Rage Against Austerity

The bipartisan criminal class in Washington DC, the mandate of poverty and unemployment, shifting public wealth to bankers, warnings for a politically repressive country, kleptocracy as policy, cuts to our way of life should be fought publicly, Also commentary by Alfred Adask

October 27 2012, By Stephen Lendman

The criminal class in Washington is bipartisan. Together they planned force-fed pain. They met secretly. They mandated poverty, unemployment, homelessness, and hunger during hard times.

They did it when vital help is needed. Officially it's called "austerity." Obama calls it "shared sacrifice." In other words, ordinary people "sacrifice" to let rich ones "share." Rape, pillage, loot, steal, or plunder best describes it. 

The name of the game is shifting public wealth to bankers, other corporate favorites and wealthy elites already with too much.

It's gone on for decades. Post-9/11, Bush and Obama took it to a higher level. They represent wealth, power and privilege. Serving them means throwing everyone else under the bus. 

Robbing poor Peter to pay rich Paul is policy. Destructive neoliberal harshness defines it. Ordinary people bear extraordinary burdens. They're oppressed by problems they didn't cause. The usual IMF prescription is mandated.

Hammer people hard when they're down. Preserve capital at all costs. Prioritize bankers most of all. Do it the usual way. Cut wages and benefits. Curb social spending.

Shift full-time good jobs abroad. Turn workers into wage slaves. Turn corporate predators lose to do what they please. Privatize, privatize, privatize, and crack down hard on resisters.

In the 1980s, it was called Reaganomics, trickle down, and Thatcherism. Post-Soviet Russia got "shock therapy." In America and across Europe, it's "austerity." 

Capital rights are pitted against humanity. Disposable workers are denied so Big Money gains. Moral depravity defines policy measures harming so many so much for so few.

How much human suffering is tolerable? Upper limits haven't been tested. The worst is yet to come. It's baked in the cake and agreed on. No one asked ordinary people how they feel?

Who cares! Dominant parties in America and across Europe plan trillions of dollars in social benefit cuts as far as the eye can see. Degeneracy has no limit. What's most needed is eroding en route to being entirely lost.

Policymakers don't care how many people lack jobs, can't afford healthcare or college tuition, sleep on streets when homes are lost or rent is unaffordable, go hungry, or die young for lack of basic care.

Ordinary people are fair game. Western societies aren't fit to live in. They're being banana republicanized. American writer O. Henry (William Sydney Porter: 1862 - 1910) coined the term. His fictional Republic of Anchuria represented it.

It refers to a politically repressive country. Privileged few in it have inordinately high wealth. Diktat power lets them keep it and get more. Ordinary people are exploited, persecuted, and thrown overboard when no longer needed. 

Workers bear enormous debt burdens. Make 'em pay for corporate crimes and political corruption compounding them.

Kleptocracy is policy. Gangsterism rules. Ordinary people are left high and dry.

It's happening in plain sight in America and across Europe. Western civilization hasn't been this bad since 19th century harshness or perhaps the dark ages.

Personal freedoms are denied. Democratic values are illusory. Ideological extremism wages war on humanity. It's soulless, morally depraved, anti-populist, anti-labor, anti-welfare, anti-government of, by and for everyone, pro-business, and pro-wars on one country after another without end.

What kind of leaders govern this way? What kind of society lets them? They claim democratic credentials. No one checked public opinion. No one took a vote on whether ordinary people are comfortable about shifting public wealth to corporate favorites and rich elites at their expense.

Pain is force-fed. Anti-progressivism is policy. Fascism bites hard. It inflicts suffering the old-fashioned way. Buck the system and feel its harshness. 

Imagine daily life this way. Imagine things getting progressively worse. Imagine sacrificing humanity on the alter of privilege for society's few. Imagine politicians telling people it's for their own good.

No matter how much pain is inflicted, more follows. Take a stand and fight. Do it nonviolently. Do it because it matters. Do it because austerity is poison. Do it because no one will do it for you.

