One of the most successful corporations in America is extorting tax breaks from Texas to relocate part of its business to Austin. In exchange, the government wants Apple to agree to employ some “economically disadvantaged” folks from the community — in other words, the folks footing the tax break! Seems like a simple return on investment!
Last week, the Obama Administration and 49 state attorneys general announced a deal with the country’s five biggest mortgage banks on a $25 billion dollar foreclosure settlement. Community organizers working with victims of foreclosure, including National People’s Action, have criticized the deal as a paltry “drop in the bucket” that will do little to help the millions of families who have lost their homes or risk losing their homes because of the negligence and abuse of big banks.
The deal will help about a million families refinance the principle on their underwater homes. Those who have already lost their homes because of bank trickery or illegal robo-signing errors? About 750,000 such families will get a one-time check of $2,000.
That’s right: In exchange for Wall Street ripping off your home and ripping off our economy, the banks will compensate you a whopping $2,000. But don’t worry. Here are some housing options that families who have lost their homes can use their generous $2,000 check to buy.
A Pre-Fab Shed
Available from Home Depot for $1,789. Shipping not included. And some assembly required.
Two “Luxury” Dog Houses
Available for $949 at Wal-Mart. Each one, though, is probably only roomy enough for one adult or child per structure.
A Used Car
On Craigslist in Peoria, Illinois, someone is selling a used 1995 Ford F150 pickup truck for $2,000 on the button. It has over 147,000 miles on it, but if you’re going to just park it and use it as a home, that doesn’t really matter. And there’s room in the truck bed for the kids.
Of course, none of these options include such luxuries as insulation or indoor plumbing but, hey, the banks can’t spend that extra money helping the victims of their reckless subprime schemes. They have multi-million dollar bonuses to pay! Sheesh…
With the Susan B. Komen Foundation’s pink ribbons tied up in knots this past week by a public relations disaster, and Republicans apparently convinced that global warming was simply an attempt by Al Gore to crack a joke, so-called “pink washing” and “green washing” are no longer as attractive to big businesses looking to varnish their public record. And so it was a convenient but very telling move when, just yesterday, the nation’s largest gay rights organization announced that Lloyd Blankfein would be its first “national corporate spokesperson” for marriage equality.
Mr. Blankfein, when not promoting the rights of same sex couples to wed, is better known for his role as head of Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street mega-firm that has made billions by divorcing families from their homes and retirees from their life savings.
My favorite part is when Blankfein says, “Equality is just good business.” This from the man who, in 2010 in the middle of a financial downturn that he helped create, took home $13.2 million dollars in compensation — or more than 266 times the median American household income of $49,445 for the same year. Put another way, in 2010, Mr. Blankfein earned more in a day-and-a-half than ordinary Americans earned in an entire year.
Oh, but you say, he’s running a successful business. Alas, Goldman’s 2010 earnings were down 37% from 2009 and in 2010, the firm paid $550 million to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission fraud suit charging that Goldman misled investors by selling misleading dud mortgage securities — betting against their own clients to make money on the housing market’s collapse. And in 2011, the Federal Reserve fined and rebuked Goldman for so-called “robo-signing” foreclosures, a mechanized process riddled with errors that wrongfully kicked millions of Americans out of their homes.
Meanwhile, pre-crash, Blankfein’s compensation in 2007 was a whopping $68.5 million. It seems inequality and injustice are very much the core of Blankfein and Goldman’s business practices.
But there’s no evil that cannot be undone by a You Tube video of a smiling, jacketless Wall Street executive, right?
Further rattled by the very popular, populist uprisings of Occupy Wall Street, it’s no surprise that Lloyd Blankfein is trying to repair his and his firm’s image by playing activist. And no doubt his support for marriage equality is both genuine and long-held. What is surprising is the willingness of the often disappointing but still modestly principled Human Rights Campaign to celebrate Blankfein as a gay rights hero when he has been so consistently and rightfully disdained as a villain on so many other justice issues of our time. I doubt that millions of gay families facing foreclosure are relieved that Lloyd Blankfein supports them being carried over the threshold of homeless shelters.
In my latest opinion piece for CNN, I praise the Occupy movement for putting needy families in needy homes — and helping our housing economy rebound.
Granted, helping homeowners stop eviction orders and helping homeless families occupy empty, bank-owned homes is a short-term strategy, but one that will hopefully draw public attention to the injustice of millions of foreclosed homes and millions of homeless families, an injustice that banks could easily have addressed if they cared about our nation and our economy a fraction as much as they care about their bottom lines.
Read the full piece here and tell me what you think.
I can’t possibly ask the left to be self-critical if I’m unwilling to critique myself.
“I tend to favor the sort of well-ordered, well-bathed protests of the early 1960s; I want to know what democracy looks like, not what it smells like.” My latest for the American Prospect.
“Republicans opposed Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau because she isn’t elitist enough - because she fights for working families and not the monied interests of Wall Street. Now Republicans want to peg her as too elite? Make up your minds!”
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