Who Will Rescue Trapped Americans?
Editor’s Note: News coverage of the Chilean mine rescue treated the story as either a matter of tear-filled human interest or (bizarrely) proof of how successful Chile’s “free-market reforms” have been, without insights into how profits-first cost-cutting had led to the mine collapse or how it was the government – not private enterprise – that led the successful rescue effort.
These days, Americans get a steady dose of either emotionalism or propaganda with little serious analysis included, a problem that spills over into even more serious crises, such as the current foreclosure debacle, as Danny Schechter notes in this guest essay:
In all of our current economic issues, there is always a “back story, a deeper context” that is usually missing, “disappeared” like those Salvador Allende supporters in Chile in the l970’s who wanted to empower workers, not just rescue them when they get buried in a deep hole.
Most deeper issues go uncovered. “More buried than the miners themselves, the demands and the rights of the indigenous population continue to be flouted and unrecognized in our country,” said Luis Campos, director of the School of Anthropology at Chile’s Universidad Academia de Humanismo Cristiano.
Many unsafe mines worldwide still risk the lives of miners who toil in them, from China to Zambia.
Who woulda thunk about this other side of the feel-good story of the rescued Chilean miners? Certainly not the 1,300 “journalists” on the scene in Chile. It would never cross their minds to suggest that this mine disaster had its origins four decades ago when Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger worked to snuff out Chile’s emerging popular democracy in the name of protecting what former economic “hit man,” John Perkins, calls the corporatocracy.
Historian Juan Cole poses these questions: “Are copper and gold mine owners stronger in relation to workers and have they escaped government regulation because the U.S. engineered a coup in 1973 to destroy the Chilean Left?
“Was the San Estaban mining company’s ability to marginalize the union and to disregard input from the workers rooted in American-imposed corporate privilege? In other words, was the trapping of these workers in the first place Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger’s fault?”
The cost-cutting and greed that led to the Chilean mine collapse in the first place (setting the stage for the dramatic rescue) resulted from a gold rush in Chile, triggered, in turn by, a global financial crisis MADE IN THE USA. The Chilean mine collapse had its counterparts in the U.S. and not just with those 29 miners who perished in the Big Main mine in West Virginia last April, a disaster that was supposed to lead to new safety rules that the Republicans have been insidiously blocking.
There is another hole we need to focus on. Millions of us are trapped in our own mines, “underwater” homes that have lost value, facing bills we cannot afford, locked in unemployment, with jobs gone and not coming back, as poverty climbs and the noxious Newt Gingrich wants to stop food stamps upon which so many now depend on.
There is no rescue in sight, and the human plight of most of the millions affected takes part outside of media sight.
The gaggle of reporters that covered the mine rescue as a human-interest story – not a political issue – missed the back-story there, just as they miss our own back story here.
In Florida, one epicenter of the housing catastrophe, homeowners were stunned by the latest fraudclosure crime wave. Denise Richardson writes in the Sun Sentinel, “Last I knew, knowingly signing documents fraudulently and using them in a court of law is frowned on, right? It's criminal, isn't it? Or is it only criminal if you are a homeowner and not a bank? Seems we've gone to great lengths to create and then accept a double standard here.
“Perhaps these financial crimes — yes, that’s what they are, crimes — continue to happen because we never addressed the real problems to begin with. You can’t fix a problem you don't acknowledge. Does anyone believe that was done to help protect the rights of homeowners? Let’s call it what it is: fraud.”
An attorney in Deerfield Beach, Florida, representing 3,000 foreclosure victims, has taken hundreds of depositions from bank employees who admit they knew nothing about the details of the evictions they signed off on. Many are now being put down as “Burger King Kids,” who know more about real whoppers than about real estate. RealtyTrac reports that foreclosure and REO homes (properties owned by banks) have accounted for 24 percent of all residential sales during the second quarter. That is huge!
In relatively affluent Palm Beach County, homeowners are Number l in the state for the average number of loans in foreclosure that are delinquent. It has the fourth highest number of foreclosures, 45,829 with an average delinquency of 623 days. You will recall that Bernie Madoff once turned Palm Beach into a hunting ground for his ponzi scheme.
This situation is worse than we realize, and not just for the people most directly affected. No one knows how much the banks will lose in the class-action suits, fines and legal actions over their fraudclosures. Some think it could be tens of billions of dollars, suggesting another bailout may be in the offing, probably by the Federal Reserve Bank.
