Monday, January 14, 2019
Free book excerpt #33 from Author & Web Minister Paul J. Bern: This time from, "Occupying America"
Overall, conditions are decidedly negative at a time financial markets are whistling past the graveyard. Expect reality to eventually outstrip hope. Continued wrongheaded policies assures train wreck unpleasantness and grief. For ordinary people, it means greater misery. Stronger economies will sink with weaker ones. In fact, world economies are now so interlinked that a shock in one spreads everywhere in short order, including among the strongest. It's coming but no one knows when. Today's economic fragility is a global event.
Eurozone, UK and US banks are broke but still operating, thanks to never ending loans from the Fed. However, any time they spend money or lend reserves, inflation is adversely affected. Now it's a matter of inflate or die. Decades of accumulated government debt approaches saturation. It's coming in a few years at most, possibly as soon as a few months. At issue is at-risk and unpayable government debt and zero interest rates benefiting bankers. As a result, expect greater crisis down the road. Since the early 1960's, financial excess assured crisis conditions too great to contain. It's been building for over 50 years. We are at the stage now that risk is growing exponentially, as central banks and governments aggressively intervene in markets, causing major distortions.
From inception, the Euro was doomed to fail. We just don't know when it will actually occur. It's been slowly disintegrating for years. Its demise will damage global economies in ways that may be nearly incalculable, not to mention inconceivable. Economic and financial dislocation is at hand. Delaying the inevitable only works so long. Reality eventually triumphs. Europe and America are sinking. Judgment day awaits. It could be 2012 or as late as 2016, but no later (2016 will be the year when China's economy surpasses America's if current growth rates remain the same). When disintegration arrives, expect harder than ever hard times. Ordinary people will be hurt most. Bankers and 1%'ers have stashed trillions in tax havens. Friendly governments infiltrated with 1%'ers do nothing to retrieve the money or help troubled households survive. Welcome to “Battleground America”, a class war of the have-it-all's versus the have-nothing's that could degenerate into a civil cold war, the likes of which has not been seen before. It's all downhill from here unless global protesters stay committed long-term against conditions too unacceptable to tolerate. That's the wild card world elites fear, and with good reason. It's because ordinary people can change the world. It's the only way beneficial social change ever comes!
People everywhere are coming to the same conclusion. A mass deduction is being formulated by the many disenfranchised, dispossessed and disillusioned American workers, the sum of which is that the 99% has been getting the shaft for entirely too long at the hands of the elitists who have enslaved us all by forcing us to work for bare subsistence wages while putting basic necessities and human rights such as access to health care and higher education financially out of reach. There are all kinds of ways that are legal and nonviolent methods to fight back against the rigged political and economic systems that stand in the way of our freedom. One such instance is detailed in the Web posting below.
Bank of America Gets Pad Locked After Homeowner Forecloses On It
Written by Kelly Heffernan-Tabor, CBS News, Jun 5, 2011
“Collier County, Florida -- Have you heard the one about a homeowner foreclosing on a bank? Well, it has happened in Florida and involves a North Carolina based bank. Instead of Bank of America foreclosing on some Florida homeowner, the homeowners had sheriff's deputies foreclose on the bank. It started five months ago when Bank of America filed foreclosure papers on the home of a couple, who didn't owe a dime on their home. The couple said they paid cash for the house.
“The case went to court and the homeowners were able to prove they didn't owe Bank of America anything on the house. In fact, it was proven that the couple never even had a mortgage bill to pay. A Collier County Judge agreed and after the hearing, Bank of America was ordered by the court to pay the legal fees of the homeowners. The Judge said the bank wrongfully tried to foreclose on their house.
“So, how did it end?... After more than 5 months of the judge's ruling, the bank still hadn't paid the legal fees, and the homeowner's attorney did exactly what the bank tried to do to the homeowners. He seized the bank's assets. "They've ignored our calls, ignored our letters, legally this is the next step to get my clients compensated," attorney Todd Allen told CBS. Sheriff's deputies, movers, and the couple's attorney went to the bank and foreclosed on it. The attorney gave instructions to remove desks, computers, copiers, filing cabinets and any cash in the teller's drawers. After about an hour of being locked out of the bank, the bank manager handed the attorney a check for the legal fees....”
