(written collaboratively by Occupy Fights Foreclosures participants)
President Obama gave his annual state of the union address and, as expected, little to no mention was made of the housing crisis or the massive corporate fraud that created the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930’s.
His speech was considerably upbeat and positive. If we weren’t aware of the precarious and arbitrary condition of our state’s housing sector, which has been propped-up by international financial institutions, then perhaps we would feel content and hopeful. However, our reaction was anything but content. The President’s claims of all around improvement in recent years we see as hyperbole.
“And here are the results of your efforts: the lowest unemployment rate in over five years; a rebounding housing market -- (applause) -- a manufacturing sector that's adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s -- (applause) -- more oil produced -- more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, the first time that's happened in nearly twenty years -- (applause) -- our deficits cut by more than half; and for the first time -- (applause) -- for the first time in over a decade, business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world's number one place to invest; America is.”
There is still a great divide between the America that President Obama describes, and the real America we experience every day. His speech contains stark contradictions that need to be explored further, such as:
“Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all.”
We cannot help but feel that President Obama is completely out-of-touch with the realities thrust onto middle-class Americans. The cold, hard fact is we cannot continue to move forward if we continue to ignore the massive white-collar crimes being overlooked by our legislatures.
Nothing will change until we hold these professional criminals accountable for their massive extortion of the American people. As evidence of the continued injustice, multi-billion dollar compensation and bonuses continue to be given to the Wall Street CEOs who caused the global crisis, who were in charge as the known massive fraud schemes were in full swing.
Where do we as homeowners fit into the mosaic of hope and optimism for the bright future if we aren't even addressed in the state of the union address? With only one sentence in the speech addressing the housing market, it would appear to outsiders that we Americans are taking it on the chin, pulling ourselves up by our boot straps, with a proud far away look at the horizon in our eyes. The truth is, most of us are bone tired and in despair about our current financial situations. We despair for how we will provide for our families. We despair for how we will keep the homes into which we've invested all of our hard work, money and aspirations.
Our President did not even mention the massive settlements for fraud and the fallout of fraudulent foreclosures that were created in its wake. He did not mention how Ocwen Loan Servicing was the latest institution to make a paltry settlement of 2.1 billion dollars for mortgage fraud abuse, with another empty promise to help homeowners with the settlement.
Then there is the 13.5 billion dollar settlement agreed to by JPMorgan Chase for fraud that William K. Black, professor of law and economics and former bank fraud investigator, calls "epic in scale, unprecedented in world history." Cuomo and Schneiderman are already arguing over how the settlement money will be spent: whether to allocate the money to homeowners or to fill in the state budget.
Obama was not shy about how well off corporations are doing, yet the massive amount of settlements and lawsuits over the past 5 years serve as a testimony that corporations' ‘health’ is NOT due to good business practices.
In President Obama’s speech, he talks about helping Americans save for retirement. Yet how many retirement funds have lost money due to the massive fraud of Mortgage Backed Securities? Where is his outrage, where is his action there? Our government has already spent the Social Security investment millions of Americans have invested believing that it would help us in our retirement years, and now our congressional leaders are calling it an “entitlement” program.
“Let's do more to help Americans save for retirement. Today most workers don't have a pension. A Social Security check often isn't enough on its own. And while the stock market has doubled over the last five years, that doesn't help folks who don't have a 401(k). That's why tomorrow I will direct the Treasury to create a new way for working Americans to start their own retirement savings: MyRA. It's a -- it's a new savings bond that encourages folks to build a nest egg.”
We don't need help saving. We need justice to put in jail the people running the institutions who've defrauded millions of Americans of their life savings.
Where is the hope for homeowners? Day after day we see bank CEOs getting obscene pay raises and bonuses while simultaneously destroying our justice system, land records, retirement funds and communities, home after home. We see billions of "settlement" dollars trying to paper over decades of abuse, fraud, theft, Ponzi investment schemes, rigging LIBOR, rigging of currency exchanges and decimating so many lives right in front of our eyes.
Where is the DOJ? Where is the accountability to the entire public? Where are the admissions of guilt?
Occupy Fights Foreclosures takes the position that President Obama needs to do far more to restore fundamental trust of Americans. We do not need yet another program that attempts to mitigate the inevitable outcomes of this fraud. If we do not see him closing the loopholes that allow TBTF corporations to continue to operate on their present level of fraud, we do not have trust.
If we do not close the loopholes, what will keep these corporations from stealing the value of the new savings bonds, also? What will stop them from creating the next fraud-based bubble of lease-backed securities whereby enormous multinational private equity firms such as Blackstone become our landlords, renting the houses they've stolen with fabricated paperwork back to the families they've stolen them from?
The stock market has not doubled because of good business practices. Certainly, it is not something for our nation to brag about, but rather to hang our heads in shame that we have allowed the exploitation of the American middle-class in order to line the pockets of the ultra-wealthy perpetrators of our economic crisis.
Following the presidential address, the Republican rebuttal was executed in a fireside chat style, reminiscent of the 1950s. No fire in the fireplace though, perhaps a symbolic ode to their lack of direction. However, there was nothing addressed that wasn't already covered in the SOTU speech — no real suggestions on how to alleviate our current depression, which has been the most avoided term, to no surprise. As usual, there was the same rhetoric about the "American dream” rebranded in prayer, and old fashioned cheery Shirley Temple-esque attempts to fill us with meaningless content and encouragement.
Without justice, we are shipwrecked. We are rudderless. Watching the SOTU address was like watching the big gala on the cruise ship knowing we are drifting further and further out to sea. Our attempts at raising the alarm to change course and initiate real rescue feel so futile these days as more and more of us are being left behind.