On October 27, attend United Front Against Austerity's (UFAA) New York Public Assembly. Fight America's existential threat. No matter who wins in November, "working families will be thrown over the proverbial 'fiscal cliff….' "

Political bosses plan it "in the name of debt and deficits" reduction. It's a hoax. It's about greater wealth transfers. It's about waging imperial wars without end. 

It's about empowering corporate bosses more than ever. It's about elevating political corruption to higher levels. It's about Washington harming ordinary people most.

"Cutting Social Security, Medicare and other threads in our fragile social fabric is not only grossly unjust - it won’t work! The so-called 'Grand Bargain' threatens to unleash a death spiral of unemployment and poverty which our nation is not certain to survive."

UFAA calls on ordinary people to defend their economic rights. Mobilizing effective opposition is urgent. Agitate for change. Make Wall Street crooks pay for the mess they created. Build momentum for "a genuine political revolution of, by and for" everyone.

October 27 isn't a conference. It's an assembly. It a gathering of like-minded people. It's about mobilizing for our common defense.

StopImperialism.com's Eric Draitser launched UFAA. November 6 choices offer none at all. No matter who wins, ordinary people lose. It's vital they "organize NOW" ahead of post-electoral war on working Americans.

Draitser calls October 27 "an organizing tool - one that is primarily focused on proposals (including economic recovery, organizing, leadership, demands, etc.) and floor debate, so that real strategy and mobilization can follow."

Talking shop conferences accomplish nothing. Battle plans are needed followed by action. Two segments are planned:

(1) "(I)intelligence reports" will outline today's threats. Domestic and international ones will be covered. Distinguished speakers will explain.

(2) Debate will follow proposals. Speakers and audience members will interact. At issue is reaching consensus. It's much more than about what's wrong. It's about what do we do about it starting now.

Everyone is welcome to come, participate, or just listen, learn, and pass on information to others. Speakers are being scheduled.

Doing it now is crucial. Join others cooperatively. Assemble at perhaps the most perilous time in world history:

United Front Against Austerity

Public Assembly - Saturday, October 27th (12-6pm) - 56 Walker St. - New York, NY

 

Reverse Mortgages Exploit Elders

by Alfred Adask for Discount Gold & Silver Trading

 

The New York Times (“A Risky Lifeline for the Elderly Is Costing Some of Their Homes”) reports:

•  “Used correctly, reverse mortgages can be a valuable tool for seniors to stay in their homes and gain access to money needed for retirement.  Seniors who have built up equity in their homes can borrow against a percentage of that and take out a lump sum or a line of credit. The loan doesn’t have to be repaid until the homeowner moves out or dies, but borrowers still have to pay property taxes, maintenance and insurance.”

 

•  However, “Joan Serioux-Forde, 72, thought that she couldn’t feel more devastated after her husband, Christopher, died last year. Then, roughly a month after the funeral, she received a letter from Generation Mortgage, a reverse mortgage lender, informing her that unless she paid $293,000, she would lose her home in San Bernardino, Calif. Ms. Forde said she was never informed that if she wasn’t on the reverse mortgage deed, she would have virtually no right to stay in her home unless she bought it outright. “It’s a nightmare,” she said. Generation Mortgage declined to comment.

 

•  “The very loans that are supposed to help seniors stay in their homes are in many cases pushing them out.

“Reverse mortgages, which allow homeowners 62 and older to borrow money against the value of their homes and not pay it back until they move out or die, have long been fraught with problems. But federal and state regulators are documenting new instances of abuse as smaller mortgage brokers, including former subprime lenders, flood the market after the recent exit of big banks and as defaults on the loans hit record rates.

“Some lenders are aggressively pitching loans to seniors who cannot afford the fees associated with them, not to mention the property taxes and maintenance. Others are wooing seniors with promises that the loans are free money that can be used to finance long-coveted cruises, without clearly explaining the risks. Some widows are facing eviction after they say they were pressured to keep their name off the deed without being told that they could be left facing foreclosure after their husbands died.”

