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Loha begins: "This is usually one of my favorite times of the year - the holidays are approaching, the aromas of cinnamon, orange and cranberry are in the air and it's time to rest and watch old movies on TV ... In the last few days, the US government census figures have revealed that 1 in 2 Americans have fallen into poverty or are struggling to live on low incomes."

A gate to a foreclosed home is locked with a chain and padlock in Richmond, California, 04/15/10. (photo: Getty Images)
A gate to a foreclosed home is locked with a chain and padlock in Richmond, California, 04/15/10. (photo: Getty Images)

American Paradox: 18.5 Million Vacant Homes and 3.5 Million Homeless

By Tanuka Loha, Human Rights Now

01 January 12


his is usually one of my favorite times of the year - the holidays are approaching, the aromas of cinnamon, orange and cranberry are in the air and it's time to rest and watch old movies on TV. One of those old movies invariably on at this time of year still resonates today - It's a Wonderful Life. In this 1946 Jimmy Stewart film, a small town in crisis comes together to prevent George Bailey, the benevolent loan man, from being imprisoned at the behest of the millionaire slum landlord Mr. Potter.

In the last few days, the US government census figures have revealed that 1 in 2 Americans have fallen into poverty or are struggling to live on low incomes. And we know that the financial hardships faced by our neighbors, colleagues, and others in our communities will be all the more acutely felt over the holiday season.

Along with poverty and low incomes, the foreclosure rate has created its own crisis situation as the number of families removed from their homes has skyrocketed.

Since 2007, banks have foreclosed around eight million homes. It is estimated that another eight to ten million homes will be foreclosed before the financial crisis is over. This approach to resolving one part of the financial crisis means many, many families are living without adequate and secure housing. In addition, approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. It is worth noting that, at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country.

The stark realities that persist mean that millions of families will be facing the holidays in temporary homes, or homes under threat, and far too many children will be wishing for an end to the uncertainty and distress their family is facing rather than an Xbox or Barbie doll.

Housing is a basic human need and a fundamental human right. Yet every day in the United States, banks are foreclosing on more than 10,000 mortgages and ordering evictions of individuals and families residing in foreclosed homes. The US government's steps to address the foreclosure crisis to date have been partial at best.

The depth and severity of the foreclosure crisis is a clear illustration of the urgent need for the U.S. government to put in place a system that respects, protects and fulfills human rights, including the right to housing. This includes implementing real protections to ensure that other actors, such as financial institutions, do not undermine or abuse human rights.

Please join the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative and Amnesty International in asking the U.S. to step up its efforts to address the foreclosure crisis, including by giving serious consideration to the growing call for a foreclosure moratorium and other forms of relief for those at risk, and establishing a housing finance system that fulfills human rights obligations.

As we think back on all that Amnesty has achieved over the last year in advancing and protecting human rights, let's do one more thing. This holiday, let's join together like George Bailey's friends to advance the right to housing because, apart from all the other good reasons to do so: "Housing: It's a Wonderful Right." your social media marketing partner


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We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

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+94 # Kayjay 2012-01-01 18:14
It's far beyond time for us to be merely asking our government to address the foreclosure crisis. We need to DEMAND a moratorium on foreclosures. This is especially true in light of possible (ya think) corrupt practices by the banking industry, who are always gaming the system to their advantage. DEMAND, DEMAND and then DEMAND some more. If we don't DEMAND, we will be soon be like a third world nation where the rich thrive and the many poor boil cardboard boxes for dinner.
+34 # Barbara K 2012-01-02 05:53
Absolutely, and I'll bet more than half of these homes were fraudulently foreclosed on. Investigators need to be put into place to investigate every one of them to see who should be getting their homes returned to them. This is just corruption at an extreme level. It wouldn't be that hard to find out. Check with the owners and the Register of Deeds offices to find out who REALLY held the mortgage on it and who foreclosed on them.
+13 # John Locke 2012-01-02 11:14
Kayjay: I love what you are saying, I have been saying this since 2008, Obama isn't listening and neither is congress, because they are on the Banks payroll...
That is the real reason why you will never see any executives of the "too big toi fail" prosecuted or jailed. I even attempted to get the State involved, and they weren't listening either. Banks provide the money for states elections also...As my hart goes out to these good people, I recognize that It appears the only thing washington understands is the shear force of numbers, and possibly a massive Tax Revolt...we need 10 million of us in the streets demanding an end to washington and new york corruption, they will listen then by sending in the Army...but if these 10 million people refused to pay any money to the government in the form of taxes, then they will listen for sure...but short of that, I don't see how to help these people. I don't see how to make washington listen or care about these people. I continue to fear that a revolution is now unstoppable and eminent... and historically it is way past time...
+66 # RMDC 2012-01-01 18:53
Way back in the 70s there used to be a federal program in urban homesteading. It was federal grants to cities so that they could give vacant homes to people who promised to rehabilitate them and live in them for at least 10 years. This got the houses off of the city's books and prevented them from eventually collapsing. In my experience, it worked very well.

