CONGRESS: It’s Not About Right and Left Anymore… It’s About Right and Wrong.

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On Thursday afternoon, when Melissa Bean, a Democrat from Illinois, stood in the way of the Walt Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was introduced on the floor of the House of Representatives just days before, frankly I was shocked.  I expected this sort of thing from any one of the Republicans, but from a Democrat? And a woman, no less?  Stunning, absolutely stunning.

Come to find out Friday afternoon that she and other “moderate democrats” (Read: “the banking lobby”) actually killed the proposed amendment that would have allowed judges to modify mortgages for homeowners in bankruptcy court.

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In the end, 50 Democrats that voted for it the last time it passed the House, this time voted against it.  From start to finished in something like 72 hours.  And without a peep from homeowners in this country, of which more than 5 million have already lost homes to foreclosure, and with maybe 14 million coming in the next three years, according to Goldman Sachs’ forecasts.

But… I suppose it’s understandable… why would we possibly want judges to have a say?  After all, lately we’ve all learned how FABULOUSLY well the banks are doing at modifying loans this year under Obama’s HAMP CRAP.  Want the latest results from Treasury?  Well, you’re getting them whether you want them or not:

1. Remember SAXON Mortgage Services? You know, the servicer that finished in 1st PLACE back in late July on those “Report Cards” that were going to shame these lying pieces of garbage into complying with the government contracts they signed?  That Saxon… THE ONE THAT WAS WAY AHEAD OF WELLS FARGO AND BANK OF AMERICA?

Well, as of DECEMBER 10TH SAXON has issued 42 PERMANENT LOAN MODIFICATIONS out of 35,608 TRIAL MODS, FOR A WHOPPING .1%… THAT’S ONE TENTH OF ONE PERCENT.   Woofrigginghoo!

And you want to know the really funny part of that statistic… I don’t even believe that they’re telling the whole truth.  Would anyone like to bet against me saying that some of those 42 ended up with higher payments than before the modification, because if so… bring it.  I’ll even give you odds, how’s 10:1?  Anyone?  Anyone?  Come on, someone write in and put up a grand… I could use the extra Christmas cash.

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Oh, and would you like to know how much money our government has offered the friendly folks over at SAXON in the way of INCENTIVE CASH for taking the trouble to modify a few mortgages they lied people into… $886,400,000.00.  Yeah, you read that right… $886.4 MILLION.  And I’m not going to say anything even remotely funny about that.

So, there’s our 1st PLACE winner… ready for our next contestant?  Come on… this is fun, isn’t it?  How about good old IndyMac/One West Bank… that’s got to be worth a few grins and giggles… I don’t know about you, but I’m having a great frigging time doing this, aren’t you?

2.  IndyMac/One West Bank – Let’s see… Good old IndyMac has done 19,623 trial mods, but how many permanent mods?  I’m going to need a calculator here, hang on… carry the 7… times 3… minus 14… I’ve got it… ZERO PERCENT!  NONE.  NOT A GODDAMN ONE!  ZIPPO.  NIL.  SANS ANY.

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Now, I bet you’re wondering how much incentive cash they’re in line for, aren’t you?  Just on the edge of your seat over there?  Well, I hope you’re sitting down, because the number is $814,240,000!  That’s $814.2 MILLION DOLLARS.  You do understand that’s just shy of a BILLION DOLLARS, right?

Would you like to know how much a BILLION really is?  Well, try this for an example:

1 million seconds is 12 days.

1 billion seconds… is 32 YEARS!

Or how about this one…

A stack of $1 million is about two feet high.

A stack of $1 billion… is three times higher than the Washington Monument!

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In other words… a billion is a whole lot.  A whole frigging lot.

Yeah, why would we possibly need judges to help in this situation?  I certainly can’t think of a reason.  And you want to know something else… a lawyer asked me today why I do what I do.  I should have said… “Well shut the front door… I don’t know.  Just bored I guess.  I didn’t really want to see my daughter grow up, so I figured I’d write about something seven days a week, and since no one else was saying a damn word about this, I figured the competition level was perfect for a remedial writer like myself.”

Look, I’ve got to be brutally honest here.  I love having people read my articles and all, but not enough to be quiet about this.  What the hell are you people doing out there?  I’m thinking of going back to work and watching the country meltdown from a seat in the bleachers.  Maybe start writing about something else, because obviously I’m not accomplishing anything here.  Rents have dropped a lot in Hawaii, and I could do Hawaii full time.  I play a mean ukulele, not sure if I ever mentioned that?

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Democrats killed it in the House… dead in three days.  The best chance to stabilize the U.S. housing market without costing taxpayers a dime.  A chance to stop the tragedy that is the foreclosure crisis, a tragedy that is going to do nothing but grow in size and scope for years to come… a tragedy that’s tearing people’s lives apart… and the banks said no, so it’s no.

And we’re all just hunky-dory with that?  I can’t believe it.  Oh wait… I forgot… you’re busy.  Not too busy to call and email me a couple of hundred times a week, I’ve noticed.  People, this is not funny in the least.

And before I go on, let me get one thing out of the way: Melissa “The Banker” Bean, an obvious bought-and-paid-for sycophant, should be tossed out of office directly onto her ample buttocks come the midterm election.  Period.  We’re still experiencing the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression… a condition unquestionably caused by the unbridled greed and unchecked power of Wall Street’s bankers.  And she is clearly some banker’s betch, to use a word my 14 year old daughter and friends taught me.