In the wake of Occupy Wall Street's successes, it's time for some more serious, organized direct action around the issue of debt. When I talk to people about what we could do that would really compel Congress and Wall Street to meet our demands or really alter the current system, we inevitably start discussing what non-cooperation with our own oppression would look like. What does it mean to stop cooperating with the banks? What we inevitably end up describing is some variation of a debt strike, simply ending our own participation in a system that exploits us. Are debt strikes, then, the next logical step in the fight against Big Finance's domination of the 99 percent? Debt really does tie the 99 percent together, it's everyone's least common denominator, mathematically speaking. Everyone who is under the 99 percentile saw a major debt increase in the 2000's. You can talk about the richest 1 percent making too much money, but part of what they're making is derived from our debts. Their wealth is a claim on the future income of the remaining 99%, and it is an indicator of a predatory economic system that exists solely to serve the top 1%. That debt was for many years a substitute for wages in the pockets of many Americans. As incomes stagnated or even shrank, credit cards and home equity filled the gap—until the housing bubble popped, leaving millions underwater on their mortgages, owing more than their homes were worth, and unable to get more credit cards or even make the minimum payments on the ones they had. In short, everybody found themselves caught in a trap.
Many have noted that what happened in 2007 and 2008, when the banks were handed billions in bailouts and secret ultra-low-interest loans, was essentially a capital strike. Finance essentially said that if they didn't get bailed out, they'd shut down the system — stop lending, jam up the works, and make life miserable for everyone. Yet those same banks, once bailed out, have flatly refused to do the same for a nation of borrowers thrown into crisis by their actions. Their argument seems simple — the borrowers knew what they were doing, it's their obligation to pay. Most borrowers agree, and struggle to make payments on credit cards with 20 percent interest rates, usurious student loans for educations that didn't help them find jobs, on homes that have plunged in value thanks to predatory lending, and on cars and trucks that often wear out before the owner can finish paying off the auto loan, keeping the “customer” locked into a never-ending string of upside-down auto loans. If someone wants to take an interrelation of violent extortion, sheer power and total domination, and then turn it into something moral, and most of all, make it seem like the victims are to blame, you turn it into a relation of debt.
There is power in numbers, and that's where the idea of an organized debt strike comes in. One person can be hounded, harassed, and scared into submission, but when enough of them work together, could the banks be pressed into backing down? I firmly believe that homeowners who are stuck with mortgages greater than the value of their homes should band together and refuse to pay their mortgages until the banks agree to negotiate. A kind of collective bargaining for homeowners whose wealth was wiped out by the financial crisis, those who cannot pay their bills, and those who can (for now) but still would benefit by spending that money elsewhere, would be an effective tool for us to use to retake control of our country and its government away from the New World Order elites. This would immediately cause a crisis for the banks, meaning they couldn't afford to ignore the issue and would then be forced to negotiate with homeowners.
There should be debt forgiveness, but these guys – the student loan profiteers – should eat it, not the government and taxpayers. The banks should pay because they destroyed the economy, they sucked 18-year-olds into predatory loans they are stuck with for life, accumulated well-meaning wage earners with mortgages they couldn't repay, and credit card debt whose interest accrues faster than the principal can be repaid, especially if you lose your job. Mother Jones magazine notes in a late 2011 issue that banks have already written off some $90 billion in credit card debt since 2008. Aside from the fact, of course, that we wound up with an $8 trillion housing bubble from just those sorts of bad loans, there is in the US one type of debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, that follows you for life and that has the full power of the US government behind its collection. I'm speaking, of course, of student loans.
The student debt bubble is officially over $1 trillion as of 2012, largely consisting of loans made to teenagers under the premise that education will help them earn enough money to pay off their loans. Yet the job market is terrible (and nearly twice as terrible for young people as it is for everyone else) and meanwhile cuts to public education, both ideologically motivated, from conservatives, and because of state budget crises caused by the economic crisis the banks created, have made that education much more expensive. The student loan bubble may not burst with a bang, but it is slowly suffocating us. The problem is that student debt is literally debt you carry for life. It has no statute of limitations, cannot be discharged under bankruptcy and the government can literally deduct it from your Social Security check.