We are in a sort of D.I.Y moment now and I'm sure that lots of people would love to take a free house and restore it.

The only opponents to this are the real estate developers and the banks who really want to see people buying new houses.
+17 # coach777b 2012-01-02 09:25
I concur completely. The number of veterans alone could repopulate some of our most blighted areas. The banks, mortgage and real estate interests would vigorously oppose. It has been tried on a rather small scale but the opposition is fierce.
+55 # DaveM 2012-01-01 22:52
Vacant homes should be occupied by their owners as well as enough "support people" to intimidate anyone who might come along to try to put them out. The banks are making no money from houses that are sitting empty and not selling, so they might as well be used by their rightful owners.
-36 # Martintfre 2012-01-01 23:11
No paradox - natural consequence of government meddling where they should not.

They created a bubble drove up the prices (homes never lose value) gaurenteed bad loans that encouraged massive over building and then when the bubble popps - as kensyian policies always do - rater then finally letting the market settle out and prices fall to meet reality - the government bails out and props up the ailing industry keeping prices high even though not enough people are working to buy the homes, government is the largest owner of homes (forclosed - thanks aholes) - thanks to the bubbles and malinvestment caused by those bubbles

And there is the additional problem of if the houses are permitted to fall to their actual market prices - the loss of property taxes and the loss of value from normal home owners is wiped out.
+17 # pgobrien 2012-01-02 00:55
Banks foreclosed. Government didn't do enough to help. Let the market fall where it will ... Right. And let a few people founder and die, too, I suppose. It's just the price the rest of us have to pay, is it? This is ridiculous!
+40 # Ken Hall 2012-01-02 03:13
While the housing bubble was indeed a result of gov't policy, it was the lack of gov't "meddling" that caused it. Beginning with Reagan, the conservative onslaught, in the name of "smaller gov't" and "free market" economics, did their best to remove sensible regulation and any gov't oversight of industry and corporations. They boasted of the efficiencies of self-regulation and the virtues of the "free" market. They did their utmost to transfer gov't functions to their buddies in the private sector, creating a network of corruption and nepotism and, BTW, increasing the cost of those services. Check out the US prison system, as one example. The US has a mercenary army now, as another. They packed the Supreme Court with ideologues, the ones who gave us Citizens United, the ones who have been whittling away at individual rights since the 80's. Calling for smaller gov't at this point is insanity, we've been there, or, rather, we are there now. The cumulative effects are obvious. Trickle-down economics? It leads to massive national debt and plutocracy. Laissez-faire gov't? It leads to massive fraud and chicanery. Free market economics? It leads to destruction of the US manufacturing base. What amazes me is that some benighted people, TPers among them, are calling for more of the same as a cure for what we've got now. It didn't work! It was never meant to work, it was always a ploy to further enrich the already rich! Do the same thing again? Einstein's definition of insanity!
-1 # Martintfre 2012-01-02 19:10
//it was the lack of gov't "meddling" that caused it.//

Explicitly BECAUSE of government meddling.

BOTH PARTIES SCREWED US - This is NOT left vs right - grow up.

No matter how badly or over valued the loans were, the government guaranteed to back them proven by the fact that they did.

Now, we the tax payers were forced to prop them up and the debt was spiked upward as a result as well.

In a Free market - the government would NOT back the loans - then the bankers own assets (not the tax payers) would have been on the line - then lending would have been harder and prices would not have spiked up and their bubble would not have inflated.

Inspite of endless and foolish government meddling - the market is correcting anyway because people are broke and not buying homes and there is a glut of empty homes because the bail outs permit the banks and the government to hold stagnate assets when they should fire sale them and basically make homes affordable for even the homeless.

Every one loves the bubble on the rise - it is after they pop the problems are exposed.
+5 # jimyoung 2012-01-02 20:11
Quoting Martintfre:
//it was the lack of gov't "meddling" that caused it.// ...Inspite of endless and foolish government meddling - the market is correcting anyway because people are broke and not buying homes and there is a glut of empty homes because the bail outs permit the banks and the government to hold stagnate assets when they should fire sale them and basically make homes affordable for even the homeless.