 

     Why wouldn’t a reverse mortgage lender include the wife’s name on the deed?  Mere mistake?  Oversight?  Ignorance?

     No.  The wife’s name is intentionally omitted.  

     Why?  Because lenders know the average life expectancy is 76 for males and 81 for females.  Thus, the average wife outlives her husband by five years. 

     If only the husband’s name is on the reverse mortgage deed, the lenders can seize the home as soon as the husband dies—five years sooner (on average) than they could if the wife’s name was also on the deed.  If the wife’s name were included, the lenders might have to wait an additional five years or more after the husband died and until the wife also died, before they could seize the home. 

     More, during those additional five (or more) years, the lenders might be compelled to pay additional monthly payments to the widow as part of the reverse mortgage agreement.  Additional payments to surviving widows constitute additional costs and reduced profits.

     In some instances, a reverse mortgage agreement results in a single, lump sum payment to the borrowers.  In such cases, there are no significant additional costs to the lenders if the wife lives an additional five years.  However, the wife’s longevity can still prevent the lenders from taking possession of the home, selling it, and finally recouping their profits for an additional five (or more) years.

     Would you rather garner a $100,000 profit now or five years from now?  The answer is obvious for you, me and reverse mortgage lenders.   

     Thus, for reverse mortgage lenders, the most profitable deal is to keep the wife’s name off the deed so as to shorten the time until they can seize the house, minimize payouts they pay to “buy” the house, and sell the house to generate their profit.

Omitting the wife’s name from the reverse mortgage deed is not an oversight, it’s an intentional act of shrewd but unethical businesses whose object is to exploit rather than serve the elderly.

 “Now, as the vast baby boomer generation heads for retirement and more seniors grapple with dwindling savings, the newly minted Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is working on new rules that could mean better disclosure for consumers and stricter supervision of lenders.”

     There’s the fundamental problem.  Retirees are broke, their So-So Security and pension plans have been (and continue to be) depreciated by inflation.  They want and/or need more money.     The economy has rendered them desperate.  Their desperation makes them vulnerable to false promises provided by unethical reverse mortgage salesmen.

Result?  Elderly husbands die and wives are left homeless.

 

 “Concerns about the multibillion-dollar reverse mortgage market echo those raised in the lead-up to the financial crisis when consumers were marketed [“sub-prime”] loans—often carrying hidden risks—that they could not afford.

“There are many of the same red flags, including explosive growth and the fact that these loans are often peddled aggressively without regard to suitability,” said Lori Swanson, the Minnesota attorney general, who is working on reforming the reverse mortgage market.”

 

The claim that some reverse mortgage loans are “peddled aggressively without regard to suitability” is crapola.  This crapola is interesting, however, since it’s being peddled by Minnesota’s Attorney General—an official obligated to investigate reverse mortgage lenders for unethical or even criminal practices.  Judging from her comment, I’d say that the AG is trying to “cover” for the reverse mortgage lenders by refusing to call a spade a spade.

 

     Here’s why:  A loan is “unsuitable” for a particular borrower if there are additional costs (fees, property taxes and maintenance that will be imposed on the home after the reverse mortgage is negotiated) that any competent financial planner could see would be beyond the borrower’s ability to pay.    Reverse mortgage lenders know very well that these additional costs exist, but do not advise the borrower of these “hidden risks”. 

     When these unexpected costs accrue, borrowers may be forced to sell or abandon their home long before they die, and reverse mortgage lenders will be able to quickly take possession of the home and sell it to generate their profits.

     Thus, unethical reverse mortgage lenders want to make “unsuitable loans” because the sooner the borrowers leave the home (for any reason, including unpayable taxes or death), the sooner—and cheaper—the lenders can take possession of the home.