As credit card and housing debt become unbearable, there’s a point at which they get written down. That point is currently too high, not only for credit cards, housing and transportation, but especially for student loans. Because of poor legal choices we’ve made, student loans stay forever, they are virtually impossible to discharge under hardship, they generate an avalanche of fees when they go bad, and creditors can get to anything, including Social Security, to get it repaid. Meanwhile, we have a Great Depression-like event that is throwing college graduates into a labor market that is far too weak. And defaults are up anyway. According to a Wall Street Journal report in August 2011, 11.2 percent of student loans were more than 90 days past due — and if it kept rising, could pass credit card debt, which is at 12.2 percent but is on a decline. Obama's new plan to help students with their loans will provide some relief, but only for current students. Those who have already graduated — the majority of the student loan bubble — are ineligible. Thanks a lot, Mr. President.
Occupy Wall Street has proven that a sizable number of Americans are in a mood to do things for themselves rather than waiting for government action. So a student debt strike might actually be the most powerful statement to make, as there are literally no other options for those stuck with the burden — many of whom form the backbone of the occupations around the country. I think the people who would be the first to strike would be the people who have already defaulted. Once your credit is already tanked, the idea of giving it another hit doesn't seem nearly as threatening. In many ways, the combination of online/offline activism is the hallmark of the Occupy Wall Street movement, organized with the help of hacker groups like Anonymous and promoted through citizen media like live-streams, camera phone videos and Twitter, but solidly grounded in real-world action.
American homeowners who are stuck in a negative equity situation with their homes and their mortgages are finding ways to fight back against the rigged capitalist profit-driven economic system that has them locked into what amounts to legalized loan sharking. For example, delinquent borrowers facing foreclosure are learning that they can stay in their homes for years, as long as they're willing to put up a fight. Among the tactics: Challenging the bank's actions, waiting to file paperwork right up until the deadline, requesting the lender dig up original paperwork or, in some extreme cases, declaring bankruptcy. Nationwide, the average time it takes to process a foreclosure – from the first missed payment to the final foreclosure auction – has climbed to 674 days from 253 days just four years ago. And while some borrowers are looking for ways to make good with lenders and get their homes back, many aren't paying a dime. Nearly 40% of homeowners in default as of the end of 2011 have not made a payment in at least two years. Keep up the good work, everyone!
Many of these homeowners are staying in their homes based on a technicality. There is rarely any dispute over whether or not they have stopped paying their mortgage. They're not in technical default. They're in default because they're not paying. That's because American homeowners have gotten wise to what the banks and other mortgage lenders have been doing, and they are collectively realizing that two can play that same game. Ironically enough, the banks have given delinquent borrowers some of the ammunition they need to delay the foreclosure process. For example, during the "robo-signing" scandal in 2010, it was revealed that bank employees signed paperwork attesting to facts they had no personal knowledge of. The lender's paperwork included many different papers signed by the same employee. The problem was that the signatures didn't match. In such instances the courts dismiss the lender's case against the borrower, although it can be re-filed. Because of this, borrowers are now routinely challenging that paperwork. Those who are doing so will remain in their homes for some time to come, while not making any payments. Sometimes just asking the bank to produce the paperwork that shows it is the legal holder of the mortgage note can stall or even stop a repossession. Since mortgages are often transferred electronically, the official paperwork often gets misplaced. In some of the more extreme cases, borrowers will file for bankruptcy in order to block a foreclosure. In these instances, courts order creditors to cease their collection activities immediately. Home auctions can be postponed as the bankruptcy plays out, which can take months. What really needs to be done is for lenders to work harder to find solutions that allow delinquent borrowers who can afford to make reasonable mortgage payments to keep their homes. Speaking as a minister of the Gospel, simply throwing people and even whole families out in the street in the name of profit is absolutely barbaric and utterly immoral. The fact that such things have taken place is exactly why the Occupy and the “we are the 99%” Movements are so successful, and that success will be greatly magnified in the coming months, of that you can be sure. In the meantime, there are plenty of industrious Americans who are joining the swelling ranks of those who are boycotting their debts, as selected excerpts from the following Web posting point out in stark detail.