Someone else pointed me to, which shows who is able to hoard vastly more assets at the fire sale prices. It is certainly not the homeless.
+32 # Stephanie Remington 2012-01-02 03:36
Martinfre: It wasn't government meddling that caused the problem – it was lack of it. If any regulatory agencies had responded to the FBI's report warning of massive and widespread fraud in the industry, they could have investigated and prosecuted those crimes and averted the crisis. Same goes for the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the passage of the Commodity Futures Trading Act. The revoked and blocked, respectively, regulation allowed the behavior that caused the crisis. Since the bubble burst, the SEC has still shirked its duties – preferring the broom and rug method of addressing the problem.

Anyone who thought subjecting wall street to rules was a bad idea before the current crisis could have been considered naïve, or ignorant of history. Maintaining that delusion now is incomprehensible.

Regarding Keynesian economics: It might be a good idea to read Keynes yourself instead of relying on someone else’s erroneous analysis of his ideas.
+29 # Ralph Averill 2012-01-02 05:40
Banks are sitting on homes because they don't want the market to "settle out". Such a settling would further lower the value of housing, ("homes never lose value"?!!) putting yet more home-owners underwater, and probably a lot of banks as well.
It wasn't the gov't. guarantee of bad loans that poisoned the well, they were only a small percentage of the total. It was the packaging of those loans into securities that were given AAA ratings and then sold by people who knew they were poison, people who made a mountain of money betting that they were poison. All this aided and abetted by a Republican administration that gave a wink and a nod to Wall St. as they hamstrung the gov't. agencies that are supposed to look out for this kind of thing.
It was the LACK of regulation and enforcement, combined with a sociopathic level of greed, that brought us this mess.
So take your "free market" bs and stuff it, "a-hole".
+19 # reiverpacific 2012-01-02 10:46
Quoting Martintfre:
No paradox - natural consequence of government meddling where they should not.

They created a bubble drove up the prices (homes never lose value) gaurenteed bad loans that encouraged massive over building and then when the bubble popps - as kensyian policies always do - rater then finally letting the market settle out and prices fall to meet reality - the government bails out and props up the ailing industry keeping prices high even though not enough people are working to buy the homes, government is the largest owner of homes (forclosed - thanks aholes) - thanks to the bubbles and malinvestment caused by those bubbles

And there is the additional problem of if the houses are permitted to fall to their actual market prices - the loss of property taxes and the loss of value from normal home owners is wiped out.

This is simply because the private sector OWNS the government! That must be clear even to you. I mean, which (sector) of Freddie/Fanny were caught with their fingers in the cookie jar?
Just let the for-profits take it all with no oversight -that's about what you have now and it is causing widespread misery!
I've worked my ass off as a fiercely independent small business owner and have become one of the "New Poor" who, without falling back on early S.S. (much as I hate to admit it) would be out on the streets too. But your private sector only apologists and advocates would whip even that away from me!
0 # jimyoung 2012-01-02 18:20
Quoting Martintfre:
...And there is the additional problem of if the houses are permitted to fall to their actual market prices - the loss of property taxes and the loss of value from normal home owners is wiped out.

The taxable value has already been lowered to near actual value in most areas so revenue is lost in favor of loan holders. Propping up principal comes at the expense people paying the inflated value for as long as we can. Some of us are of old, higher ethical standards, while a savvy 1/3 or so, like the Mortgage Bankers Association itself, do strategic defaults on their headquarters building. The answer is to lower the principal to something that works out best for investors and ethical home owners instead of dumping all the adjustment to real values on owners who can no longer pay, and now spend less, too, further hurting the economy.

Only 7% have "successfully" had their mortgages modified, but that just means being squeezed for the most they can sustainably get with more current (lower) interest rates. If all of us followed the Mortgage Bankers Association action, we would dump all grossly inflated equity back in their laps and let them try to get anything near what a more reasonable, principal reduction, could. Investors, shareholders, and depositors in the banks would probably be better served if they backed off attempts to extract too much from the grossly overvalued "equity" they claim title to.
0 # Martintfre 2012-01-02 19:24
//The taxable value has already been lowered to near actual value in most areas so revenue is lost in favor of loan holders.//

The logic misses any point I was trying to make -- my bad I try one more time.

