The poor economy has depleted much of my savings and has considerably reduced my law practice income. I am sleep deprived and I work three times as hard for only a percentage of what I once earned. Contracts have dried up and many clients can’t afford to pay.
I know their pain because I am embarrassed and humiliated by my own debt and financial hardship. It’s no consolation that the net worth of the under 35 crowd--mine--dropped by 68 percent between 1984 and 2009, according to the Pew Research Center.
This experience makes me feel isolated and marginalized. When I’m overwhelmed, I wonder: Where’s my bailout? Perhaps if my name were Goldman Sachs or JP Morgan I’d have a better shot.
I am probably stuck. I am not considered too big to fail. And I cannot afford to donate millions to political campaigns.
One in five U.S. homeowners is underwater, and without a real plan to help them, the average American’s dreams of financial assistance are being foreclosed. Banks that received federal bailout money repay our generosity by evicting the people who saved them.
As my income dropped suddenly, I have attempted to modify my home loan with Bank of America, only to be greeted with a bureaucratic battle akin to a WWE-style smack down.
I had been warned by David, a colleague. A few years ago, David had been ecstatic about buying his first new condo. He swore to burn the midnight oil to pay for his swank city crib. But with an unstable job market and the pool of jobs for attorneys shrinking, he took a more rewarding and stable job outside of the legal profession. He was denied, a loan modification. So David unloaded his under-water, downtown condo this past summer. He’s happily renting in a Virginia suburb.
“Don’t waste your time, girlfriend,” he told me. “They’ll have you do a whole slew of convoluted paperwork, make you wait forever; get your hopes up; and still just turn you down.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce opposes continuation of the Obama administration’s attempted anti-foreclosure programs, arguing for more foreclosures to resolve the economic crisis. They argue that most people will eventually lose the homes anyway so why bother.
Perhaps those evicted or foreclosed upon can pitch a tent with Occupiers at Freedom Plaza, McPherson Square, or Dewey Square, Boston--at least until that public ground is foreclosed upon by city mayors.
At McPherson Square recently, Heather Maria Johnson, of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty said that “housing should be recognized by our country as a human right.”
As I drove my mother home on a recent evening, she said: “Instead of bailing out the banks, why wasn’t that money used to bail out the average citizen, to have an effective plan worked out so people could remain in their homes?”
I responded with the chorus of my fellow 99 percent: “The banks got bailed out; the people got sold out!”
Joy Freeman-Coulbary, a Washingtonian, is a pacifist, lawyer and blogger. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @enJOYJFC
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