50 Ways to Leave Your Banker: What Happened When One Man Just Refused to Pay $80,000 in Credit Card Debt
By Kimberly Thorpe, Mother Jones
Posted on November 1, 2011
“At last count, Steven Katz owed $80,000 on his six credit cards, and he has no intention of paying any of it off. In fact, he'd like to show you how to be like him—a "credit terrorist" in open revolt against the banking system. Debtorboards.com ("Sue Your Creditor and Win!"), a five-year-old online forum where he's collected countless tricks and tactics for evading and repelling persistent creditors. He's written how-to's on shielding your assets from seizure, luring collection agencies into expensive lawsuits, and frustrating private investigators looking for debtors on the run. He's even infiltrated the bill collectors' forums, where he's been tagged a "credit jihadist" and his site's been called a "credit terrorist training camp," a label he embraces. "Debtorboards is one of the biggest and most successful temper tantrums ever," the 59-year-old Katz boasts. The site has more than 10,000 members—double what it had in 2009....
“Katz wants the millions of Americans buried in debt to stop feeling guilty about not honoring their obligations. "People are brainwashed to think that paying a credit card is more important than paying for the necessities of life," he says. "Business and morality have nothing to do with each other, according to the bankers." One of Katz's mottos is "No one ever went to hell for not paying a debt...."
Beside walking away from their debts, exasperated and infuriated Americans are in some cases walking away from the whole damned unfair economic system, having come to the realization that the so-called “work ethic” is a lie and always was. Working long, hard hours in a futile attempt to save up enough money for a home, college, and “retirement” (another myth) will only get you one thing – TIRED! That's where the underground economy comes into the picture as an alternative to the status quo. Also called the shadow or informal economy, it's not just illegal activity like selling drugs or doing sex work. It's all sorts of work that doesn't get regulated by the government or reported to the IRS, and it's a far bigger part of the economy than most of us are aware. In 2009, the underground economy was nearly 8 percent of the US GDP, somewhere around $1 trillion. (That makes the shadow GDP bigger than the entire GDP of Turkey or Austria.) This doesn’t include illegal activities in this count – only legal production of goods and services that are outside of tax and labor laws. And that shadow economy is growing as regular jobs continue to be hard to come by.
The Young Women's Empowerment Project describes the “street economy” as any way that girls make cash money without paying taxes or having to show identification. Sometimes this means the sex trade, but other times it means braiding hair, babysitting, selling CDs/DVDs, drugs or other skills like sewing and laundry. A good number operate websites online that yield an all-cash income, all one needs to succeed is a Paypal account or a smartphone. This underground economy goes far beyond the homeless collecting aluminum cans or clogging day labor halls. It includes the working poor getting cash for all forms of recycling: giving plasma, selling homemade tamales outside shopping plazas, holding yard sales, doing under-the-table work for friends and family, selling stuff at pawnshops, CD, book and used clothing stores, and even establishing tiny one-person businesses selling all kinds of dollar-store-type merchandise at flea markets and sidewalk kiosks.
Since so may of us have patronized or even operated these micro-businesses at some time in the past, that means nearly all of us have participated in some way in the underground economy. Yet little is known or discussed about this area of our lives, even though it touches many of us as we try to make ends meet. People enter such arrangements because of their difficulty finding formal employment. Think of undocumented immigrants that work as home or office cleaners or in the construction or hospitality industries. Employers or consumers who use workers in this way are doing so to boost profits or lower prices. Of course documented workers also can end up choosing to work in the underground economy but that choice, like the choice for the undocumented, has the same basic driver – the inability to find formal paid employment that meets a worker's needs. I would compare the growth of the underground economy to payday lending; a typically undesirable practice operating in a legal gray area that develops and thrives because it fills a need created by the failure of public policy to address societal needs. The informal economy, though, does not only consist of low-wage workers. There is also an informal economy of creative professionals. By keeping creative professional work informal, these workers avoid the corporatist rigidity of creative work, maintaining their freedom to be innovative and self-sufficient.
Without solutions coming from Washington or local governments, it continues to be up to working people to find a way to negotiate today's rough economy. People shouldn't have to give up fundamental human rights like access to income in retirement, paid sick days, or safety on the job because they need work. But in a society like ours, which tolerates high levels of unemployment (which is inexcusable in the richest country in the world), the underground economy is often the next best alternative to starving. While some have been able to flourish working underground, it's important to remember that most workers are not off the books to dodge paying taxes or because they prefer it that way. As we see more and more people dropping out of the formal labor market in despair, the informal economy will remain a destination of last resort – and will keep growing. That, in turn, is a signal that people are giving up on the system. Why obey laws that prevent us from succeeding?