Loan holders do not pay taxes, they just want their loan and interest paid - they escrow taxes with mortgage payments so they don't lose the property to tax foreclosures. when the mortgage is paid off they collect no taxes since they have no property to lose from tax foreclosure.

If I buy a house for $100,000 and I default - and there are many defaults in the same area so when (if) the home sells again it sells for 1/2 that price $50,000 then the property taxes (to pay for schools) coming from that same property drop in half.
+1 # jimyoung 2012-01-03 11:41
The following is what happens where I live, without a foreclosure, short sale, etc. They may not do this where you live, but here in San Bernardino County California, we found they automatically lowered most upside down values to market values (a big deal in an area of warped and inflated values that favored loan originators and banks that could dump pools of garbage on unsuspecting investors). If they don't do it automatically in your area people should petition to have the value brought in line with the market value. That doesn't mean they won't raise the rates to make up for the reduction in revenue, hurting everyone else, but we are at least protected from large increases here by Prop 13. I actually don't like the Prop 13 hatchet job I blame partially for contributing to excessive increases in house prices, especially when combined with recklessly unregulated loan quality. It makes it too difficult to keep taxes in line with legitimate expenses as the basis is gyrating with every turn of the economy (I think it could have been much better if more carefully crafted). See for a sample of how this works.
+20 # jstick 2012-01-01 23:56
How can the country escape from this foreclosure fraud death spiral?
One effective solution has already been pioneered by Boston Community Capital, a Massachusetts non-profit. Working case-by-case with their local lenders, BCC oversees a rescue program for underwater homeowners called “Project No One Leaves.” It works like this:

1) The current mortgage is expunged. (This is important because of all the bogus documents out there.)
2) A new, friendly-term loan is issued to the homeowner based on the home’s current market value. (This is recompense to the borrower in return for the loss of equity suffered when the bank-caused housing bubble popped.)
3) The homeowners remain in their homes making payments they can afford and begin rebuilding their lost equity. This saves the borrower, the residence and the neighborhood. The program was written up by The Nation Magazine July 4, 2011
If something like this can be instituted nationwide it will slow the overwhelming onslaught of foreclosures, reduce the flood of empty homes onto the market, keep home prices and neighborhoods from deteriorating any further, and offer some hope that the real estate segment of the economy will one day recover.
+1 # jimyoung 2012-01-02 19:17
It also works out more realistically for anyone that invested money in whoever provided the mortgage. Some of those investors may have been as foolish as the borrowers that got into the shaky loans, but still deserve some consideration for what could have been their life's savings. I hope the investors no better protected by competent regulators than Bernie Madoff's do get a higher percentage of the inflated value back, but don't want the middlemen trying to pretend they can get the whole inflated value back at the unsustainable expense of the more rational buyers (as they skim whatever they can for as long as they can).

They save other banks,etc, by making the investors take a haircut on the inflated value debts, so it must work, they're just not doing it for most home owners, except in cases like BCC. I believe their solution works in a far higher percentage of cases than the current mortgage modification programs (which I believe is only 7%). From what I remember, BCC's approach may worked for nearly 50%. With all the loans that never should have been enabled, I don't expect all of them to be dealt with as BCC has been able to do with the least faulty ones.
+2 # stonecutter 2012-01-03 22:06
This is too good a program to be seriously considered, let alone implemented any time soon by any agency of the federal government. If The Nation reported on it, the tea partiers consider it socialism, guaranteed, no matter how well it works or how humane and fair it is. Of course Obama is Silent Barry on this; Blankfein hasn't told him how high to jump. We've established in the past 3 years that the Right is not interested in really helping anyone, unless it's through high-end tax cuts or no-bid contracts. They're not interested in what works, only what advances their delusional "deficit reduction" agenda, a totally cynical and bogus objective (see Krugman's latest article on this grand canard). The White House is almost as bad, given their collective heads are so far up the Wall Street kazootie.

This program has to spread at the state level and work effectively in enough places so it becomes a moral imperative in Congress, to hell with the Eric Cantor crowd (btw, his "60 Minutes" segment looked like it was produced by his mother; so much for their "hard-hitting" interviews and reporting).

