Tag Archives: Advocates and Actions

Foreclosures for Seniors

New Orleans   The AARP has issued an invaluable and depressing study meticulously collected from mortgage loan data in the available years since the housing crisis went full blown in 2007.  The information seems radically different from the spinning popular mythology and the profile of the foreclosure victims among the chattering classes (including British bank regulator and economist Adair Turner who we discussed a couple of days ago).  The AARP data lines up much more closely with what we have found in the Advocates & Actions pilot program in Phoenix over recent years.

The study indicates that the victims are older and were more often facing payments based on prime interest rates rather than subprime rates, meaning these borrowers had more citizen wealth and were not steered out of traditional products.  The source for that information was none other than the huge Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Most disconcerting, according to the AARP study and the report in the Times most seniors are up against the wall on their loans simply because they are on the wrong side of the recession:

  • Pension cuts
  • Rising medical costs
  • Shrinking stock portfolios
  • Falling property values

Looking at those four triggers for senior foreclosures is disturbing because to my knowledge there is absolutely NO PROGRAMS anywhere that address the fundamental issues that simply come down to more “month than money.”  This demographic from boomers hardly 50 through seniors in their 70’s are not going to find much work, even flipping burgers and pretending to be security these days.

Equally troubling, the AARP and Federal Reserve are clear that these seniors are “not saving enough money.”  How the hell could they?!?  According to the Federal Reserve, “half of households whose head is between 65 and 74 have no money in retirement accounts….”  Talking to scores of former ACORN employees, some with decades of seniority and others caught in the doldrums of the nonprofit market, who are about to receive distributions from the old ACORN retirement fund closeout, it is depressing how many are going to have allocate most of their retirement money to pay-off loans, debts, and even pieces of mortgage arrears that they have accumulated over the last couple of years.  And, these are the lucky folks in this recession, since they have a check coming rather than no prospects.

Polls today released by the Times indicate for the first time that George Romney has pulled ahead of Barack Obama coming into the November election and the drift to the right is being pushed by fears of the economy not improving.  Like a broken record I keep saying that Tim Geithner and the Treasury Department who were so rolled by Wall Street and the banks on the housing crisis have critically (and I hope not fatally damaged) the President, but abysmally failing to realistically address the foreclosure and housing crisis in the country.  The result of such failure leads to desperation and such desperation could find just these folks voting for Romney hoping that something might help them, even though there’s no hope that he would be anything but worse on this issue.

What a mess!


Nadar is Right on Airlines and Small Claims Courts

N112905_small_claims_courtew Orleans As part of the meetings between ACORN International organizers in Canada, Mexico, Honduras, and elsewhere our up and coming star organizer with Local 100’s program in Dallas was coming.  She had never flown on a plane.  She had to get a passport for the first time.  We were all wildly excited.  She was going to help translate.  At the last minute she had a health crisis and was pulled into surgery the day she was supposed to fly to Tegucigalpa.  A tumor was removed and two months later she was able to come back to work, and hopefully soon this will be simply a bad memory for her.

We assumed with the doctor’s note that we would have no trouble getting the ticket refunded.  Our hard care, tough negotiating union staff pressed forward on the case.  Nada.  Stonewall city!  No refund, simply the promise of a charge to change the ticket and, equally bad, a credit for a future flight, but only usable for this same individual for whom we had purchased through Expedia with Continental Airlines.  We stand to lose about $1000 of union members’ dues money, and we are not happy about this rip-off.

I read with interest a similar rip-and-run reported in The New York Times to Ralph Nadar.  He and an associate were traveling to a speaking gig and appeared snowed into DC, so they rented a car, drove three or four hours, and made some college kids happy.  He sought a refund then from US Airways.  They gave him the same spiel about $150 per head change fee and a future credit with them for the two tickets.  Nadar being Nadar, sent a couple of letters to the company and made some phone calls and still got nothing.  According to David Segal’s “The Hagglar” column, he then threatened to take the matter to small claims court, and they folded like a cheap suit and gave him a full refund on the tickets and his change fees.

I want that, too, and I want it now!!!

The problem might be that we aren’t all lawyers, like our old friend, Ralph.  No matter, he’s right.  None of us are using small claims court sufficiently to seek justice as we advocate for what are becoming daily rip-offs of consumers by the big boys on land and in the air.  Most small claims of course by definition allow non-lawyers to participate fully.  At Advocates and Actions (www.advocatesandactions.org) we had been studying how to utilize these and similar tools to collect on unpaid wages and other obligations, but were missing the obvious in our own situation.

I think a lot of us ought to take a good look at small claims and see if we can finally get some justice in areas where the money means a lot to us, but nothing to them, perhaps this should be the court of first resort.