As Mayor Rybak and the City of Minneapolis scramble to make clear their role in home foreclosures, the stand taken by Occupy Homes is making it clear that this issue is not black and white and that at bottom there is a moral component. And there is the question of whether public monies should be used in this dispute between a homeowner and lender.
The law and rule of law make it easy to forget that at bottom we are human beings and the law should make it easier for all of us to live as human beings rather than as consumers and victims of commercial swindle.
Of course it is commercial swindle, because who said interest had to be eight or 12 percent? And how did the banks get to offer and then enforce adjustable mortgages that seem destined to go higher rather than lower? And who said the banks should be the determinant of who gets prime loans and who gets sub-prime loans?
The entire mortgage loan financing apparatus is rigged to favor the banks and extract as much profit as possible. News story after news story have reported that banks have foreclosed on homeowners when they didn’t even own the property.
These stories have also reported that banks have falsified records and pretended not to have received payments by homeowners to put them in foreclosure. There has been report after report of banks playing games with homeowners pretending to work with them to renegotiate while secretly accelerating the foreclosure process.
There is something very wrong with this picture, and it’s time that we confront it. Occupy Homes has done just that.
Mayor Rybak has issued a statement saying that the City is not responsible and will not be responsible for helping the banks do their dirty deeds. Yet he continues to send his police force to evict folks from a property that is in dispute.
Dispute is the right word, because there is a dispute between the former homeowners, the Cruzes, and the financial institutions involved in their loan, PNC Bank and Freddie Mac. Yet Freddie Mac has insisted that the City use its resources to enforce its version of the dispute.
It shouldn’t escape anyone that Freddie Mac was created by the government to work with and for the people. It is even publicly financed. So why all the enmity and contention?
The mayor and the city council have a way out, because they can clearly say that the circumstances around this eviction are not crystal clear and that they have a certain level of discomfort in using City resources (public funds) to interfere in a private dispute. And the cost of the City siding with the lawless, lawbreaking, dirty-dealing financial institutions in this case is mounting. Hundreds of law enforcement man-hours have been spent, which must at this point translate into thousands of dollars.
There should be a fairer deal between the banks and the people who by the sweat of their brow put monies together so that they and their families can enjoy roofs
over their heads.
I am not naïve — I know there are laws against trespassing — but there are also higher moral laws. If there were Christians in the land, they would tell you this. Clearly they don’t exist, because if they did they would be locking arms with the protestors and declaring these words from Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof and the world and everything in it.”
So at bottom there should be a fairer deal between the banks and the people who by the sweat of their brow put monies together so that they and their families can enjoy roofs over their heads.
The cops that came to the house to secure it last week were confronted by my fellow protestors, who pointed out to them that this could be them, especially with City resources becoming more and more strained. It could be the police who need loan adjustments because their work status had changed.
Many of them had funny looks on their faces as the young people explained that the Cruzes were not bums and that they weren’t bums either but young people who believe that the Big Banks, the big financial institutions, should treat folks fairly. After all, they were bailed out when they mismanaged their funds.
They were bailed out when they passed off bad securities that they knew were bad. They were bailed out and all the laws they broke were ignored because they were “too big to fail.” Freddie Mac received bailout money to the tune of $71 billion; the total taxpayer tab for bailouts of these financial institutions is in the trillions of dollars.
The young people insist that might should not and does not equal right. The Cruzes were paying their mortgage, and the banks, because of some electronic snafu in their records, were failing to record it. The bank still insisted that the family had to pay exorbitant late fees and penalties and still insisted that they had not received payments in a timely manner, which put the family in foreclosure.
I think citizens, homeowners, and city officials around the country, instead of staying out of the fray, should stand up and say this is not right. They should call on the banks and other financial institutions to negotiate in good faith and stop taking people’s homes.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to mella firstname.lastname@example.org.