Think I’m guessing about this?  Well, I’m not.  I looked up Ms. Bean… it was easy, like falling off a blog.  Melissa received at least $515,438 from banks and other financial institutions, including most notably JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America.  That’s a half a million dollars plus from the people who don’t want anyone telling them what to do, or what they can’t do.

Of course, checking the Treasury report on servicer performance, I do see that Chase has done quite a bit better in the modification department than either Saxon or IndyMac.  Chase has permanently modified a whopping 3% of its trial modifications.  Of course, before you get too excited, Chase has only offered trial modifications to 32% of its eligible mortgages, so I guess we better say the jury’s still out.  I wouldn’t want to jump to any conclusions and give them a pat on the back for that 3% prematurely.

Anyone feel like betting against some of those 3% ending up with higher payments than before the modification in Chase’s three percent pool of permanent mods?  Come on… you guys are not fun.  Okay, forget the 10:1… I’ll go 100:1 on Chase’s mods.  Step right up… No limits… I’m covering all takers.

Are you frigging kidding me?

Guys… look.  I don’t mean to beat up on you… I know how hard this whole thing is… believe me, I do.  But this is not the same country I grew up loving if all this sits just fine with everyone.  We can’t just sit around wondering who’s likely to win on American Idol, as we wait for the moving truck.  Because if we do, that truck is coming… sure as I’m writing this… it’s coming.

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And what about all the lawyers I know are reading this?  You guys became lawyers for more than one reason, I’m sure.  Wasn’t any part of your motivation because you believed in the fairness that’s supposed to be inherent to our system of government… a “representative democracy”?  Could you really sit this one out?  Are you imagining that you’re immune from losing a house to foreclosure?  Because you’re not, you know.  No one is.

I’m 48 years old.  I’ve owned my own firm for better than twenty years now.  I’ve enjoyed a very successful career.  I’m fairly enterprising, and I’m wicked smart… and I could lose my house, so don’t kid yourself… you absolutely could lose yours too.

I’m learning a lot this year about politics in this country.  I’ve learned that we have more power than we think we do.

Did you see the latest news about Goldman Sachs and the $16.7 billion in bonuses they had been planning to give out this year?  Well, they’re still giving the bonuses, but not in cash… stock options instead.  Why do you suppose that is?  It’s because our representatives have been flooded with letters and calls all year long related to the egregious bonuses at Goldman, AIG and the numerous others.  And the political pressure in a midterm election is intense.  Congress doesn’t want to go home to campaign and find people standing around holding pitchforks and torches.

We can do the same thing for our cause, you know.  We really can.  My “A Hundred Thousand Homeowners” project is one such initiative, and there are others I’m working on, as well.

I’ve realized for some time that we live in a politically divided nation, but I was thinking that the divide was between Democrats and Republicans… the “left” and the “right”.  Apparently, I was wrong… today we’re actually divided between the Banker Party and the Common Sense Party…. Something like that anyway, it needs work.

Members of the Banker Party think banks are awesome in every way.  They never do anything the banks don’t like.  Members of the Common Sense Party understand that foreclosures must be stopped, and they think that causing the most severe economic recession since the Great Depression requires some level of new oversight to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again five years from now.  And they’re willing to stand up and fight, before their country disappears before their own tearful eyes.

THIS ISN’T ABOUT RIGHT & LEFT.  IT’S ABOUT RIGHT & WRONG.

And in case you’re waiting for “it” to come back… “it’s” not coming back.  Or rather… it will be back, just like the technology IPO market will come back too.  But, it could easily be a decade before we see any sort of return to prosperity… and it could also be quite a bit longer than that.  Here’s one of the most telling statements I’ve seen in a while on this point.  It’s from the Congressional Oversight Panel’s December 2009 Report: “Taking Stock… What Has the TARP Achieved?”  They wrote:
“It is apparent that after 14 months, that significant underlying weaknesses in the financial system remains.”

We don’t have another 14 months to play around and let the banks destroy our way of life, which they most certainly will do.  Here’s another link to my favorite article on the topic.  It’s written by Simon Johnson, who in addition to have served as the Chief Economist for the International Monetary Fund (“IMF”), is now a professor at MIT.  Here’s his article about what’s happened in this country, which was published in The Atlantic last May.

And here’s one from Rolling Stone from yesterday.  You should definitely read this one: President Obama’s Big Sell Out – Rolling Stone.

In Conclusion, don’t worry… I won’t quit if you won’t…

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) wrote a very famous poem that, being Jewish, I’ve known since I was a little boy.  He wrote it in reference to the inactivity and apathy of German intellectuals following the Nazi rise to power and the purging of their chosen targets, group after group after group.

Niemöller was an anti-Communist and as a result, supported Hitler’s rise to power in the beginning, but he soon after became the leader of a group of German clergymen opposed to Hitler.  Hitler hated Niemöller and in 1937 had him arrested and sent to the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. His widely known and frequently quoted poem is a popular model for describing the dangers of political apathy.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;


Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;


Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;


Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak out—because I was a Protestant;

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

Speaking out on subjects that matter.  That’s what Mandelman Matters is all about.  But click that last link and you find my T’was the Night Before Christmas – 2009, Political Year In Review.


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