I met a 90 year-old Holocaust survivor today in my health club; he still works out. In a thick accent, he told me a story about surviving in the camps, where most of his family perished. He said there are good Jews and bad Jews, just like good and bad Germans (being a good Jew, I agreed wholeheartedly) . Which kind of Jew is Eric Cantor? I have an opinion.
+14 # lloydapianoman 2012-01-02 00:02
@RMDC, that sounds like a great idea. Give those homes to someone who can use them. Otherwise they lay dormant and nothing good comes of idle empty homes. Come on President Obama--your FDR moment has arrived. And while you're at it, forgive student loan debt!
+16 # artic fox 2012-01-02 00:39
with the 18,500,000 homes vacant who is paying the real estate taxes. If these are now owned by the banks, then the banks must be liable for all taxes that city, county and state governments are not receiving. If these banks are presently not liable, then those States who are in desperate financial straits, needs to pass emergency legislation to collect those taxes!
+2 # Martintfre 2012-01-02 19:31
artic: IF the mortgage companies have a home repossess from foreclosure that has a lot of equity and the tax leans are small - they will pay them say the home is worth $100,000 and back taxes are $10,000.

BUT if the value of the home is less then the tax leans - the bankers walk away and take the loss and the government takes the house. Then the government sheriff sales the house - every body has lost by then.
+2 # jimyoung 2012-01-04 01:22
Quoting Martintfre:
artic: ...Then the government sheriff sales the house - every body has lost by then.

According to, not everyone loses. The banks then get to grab more for pennies on the dollar (with bail out loans and guarantees taxpayers provide for them), and those buyers able to get loans from them get some of the bargain. Its just the families that have given up hundreds of thousands in their equity (around here) that lose the most. The revenue does go down but it would have anyway, as we get back to sustainable and more realistic asset values.
+8 # cordleycoit 2012-01-02 00:40
Now should be the season to roast your Representative and send the lazy SOB out of Washington. He or she is too busy insder trading to do the Peoples business. Millionaire Congresspeople ought not be on the ballot and the ones who hemmed hawed and went into grid lock ought to be given a return ticket to working or being out of work. Both Rethugs and Dimocrates ought to be put out to stud they've F***ed up governing so why not put them in the private sector? They were hired to fund the government and write reasonable laws something none of them can do. Not a man jack of the crew that's in there now looting the treasury ought have a return ticket to office. The electorate ought to take great care to eliminate from office those who have wasted their time and our money making war on who ever and the American People's Rights. Save America fire your Congressperson.
+12 # Stephanie Remington 2012-01-02 00:55
It's not a paradox, it's an atrocity and national disgrace, and it’s the result of deliberate criminal behavior on the part of banks and our government. It’s not just the bubble that they deliberately created by fraud. It’s the cover-up of the racket with more crimes – including robo-signing people out of their homes.
+12 # oakes721 2012-01-02 01:02
In Amsterdam in the early 70's, a similar situation existed. The Netherlanders passed a 'Cracked House' law, which allowed people to occupy vacant buildings if they were able to enter without damaging the property. The authorities would then help them to hook up utilities and to establish their residence there. An occupied (heated) building will survive the elements and possible vandalism of an unoccupied structure.
+9 # grouchy 2012-01-02 01:05
A solution? Get everyone who is hurting financially to simply go out and vote for their OWN interests--and please avoid the lies and spin from those interested in maintaing this lousy status quo! WE STILL AS INDIVIDUALS HAVE OUR VOTE (at least so far).
+12 # Linda 2012-01-02 08:45
Good article but I do find it rather odd that until homelessness and poverty hit the middle class nobody seemed to notice that we always had poverty and the homeless in this country !
Why is it the poor went unnoticed for so long ?

You wrote :Housing is a basic human need and a fundamental human right.
This is true that is why we should never vote for someone who wants to end all social programs like HUD which subsidized housing for the poor falls under .

I agree with you DaveM that the owners being foreclosed on should get support so they can stay in their own homes. After-all it is they who paid the mortgages on these homes for years before these corrupt banks raised the interest rates and mortgages so high that the owners fell behind on their mortgages .
+8 # John Locke 2012-01-02 11:33
Linda: In looking at this with a serious eye, we will find as Nevada now has that 90% of the foreclosures were undertaken with forged documents, Nevada just indicted three individuals that were forging documents for Banks, more than 600 counts each, I suspect Nevada just might be the first state to try and reach some bank executives, by going lienent of these three for testimony against the bank executives, at least I hope so... Yes there has been homelessness since Reagan was Governor of California and he threw the mentally ill out of the hospitals and shut down their care to save money and balance the budget, that was the beginning of the homeless eoidemic in the US. WE can not afford another Ronald Regan type in the White House or even in congress...
+13 # mrbadexample 2012-01-02 09:15
You are assuming that the people in charge think that the foreclosure crisis is a problem and falling home prices are a national tragedy. There's an underreported story about the Federal government auctioning off all its properties (through Fannie and freddie) for pennies on the dollar. the twist is that the only entities allowed to bid will be big banks--the people who caused the crisis in the first place. If you didn't like Wells Fargo as your mortgage company, you'll hate it when they're your landlord.
+8 # ckosuda 2012-01-02 10:02
as so many homes were fraudulently foreclosed upon , what has occurred is THEFT - therefore, PROSECUTION and DAMAGES are in order -