Economist Paul Krugman questions whether the banks had the right to seize many of these homes, arguing, “The mortgage mess is making nonsense of claims that we have effective contract enforcement — in fact, the question is whether our economy is governed by any kind of rule of law.”
Buried in the Business section, on page B-8 of the New York Times, way down in an article saying the banks may be on the hook for billions, was this very revealing paragraph speaking to a problem that I have been raising for years making clear the fraud problem is not just with foreclosures.
“Inside the investment houses, several traders said nerves were frazzled further by worries that banks could face much bigger mortgage related losses, not from foreclosures, but because of questions about how the money was lent in the first place. If it turns out that mortgages were bundled together and sold improperly, more holders could sue the banks and force them to buy back tens of billions in mortgage-backed securities.”
Frazzled nerves so far seem the worst punishment the banksters have tasted. They have just decided to reward themselves with a new round of raises and bonuses worth $144 billion with few criticisms.
Meanwhile, the Government has just “settled” for $73 million with Countrywide, the leading predatory lender. That means that a prosecution of its top executives, the poster boys for mortgage criminality, will be dropped.
Notes the Web site Housing Doom: “Even having to pay $77.5 million, Mozilo still nets $61.5 million, just between November 2006 and October 2007. Maybe ‘crime doesn’t pay,’ but one of the lessons of the housing bust is that fraud does.”
What should be done? Webster Tarpley speaks for many in calling for a national moratorium on foreclosures:
“The current chaos in home foreclosures is once again the direct responsibility of the zombie bankers themselves, who have neglected all traditional legal and accounting standards concerning the necessary paper trails in their frenzied desire to securitize mortgage loans and make them into toxic derivatives in the form of asset-backed securities and mortgage backed securities.
“The zombie bankers, already the recipients of $24 trillion of public largess in the form of the various bailouts, have turned out to be incompetent even in the technical aspects of their own thieving racket.
“But the chaos in the bankers’ filing systems is nothing compared to the chaos created by the millions of foreclosures they have engineered, based on adjustable-rate mortgages and similar misleading contracts which never should have been legal in the first place.
“For some time, it has been evident that the defense of the American middle class requires a blanket, orderly, federal freeze (or moratorium) on all foreclosures on primary residences, similar to the New Deal protections offered to family farms by the landmark Frazier-Lemke Act of 1935-1949 during the previous depression.”
(The Obama White House has rejected the idea of a moratorium, claiming it might make matters even worse)
Ellen Brown, author of Web of Debt, goes further in Yes Magazine, asking if it is “Time to Break Up the Too-Big-to-Fail Banks?” She writes:
“Popular financial analysts, crippling bank losses from foreclosure flaws appear to be imminent and unavoidable. The defects prompting the ‘RoboSigning Scandal’ are not mere technicalities but are inherent to the securitization process. They cannot be cured. This deep-seated fraud is already explicitly outlined in publicly available lawsuits.
“There is, however, no need to panic, no need for TARP II, and no need for legislation to further conceal the fraud and push the inevitable failure of the too-big-to-fail banks into the future.”
The faux populists of the Tea Party right have been silent on the issue. Glenn Beck dropped all populist pretensions by calling on followers to give money to the Chamber of Commerce so they can better pursue a corporate agenda.
One Republican in Florida assured me that Barney Frank caused the whole financial crisis and that he will be tossed out of office in the midterm election. (He didn’t just blame him — he hates him!) At the same time, one right-wing Web site did publish a detailed denunciation of housing fraud.
As depressing as the lack of any real ongoing mass-based populist movement of the Left or the Right is another reality that The Washington Post finally spills:
“Let us tell you an Ugly Truth about the economy, a truth that no one in power or who aspires to power wants to share with you, at least until after the midterm elections are over. It's this: There is nothing that the U.S. government or the Federal Reserve or tax cutters can do to make our economic pain vanish overnight.”
Still, millions of Americans buy into the illusion that voting for new politicians offered up by the Tea Party can save us.
So what will it be? More money for the banks and more illegal foreclosures – or some type of justice for homeowners? Will this crisis lead us to demand action to break up these financial behemoths? Or will we just sit by and watch a new crisis sweep us deeper into our own mines of despair?
Danny Schechter, made the film Plunder The Crime of Our Time about the financial crisis as a crime story (Plunderthecrimeofourtime.com) and blogs for Mediachannel.org. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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