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PORTSIDE  August 2010, Week 4

PORTSIDE August 2010, Week 4

Subject:

They Go or Obama Goes

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Date:

Thu, 26 Aug 2010 22:39:13 -0400

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They Go or Obama Goes

By Robert Scheer

TruthDig.com

August 25, 2010

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/they_go_or_obama_goe
s_20100825/

Barack Obama and the Democrats he led to a stunning
victory two years ago are going down hard in the face of
an economic crisis that he did nothing to create but
which he has failed to solve. That is somewhat unfair
because the basic blame belongs to his predecessors,
Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, who let the bulls of
Wall Street run wild in the streets where ordinary folks
lived. And there was universal Republican support in
Congress for the radical deregulation of the financial
industry that produced this debacle.

The core issue for the economy is the continued cost of
a housing bubble made possible only after what Clinton
Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers back then trumpeted
as necessary "legal certainty" was provided to
derivative packages made up of suspect Alt-A and
subprime mortgages. It was the Commodity Futures
Modernization Act, which Senate Republican Phil Gramm
drafted and which Clinton signed into law, that made
legal the trafficking in packages of dubious home
mortgages. In any decent society the creation of such
untenable mortgages and the securitization of risk
irrationally associated with it would have been judged a
criminal scam. But no such judgment was possible because
thanks to Wall Street's sway under Clinton and Bush the
bankers got to rewrite the laws to sanction their
treachery.

It is Obama's continued deference to the sensibilities
of the financiers and his relative indifference to the
suffering of ordinary people that threaten his legacy,
not to mention the nation's economic well-being. There
have been more than 300,000 foreclosure filings every
single month that Obama has been president, and as The
New York Times editorialized, "Unfortunately, there is
no evidence that the Obama administration's efforts to
address the foreclosure problem will make an appreciable
dent." The Times noted that the administration's main
program has been a bust, with only $321 million of the
$30 billion allocated to the program having been spent
to help folks stay in their homes.

The ugly reality that only 398,198 mortgages have been
modified to make the payments more reasonable can be
traced to the program being based on the hope that the
banks would do the right thing. While Obama continued
the Bush practice of showering the banks with bailout
money, he did not demand a moratorium on foreclosures or
call for increasing the power of bankruptcy courts to
force the banks, which created the problem, to now help
distressed homeowners.

The subject of housing foreclosures is inherently boring
unless you happen to own a home being foreclosed, in
which case your family's life has just been turned
disastrously upside down. But few of the well-paid
pundits on television are in such a position, and as a
result the tragedy that has hit 4 million families in
the past two years has received scant notice.

But even that highly privileged group of commentators
must now be aware that those foreclosures are behind
Tuesday's news that U.S. home sales reached their lowest
point in 15 years and that there is unlikely to be an
economic recovery without a dramatic turnabout in the
housing market. The stock market tanked Tuesday on
reports that U.S. home sales had dropped 25.5 percent
below the year-ago level.

When homes are foreclosed in a neighborhood the equity
of those in the area who have faithfully paid their
mortgages is slashed. And when the banks dump those
foreclosed properties back on the market, prices drop
even lower. Yet the administration has offered the most
tepid of responses to stanch the fierce bleeding of home
equity worth. A paltry $4.1 billion has been committed
to efforts by the states to help the unemployed and
other distressed borrowers stay in their homes. Compare
that with the trillions spent on making the financial
industry super-profitable once again.

There is no way that Obama can begin to seriously
reverse this course without shedding the economic team
led by the Clinton-era "experts" like Summers and
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner who got us into this
mess in the first place. They are spooked by one
overwhelmingly crippling idea - don't rattle the
financial titans whom we must rely on for investment.
But when it comes to keeping people in their homes, it
is precisely the big banks that must be rattled into
doing the right thing.

Obama gained credibility through sacking Gen. Stanley
McChrystal for making untoward remarks. Why not sack
Summers and Geithner for untoward policies that have
inflicted such misery on the general public?

[Robert Scheer has built a reputation for strong social
and political writing over his 30 years as a journalist.
His columns appear in newspapers across the country, and
his in-depth interviews have made headlines. He
conducted the famous Playboy magazine interview in which
Jimmy Carter confessed to the lust in his heart and he
went on to do many interviews for the Los Angeles Times
with Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and many
other prominent political and cultural figures.

Between 1964 and 1969 he was Vietnam correspondent,
managing editor and editor in chief of Ramparts
magazine. From 1976 to 1993 he served as a national
correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, writing on
diverse topics such as the Soviet Union, arms control,
national politics and the military. In 1993 he launched
a nationally syndicated column based at the Los Angeles
Times, where he was named a contributing editor.  That
column ran weekly for the next 12 years and is now based
at Truthdig.]

_____________________________________________

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to people on the left that will help them to
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