time for legal rights to flow to the 99% - not just the top 1% -

reminds me of the OBSCENE SPEED in which the wealthy Madoff "victims" found a lawyer and got at least some of "their" money back -

what about the rest of us?
+8 # acapobia 2012-01-02 10:07
Time for our government to "bail out" its' people, like they often bail out those who are wealthy. Until all Americans are at a healthy financial place, STOP all aid to other countries.
+1 # DHFabian 2012-01-03 08:35
This is the generation that turned its back on the poor. Clinton ended the citizens' entitlement to poverty relief back in 1996. It was this generation of middle class Americans who decided that the people should NOT be bailed out.
+2 # LandLady 2012-01-02 11:20
Friends: No-one "created" the housing bubble. They occur because 1) land is in fixed supply and 2) land values rise with population increase, progress, good economy, etc. 3)after a while people expect them to keep rising, and some buy land purely for its speculative value. Eventually the land bubbles burst, as they have many times in US (and world) history.
To solve this problem, we must ask" WHOSE LAND IS IT ANYWAY?" The land actually belongs to all of us in common; there are no original land titles from Heaven. Since it's OURS, we should collect a land rent from private landowners. Many economists have said that land values are the ideal tax base, but Henry George put it all together in "Progress and Poverty" 1879 - well worth reading today! Full of hope, practicality, humanism! It's the only answer I know of, but it's a full and ideal answer.
+1 # jimyoung 2012-01-02 19:29
Not to be too picky, I think the too easy credit created the monstrous size of the bubble, though. That and destroying the principles of Glass-Steagall by having the government effectively insure uninsurable, stupid loans that kept getting stupider. I'm all for intelligent but higher risk investment bank and venture capitalist type loans, but not letting them mix insured funds into them. They have to be smart enough and careful enough to make them without government guarantees (except where a public benefit like the Interstate Highway System is involved). All other,"insurabl e" loans should be for the proven productivity that has already been established and only needs affordable insurance protection from known risks like bad weather, etc.
+1 # DHFabian 2012-01-03 08:33
"Rent" is collected from landowners in the form of property taxes.
+5 # wwway 2012-01-02 11:58
Isn't it ironic. The rich have convinced many Americans that welfare and entitlements are BAD while they have no problem taking welfare and entitlements from the tax payer.
People get the government they deserve and have no one but themselves to blame. Go ahead, vote for the candidate who wants to ban abortion and puplic education and see just how far you will get in that sleep with the devil.
+7 # shortonfaith 2012-01-02 12:07
With something like 517 trillion dollars of derivatives out there we need the ending of all debt & to start the game over. The banks took a simple & honest form of lending with interest & contaminated the entire system. Shut it down, wipe all slates clean & start the game over. It's the only true way to get out of this mess without absolute collapse. Simple & easy with everyone winning across the board. Shut it down & start it over. We still need banks we just don't need them run by the same people.

Support OWS with your political contributions.
+1 # DHFabian 2012-01-03 08:30
Can't be done. The middle class must live with the rules that they, themselves, created. Granted, those rules seemed OK when we thought they would apply only to the poor... There is no "starting over" anymore. As we told the poor, you just have to take personal responsibility and pull yourself up by the bootstraps. You are entitled to nothing that you can't afford -- not fairness, not freedom, nothing at all. You're on your own.
+1 # jimyoung 2012-01-03 12:43
I most recently looked up Bank for International Settlements data at to try to get a handle on the huge drop in OTC derivative notional value in 2008 (last 6 months of Bush cabal). The first half (H1 2008) of 2008 showed $683.814 trillion while the second half (H2 2008) showed $547.371 trillion, a reduction of $146.443 trillion. While the US had cut back on regulation, or even observation, of what these markets were doing, someone was paying attention. To me it shows what happens when you let over leveraging go on in relative obscurity. This occurred during the same tail end of Bush reality checks that had even Alan Greenspan admitting to a $17 trillion reduction in the net worth of the U.S. Actually $16.9886 trillion, but who wants to quibble over a mere 11.4 billion (0.6%)rounding error?