Unemployed Americans aren't the only ones who are giving up on this rigged economic system we are currently stuck with. A wave of discontent is beginning to build among those who work for the system designed to solidify the power and domination of the top 1%. In the past during uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, there are numerous documented cases of the police and the soldiers being sent to quell the demonstrations and quiet the protests, only to defect to the side of the protesters after being ordered by their government to fire upon unarmed civilians engaged in peaceful and nonviolent political and social activism. If you were a cop, a soldier or in the National Guard, and your commanding officer ordered you to kill innocent, unarmed civilians who posed no threat to anyone, would you do so? I sure as hell wouldn't, and I'm confident that there are multitudes more who would share my view if asked. The only remaining question to be answered has to do with the timing of the tipping point, and if the system will be totally upended by such an event, or will it be able to continue to function while repairs are made?
“In a highly developed society, the Establishment cannot survive without the obedience and loyalty of millions of people who are given small rewards to keep the system going: the soldiers and police, teachers and ministers, administrators and social workers, technicians and production workers, doctors, lawyers. . . . They become the guards of the system, buffers between the upper and lower classes. If they stop obeying, the system falls.” — Howard Zinn, from “The Coming Revolt of the Guards,” A People’s History of the United States
For those of us who have demonstrated and marched in the Occupy movement as I did at Freedom Plaza in Washington in early October 2011 (while selling a few books on the side as I gleefully participated in the underground economy), it is obvious that the police and the corporate press serve as guards. They act as buffers between the vast majority of the American people and the ruling “corporatocracy” (the partnership of giant corporations, the wealthy elite, their collaborating politicians and their armies of lobbyists). In addition to the police and the corporate press, there are millions of other guards employed by the corporatocracy to keep people obedient and maintain the status quo. Most guards also perform duties besides “guard duty.” The police don’t just protect the elite from the 99 percent; they also provide people with roadside assistance. And mental health professionals also perform “non-guard duty” roles such as improving family relationships. Guards certainly can perform duties helpful for the non-elite, but the elite would be foolish to reward us guards if we didn’t serve to maintain their system.
Even a partial “revolt of the guards” could increase the number of protesters on the streets from the thousands to the millions. For example, many teachers went into their profession because of their passion for education, but they soon discover that they are not being paid to educate young people for democracy, which would mean inspiring independent learning, critical thinking, and questioning authority. While teachers may help young children learn how to read, they are employed by the corporatocracy to socialize young people to fit into a system that was created by and for the corporatocracy. The corporatocracy needs its future employees to comply with their rules, to passively submit to authorities, and to perform meaningless activities for a paycheck.
If you are comfortably at the top of the hierarchy, you reward guards to make your system work. In addition to the police, the corporate press, mental health professionals, and teachers, there are clergy, bureaucrats, and many other guards in the system, all of whom are given small rewards to pacify and control the population. Some guards have rebelled from their pacification and control roles, but at least as many have not. I will go out on a limb just a little here and predict that the revolt of the guards will occur when guards recognize that they are expendable. So, law enforcement officers, beware. Cameras and other surveillance technology are becoming increasingly inexpensive, and law enforcement labor costs will increasingly be replaced by inexpensive Orwellian surveillance. You see, the 1% will eventually come for you too.
To accelerate the revolt of obedient guards, I recommend two strategies: (1) create unpleasant dissonance about their role as guards; in other words, put guards in some pain for their unquestioning obedience that maintains the system, and (2) offer encouragement for even small acts of rebellion against their guard role; small acts of rebellion may well be major financial risks. For example, if you have social contact with off-duty law enforcement officers, you might ask them “Wouldn’t it be more satisfying putting the handcuffs on some billionaire tax dodger than arresting some small-time pot user?” I’ve asked police officers if they’ve heard of Jonathan Swift’s quote, “Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.” On-duty police will respond with “no comment” or a blank stare, but some off-duty cops will smile and even agree. And should off-duty police ever tell you an anecdote in which they ignored a law designed to catch a small fly, give them encouragement. For guards, it is not easy coming out of denial of their role and their fate. As Upton Sinclair once observed, “It is difficult to make a man understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it....”
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