T'was the Night Before Christmas, a season of closure
We just lost our house because of foreclosure
Clement Moore, the author of the original poem called "A Visit From St. Nick" recited like a mantra at this time of year once lived down in my Manhattan neighborhood called Chelsea. He lived on a farm then but probably couldn't afford today's gentrified rents. He was actually not just a kindly old poet spinning verses for Santa and the reindeers, but a scholar who compiled a two volume Hebrew Dictionary.
Even then, things were not always what they appeared to be.
On WAMU, BoA, Amex and Visa
I can't find the money that's needed to please you
We have just lost our home, oops, there goes the car
As prices go up, with the economy down, I've moved to a bar
For all the traditional tree trimming and house warming today, there is a growing dread as more and more home-owners default on their homes. The action hammer is now competing with the Christmas carols for our attention as whole neighborhoods pay the price for the subprime scandal that has yet to be ended or prosecuted. As the housing bubble bursts, governments are facing a loss of revenues and will be forced to slash schools and services.
On one side of the spectrum, The Wall Street Journal reports that 2007 was the best year yet for the super rich. The investment bank Goldman Sachs, whose former Chairman Hank Paulson (now our Treasury Secretary) feigns concern for families struggling to stay in their homes, paid out 12.1 Billion in Christmas bonuses. Their current Chairman/ CEO Lloyd Blankfein took home nearly $68 million in restricted stock, options and cash.
Nomi Prins, a former Managing Director of Goldman turned critic detailed "the corporate mugging of America" in her brilliant 2004 book Other People's Money. She noted that after the last fraudulently created bubble burst, "many of the perpetrating companies and executives got away with it. Almost everyone -- from the corporate executives to the banks to the regulators to Congress to the Oval Office -- escaped without admission of responsibility or direct retribution for the jobs and the money lost."
The book opens with a quote from Balzac: "The secret of great wealth with no obvious source is some forgotten crime, forgotten because it was done neatly."
As history appears to be repeating itself, the sounds of protest are slowly beginning to rise in a culture of denial where economic prosperity for some masked deepening inequality for others.
ONTARIO, California (Reuters) -- Between railroad tracks and beneath the roar of departing planes sits "tent city," a terminus for homeless people. It is not, as might be expected, in a blighted city center, but in the once-booming suburbia of Southern California.
The noisy, dusty camp sprang up in July with 20 residents and now numbers 200 people, including several children, growing as this region east of Los Angeles has been hit by the U.S. housing crisis.
The unraveling of the region known as the Inland Empire reads like a 21st century version of "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck's novel about families driven from their lands by the Great Depression.
Other homeowners are fighting back. For the details, read the comprehensive website of the American Homeowners Resource Center.
Former real estate investors like another Californian, Michael Blomquist who was tricked out, of millions is speaking out.
You can track the real estate decline here.
Organizing is underway. Fresh from his march on Wall Street, Rev. Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition is following up. He is calling on Congressional leaders and other elected officials to convene with him at his 11th Annual Wall Street Project Conference in New York Jan. 6-9, 2008. Community activists are like CHANGER, based in East New York, Brooklyn are protesting the Washington Mutual Bank, a bank being probed by the SEC for fudging home appraisals, on Christmas Eve as part of a campaign called "The BANKS THAT STOLE X-MAS DO SOMETHING: KEEP YOUR HOME campaign kick off."
Writing on Mediachannel.org last March, well before the summer's market meltdown and this final quarter's massive write-downs, I called on my "colleagues" in the worlds of alternative/independent media, progressive movements and the blogs to broaden our focus to examine economic issues.
Perhaps now, nine months later, and with billions, make that trillions, of dollars vanishing down various rat holes thanks to the financial crisis, there will be a shift.
We are calling for better coverage of the greed and crimes of Wall Street. Maybe because of the work I did in making the film, In Debt We Trust, I was more alarmed than most. I realized we can't just get obsessed with partisan politics and ignore economic interests. Those are the forces that are devastating the lives of so many Americans who have lost their jobs, can't pay their bills and are victimized by institutionalized rip-offs which does not seem to have become a major political issue yet..."
The progressives may be lagging but the polls show that the voters get it and are now making the economy their central concern.
The government is trying to bail out the financiers, not the people in need. The banks are in a crisis of their own making, caught, as the Telegraph in London put it between "the Scylla of the debt crunch and the Charybdis of inflation." So far the Federal Reserve Bank has failed to contain the freefall. The Treasury Department's recent mortgage "reform" has only helped 300 families. Its real purpose seems to be to block the banks from being sued.
House Financial Services Committee chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) says, "We now have confirmation of two facts we have known for some time: one, the Federal Reserve System is not a strong advocate for consumers, and two, there is no Santa Claus. People who are surprised by the one are presumably surprised by the other."
So we return to evocations of old St. Nick. And just to add to the bizarre ironies of the moment, The Economist magazine has put China's communist hero Mao TseTung on its cover (while Putin graces Time). Mao is wearing a bright red Santa hat.
What was once the Red menace may have become our salvation.
News Dissector Danny Schechter directed "In Debt We Trust," a film on the debt crisis warning of many of today's developments. is new e-book, Squeezed, explores the crisis.