Derivatives, like sensible crop insurance, are not bad at all, when transparent enough for people to see when they are getting manipulated. To me, the financial market manipulation is like a beneficiary taking out insurance on someone who's car, crops, or house) has been sabotaged by the beneficiary. It's fraud, and they turned a blind eye to so much of it that it gave us the huge "readjustments" shown for just even the last 6 months to a year and a half of the Bush administration (the ones they try to time shift into the next administration) .
+2 # Douglas Jack 2012-01-02 12:32
Invasion of this land, the deliberate spreading of epidemic disease, the forceable removal from homes, the genocidal murder of whole peoples and racist denial of livelihood to thousands of individuals, should help us realize that this is not new but more-so where our allegiance should be placed. One way to undo our self-destructio n is to understand our own indigenous roots from every place around the world. Everything we are doing here has been done to us in turn. The welcome of indigenous peoples to all comers is the real story of this season. As some of the most densely populated urban areas on earth First Nations offered us a welcome to join and prosper together. We reneged but the offer is still open.
+5 # Archie1954 2012-01-02 12:58
Who would have ever thought that the high and mighty US would resemble nothing more than a third world nation. Think about the richest man in the world, he is Mexican and Mexico is a prime third world nation. Its society is a pyramid with a very few elite at the top and a huge mass of peasants down below. Please explain to me how the US as it is currently structured, differs from that description.
+2 # DHFabian 2012-01-03 08:17
Silly. Millions of Americans have known this reality for decades. The fact that our comfortable middle class didn't bother to see it, and that the media utterly ignored our growing poverty, doesn't mean that the rest of us haven't been keenly aware of the realities of America today. This massive upward wealth redistribution has been happening at a frantic pace since the 1980s. The middle class didn't notice it until after everything was drained from the poor, and the rich moved on to drain the middle class.
+5 # jwb110 2012-01-02 13:05
The best answer to this mess is State Chartered Banks. In one of the Dakotas where there is a state bank the housing market hasn't suffered because people had a real option where re-financing their homes were concerned. Seven other states are considering it but considering it doesn't make it happen and the financial industry will do anything to keep it from happening.
Citizens in every State have got to start to hound their representatives and threaten to unseat the whole bunch unless the states charter banks and put real competition into the mortgage market.
-4 # Ed 2012-01-02 13:13
You miserable bunch of whingeing Yanks. You're all vim and vigour when it comes to invading the rest of the world and committing mass murder, for no other reasons than pure revenge or to steal resources to ensure your bloated life-styles. As soon as you run out of money you complain. Here's and idea to raise funds, sell your weapons Ebay. Oh, wait a minute, you can't do that, because as a result of all the hatred you have created in the world you would be a sitting target for others to wreak revenge on YOU!
+2 # DHFabian 2012-01-03 08:11
You're reciting propaganda creating by America's ruling class. The US has been on a steady slide into poverty for over a quarter of a century. Today, the poor and near-poor outnumber the middle class. Few enjoy the stereotypical "bloated lifestyle." Such things as college educations and home ownership have been disappearing for decades. But the folks in charge, running the mainstream media, carefully maintain the image of a wealthy society, hiding the fact that the wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few.
+5 # CandH 2012-01-02 13:14
"In addition, approximately 3.5 million people in the U.S. are homeless, many of them veterans. It is worth noting that, at the same time, there are 18.5 million vacant homes in the country."

Yes, this is a surreal moment reading this today. This is because earlier today I looked out my suburban home window to see a homeless person, walking with their billowing shopping cart down the middle of the street, actually passing by the empty foreclosed property on our block.
+3 # JanetnRoger 2012-01-02 16:59
RMDC, I remember a similar program. Do you know what it was called? This program would make PERFECT sense -- think about it -- the city wins, because it doesnt have all these blighted properties. Also, the city would receive taxes from these families to build/repair infrastructure. The family wins, because they would have a place to live. Probably the only ones who would have a problem with this would be the banks, but the banks cant sell these houses, because they are falling into disrepair. Maybe the new families, after fixing up the houses, could work out something with the bank, since the new families would actually be IMPROVING not only the house, but the neighborhood as well. The city could negotiate with the bank so the bank would get SOME money out of the house (instead of none). I want to bring that up here next city council meeting.
+1 # jimyoung 2012-01-03 13:35
Or have a non-profit intermediary like Habitat for Humanity manage the resettlement of the house with their program of educating the occupants to take care of it and preventing speculation by requiring sweat equity and an equity interest to their organization if the occupant must (or chooses) to move for job or family, etc reasons. It still amazes me that they had only a 2% default rate at the very bottom of any rational market. For comparison, I remember at the start of this mess Countrywide had 97,000 defaults on their junk loans while ING had only 97 on their billions of dollars in rational rules based loans.
-1 # John Steinsvold 2012-01-02 20:19
An Alternative to Capitalism (if the people knew about it, they would demand it)

Several decades ago, Margaret Thatcher claimed: "There is no alternative". She was referring to capitalism. Today, this negative attitude still persists.

