fresh voices from the front lines of change







It's been 13 days since the Campaign for a Fair Settlement challenged President Obama to use the first 100 days of his term to "fix what Wall Street broke."  Though Obama said his policies will, "speed relief to the hardest-hit homeowners," he has yet to act on many of these demands.

The Campaign for a Fair Settlement is dedicated to making sure President Obama follows through on his promises, and prioritizes financial and housing reform in the first 100 days of his term.

Since the campaign was launched, the U.S. has filed a 119-page, $5 billion lawsuit against the rating agency Standard & Poor's. The Justice Department has accused Standard & Poor's of inflating its ratings.  This is a good, but not the best one possible.  Dan Petegorsky from Campaign for a Fair Settlement said, " This is just one case against the abettors, rather than the main perpetrators. It's still just civil, not criminal. So, there is tremendous work to be done before the DOJ is anywhere close to fulfilling its obligation to taxpayers and homeowners."

In addition to making sure that bankers and Wall Street face criminal prosecution, Campaign for a Fair Settlement is demanding that the banks pay back the American people.  American taxpayers spent $245 billion of TARP funds on banks, but have only received $26 billion in settlements.  As Campaign for a Fair Settlement puts it, this amounts to a small parking ticket.  Banks have not contributed enough to stabilizing the housing market and providing homeowner relief funds. Numbers aside, there is no way to assure that this money will reach the communities most harmed by the foreclosure crisis.

Communities of color were hit the hardest by foreclosures; black wealth has declined by well over 50 percent, and Latino wealth by over 60 percent, since 2005.  This is because of discriminatory lending practices that targeted communities of color with bad loans.  Campaign for a Fair Settlement's biggest obstacle in getting Wall Street to pay America back t is reversing this trend of discrimination, which has continued in the relief program created by the settlement. Reversing this trend will require including an anti-discrimination clause in homeowner relief plans.  President Obama has done little about this situation so far, and lawmakers in general have danced around the issue of racial discrimination inherent in the foreclosure crisis.

While these are good plans for the future, the First 100 Days campaign is also focused on providing immediate relief to struggling homeowners.   To this end,  campaigns organizers are calling on Obama to allow Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to start resetting mortgages and begin principal reduction. Obama has failed consistently to deliver on this policy.  This problem persists in large part because of Federal Housing Finance Agency chairman Edward Demarco's refusal to engage in principal reduction. Obama has failed to remove Demarco, despite rumors last year that he might do so.

The First 100 Days campaign is also working to expand affordable housing and stabilize communities.  The campaign is pressuring Obama to allow previous homeowners to buy back their old homes at market rate, or rent them from Fannie and Freddie.   This is another policy that is running into trouble because of Demarco's firmly anti-middle-class policies.  This problem will persist until Obama fires Demarco and replaces him with a director who is responsive to the needs of struggling homeowners.

Campaign for a Fair Settlement faces an uphill battle for housing justice and Wall Street reform.  Their biggest challenge is to get Obama to stop talking and start acting.  While the Obama Administration uses progressive rhetoric about reform, it has yet to take serious actions like firing Demarco, providing a relief program that deals with the racial discrimination of foreclosure, or pursuing a sizable settlement from banks that received $245 billion in TARP funds.

The president still has 87 days to "fix what Wall Street broke," give Wall street the bill for the damage it caused, and get millions of struggling homeowners the help they need and the justice they deserve.


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