     The lenders’ financial incentive in seeing homeowners leave their homes is not surprising.

What is surprising is the Minnesota Attorney General’s reluctance to describe the harsh reality of some reverse mortgage lenders’ unethical behavior.  Judging from the AG’s “peddled aggressively without regard to suitability” quote, the AG does not want to go “too hard” on the lenders.  I guarantee that the reverse mortgage lenders have given plenty of “regard” to whether a loan is “unsuitable” for a particular borrower.  They know when such loans are “unsuitable,” and they promote such loans anyway as a means of enhancing their future profits.   I therefore suspect that the Minnesota AG may be more determined to protect the illusion that our financial institutions are honorable than she is to prosecute the unethical or warn the unsuspecting senior citizens.

 

•  “Reverse mortgage lenders and brokers note that the loans are highly regulated and require potential borrowers to speak to a certified housing counselor about the potential pitfalls before taking out the loans. Mr. Bell adds that his trade group strictly monitors the advertising of its roughly 400 members to ensure that it is accurate.” 

 

Ooooo!  They “monitor” the advertising!  Gee, that’s Great! 

     But do they monitor the “aggressive sales pitches” when seniors respond to the advertising?  Nope. 

     Besides, what difference does advertising make to people who are desperate for more cash?  People going broke don’t care if the advertising says “DON’T DO IT!  THIS IS CRAZY!”  If there’s “free money” to be had, the financially-stressed will be there. 

     More, insofar as reverse mortgages are “highly regulated” and even require the input of a gen-u-wine “certified housing counselor,” that’s good evidence that the government is complicit in the exploitation of senior citizens. 

     After all, how can anyone who studies reverse mortgages fail to see the lenders’ considerable financial incentive in causing the borrowers to vacate the house as soon as possible

Given the lenders’ financial incentive to get the borrowers out of the house ASAP, can anyone claim to be surprised when a wife’s signature is omitted from a reverse mortgage deed?  Should we be shocked (Shocked, I tell you!  Shocked!) to discover that lenders “aggressively peddle unsuitable loans” to the unwary?  

     Of course, the lenders try to omit the wives’ signatures form the reverse mortgage deeds. 

     Of course, the lenders and even the “certified housing counselors” fail to inform the unwary elderly that they may be entering into a loan that’s “unsuitable” because they won’t possibly be able to keep up with the “hidden costs”.

     And, of course, none of this deceit could take place in an arena that was “highly regulated” by government, unless the government was complicit in that deceit. 

Government allows the reverse mortgage lenders to exploit and impoverish the elderly—just as government allows inflation to exploit and impoverish the elderly.     

 

     The reverse mortgage problems are evidence that America’s pension system is already in a state of collapse.  Those who’ve trusted their financial futures to others (including government) were often foolish and are now in increasing danger.  More, when the victims are elderly, they can’t easily work their way out of this danger.  If they suffer a significant loss, they probably won’t be able to find a job to help them recover or even survive.

     Sensing their dangerous predicament, senior citizens will sometimes resort to reverse mortgages.  Some of those reverse mortgages will be ethical; others will not.  Some seniors who enter into reverse mortgages in order to guarantee that they will have a home and some financial support until the day they are both finally dead, may find themselves suddenly broke and even homeless.

     In our current economic recession/depression, it’s not just the elderly who are financially stressed.  Almost all of us—including reverse mortgage salesmen—are anxious and financially stressed.  That means people in general are increasingly anxious to make a buck any way they can. As a result, our world is increasingly degenerating into a “dog-eat-dog” environment wherein the financially-stressed unwary will be routinely exploited by the financially-stressed unethical. 

     The lessons in all of this are that, if you’re going to engage in any kind of significant financial transaction:  1) you’d better do your homework; 2) you’d better not believe every sales pitch you hear—no matter how much you want to believe it; and, 3) you’d better make it your business to identify those individuals, investment vehicles, and companies that you can trust to treat you fairly.


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