not spendthrifts - we don't have credit-card debt; we don't have car payments; our debt (other than the house) is mainly stemming from our youngest child's eye surgery in 2008.

I don't know if there is anything that can be done or any place to turn, but if there is, we would greatly appreciate any assistance or advice.

Sincerely, Alicia Morgan

Anyway, I wish that I were not in this situation, and could be doing what I want to do - working to elect progressive candidates and writing about progressive values - but this, of course, is the result of these things that progressives have been fighting against, and that predatory capitalism and the unfettered implementation of Republican ideals - 'free' markets, deregulation, limited government oversight, 'what's good for Big Business is good for America' - have brought us to. But what's good for Big Business, while being very good indeed for Big Business, has proven disastrous for the rest of America.

(Update - how long has it been since I blogged? Long enough that the first iteration of this post did not contain the link to Blue Gal's blog! Love ya, Gal! Fixt.)