We put up a few more stories on the mortgage mess tonight for a reason. It isn’t that we had a sudden explosion of new information on mortgage abuses. It is instead to remind readers that we could turn this blog entirely over to covering mortgage chicanery and not even scratch the surface.
And the latest bit of corrupt behavior is that the Obama administration has a full court press on to push the heinous “multi-state” settlement deal over the line. We’ve pooh poohed previous reports from Iowa state attorney general Tom Miller that a deal is just around the corner, since he’s been doing his variant on a Chicken Little act for a full year. But it appears the President wants a talking point, ideally for the State of the Union address or as shortly thereafter as possible.
So this time is different: the administration is putting far more pressure on the dissident and skeptical Democratic attorneys general. And precisely because Tom Miller’s efforts have appeared to be going nowhere, particularly after California AG Kamala Harris left the talks, the grass roots effort to oppose the talks has slackened off. The lack of active opposition leave the AGs feeling more exposed, particularly in light of often misleading press stories (for instance, the Wall Street Journal implied over the summer that Harris was wavering when all it was doing was repackaging stale information under a new headline). Similarly, the Administration is ramping up “a deal is almost cinched” reports with Obamabot news outlets like NPR. This is a classic deal/salesmans’ tactic: to create the impression of momentum when there is fact is often none.
The Democratic attorneys general have been invited to meet in Chicago on Monday, and Shaun Donovan of HUD and a member of the Department of Justice will be putting the heat on. The Republican AGs are getting the same documents the Democrat AGs will receive and will confer by phone.
We posted that the Democratic AGs unhappy with the deal has actually enlarged, with 14 apparently meeting (a Huffington Post story said “up to 15″ and we gather that Oregon and Montana participated in addition to the dozen named. However, only 5 so far have officially left the talks: New York, Delaware, Nevada, California, and Massachusetts. In addition, there are at least four Republicans who have said they will not join in any settlement.
Here are some of the reasons to oppose a settlement:
1. There have been virtually no investigations, and the Administration has engaged in cover-ups rather than trying to get to the bottom of the mortgage mess
2. The big argument made in favor of the deal, that it will help borrowers, is patently false. Remember, Countrywide entered into a deal with attorney generals just like this, where they agreed to do mods in return for a settlement on abuses. Guess what? They didn’t do the mods. To add insult to injury, they actually abused homeowners who should have gotten mods. Nevada AG is suing Countrywide now over its failure to comply with the terms of its settlement. And even if some mods miraculously did get done, the settlement is designed to have banks hit a dollar amount. That means they will focus on the biggest loans, which means any relief will go to a comparatively small number of people in (originally) big ticket houses.
3. The Administration has only one chance to get this right. Now you might argue that Team Obama has no intention of getting the mortgage mess right, but the tectonic plates suddenly seem to be moving in elite circles. The Fed realizes that housing is a BIG problem and has even started making noise about it. Yet Obama is moving forward with a plan cooked up in late 2010 that is completely out of whack with the urgency and severity of the problem. Note that this settlement will NOT stop private actions, such as borrowers fighting foreclosures. And we will continue to banks refuse to take losses and drag out foreclosures to maximize fees. That will lead to continued pressure on housing prices in many markets as buyers stay on the sidelines, fearful of buying before a large shadow inventory clears.
Leaving the AGs free to investigate and increase the pressure that is already building up in the system is the best chance we have to deal with widespread fraud.
The attorneys general really need your support. It helps them to hear that their constituents appreciate them standing up to the banks and the Obama administration.
PLEASE call them TODAY. Here is a list of phone numbers. If you can’t get through, send an e-mail.
Please also sign this petition from Campaign for America’s Future (it has some talking points if you need them for the AG calls). Note you can opt out of being put on their mailing list (I know that has been a sore point with some past petitions). I know it is futile to ping Obama, but they will collect the number of people who sign, and that will in turn bolster the dissident AGs.
Please call today. Unlike Congresscritters, who get a lot of constituent mail and phone calls, AGs get much less in the way of messages from state citizens, so your calls will make a difference.
Thanks for your help.