I would like to offer an alternative to capitalism for the American people to consider. Please click on the following link. It will take you to an essay titled: "Home of the Brave?" which was published by the Athenaeum Library of Philosophy:

John Steinsvold

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."
~ Albert Einstein
+3 # DHFabian 2012-01-03 08:05
Correction: This generation decided that food and shelter are NOT fundamental human rights. We the People made that decision some 15 years ago. It remains clearly stated and defined in our welfare "reform" policies. We the People firmly
stated that Americans are entitled only to the food and shelter they can afford. Why did the middle class assume that the rules they imposed would not apply to them as well?
0 # Linda 2012-01-03 10:55
John Steinsvold,
This would not work in todays society for several reasons.
I can not see hospitals and doctors giving their services for free to those in need who can not pay for their services ,like the elderly, disabled and poor. What about the pharmacudical companies,insur ance companies etc, do you really think they would give up their profits and give people in need meds and insurance for free ? How about the utility companies ?
Landlords who have mortgages to pay would never accept renting out their apartments for free to those idividuals who need hosuing .
What you would end up with is those tenents who couldn't pay being evicted . Even if the system would provide houseing to these people the list would be long and take far too long to accomodate all of them in need . Those of us who live in cold climates could very well perish living on the streets before they could be housed .
In order for something like this to work you would have to have the cooperation of the majority of our society and that really doesn't seem likely.

I think we missed the boat a long time ago when something like this could have worked, but now our population has grown beyond what could be sustained in this kind of society . If communes can and have failed how do you expect entire states to survive ? Maybe you can make something like this on a small scale but I seriously doubt you could make it work on a larger scale .
0 # jimyoung 2012-01-03 14:06
Get away from too big to fail everywhere we can. We used to have many community hospitals, free clinics, and member owned mutual benefit insurance companies like Blue Cross, that is until we let business interests take them over with non-member, profit-motivate d shareholders (and the middlemen that take such a larger cut than they used to of "profits" and "expenses"). I'd like to return the advantage to smaller divisions of truly mutual or member owned units that work with and monitor the effectiveness of medicare and medicaid providers, for example. As it is, the tax advantages that used to go to "non-profits" have been so distorted that they are no longer recognizable. A case in point is at, which includes info on Phoebe Putney, Albany, Georgia’s largest non profit. It is based on the work of ethical insider whistle blowers, which have had to be of exceptional quality since they effectively shut down all but the very bravest and persistent whistle blowers around 2004.
0 # colvictoria 2012-01-03 17:53
This is the discussion we need to have. Is capitalism a viable sustainable system long term? At the rate we are going what will happen when we reach 50% unemployment? According to some analysts the dollar will no longer be the world reserve currency then we will have a collapse and the gov't can no longer just print more useless dollars.
Are we going to settle for a society in chaos? with fear of crime? with prices so high people will literally starve? will Martial Law be declared and we the terrorists will be locked up indefinitely?
We need to start thinking about how we will structure our society. Communalism, homestead movement, kibbutz, communes etc.. all sound like viable options.
Maybe we need to start seeing each other as just human beings instead of letting EGO dictate our behavior. A doctor should become one because he/she wants to truly help others not because of the six figure salary.
Isn't life more than our material possessions? Isn't caring for a stranger a noble deed? All major religions stress these virtues yet EGO, PRIDE, GREED, AVARICE get in the way. This creates a belief in I am better than she is! I make more money than he does!
I have 3 cars, a boat, and a mansion I earned all of this.
Can we continue on this path of division and indifference to those who have nothing?
This is what capitalism breeds and in the long term is not viable and not sustainable. Any environmentalis t can attest to that!
+1 # fredboy 2012-01-03 16:48
Are they houses or tulips?

And are we lemmings?
+1 # itchyvet 2012-01-03 22:05
IF even just half of these homes were FRAUDENTLY foreclosed upon,and the U.S. military members can verify this, why has there been no charges laid against the Perps of these frauds ?

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