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Joining the Corporate Bail-Out Receiving Line

New America Media, Commentary, Carolyn Patmon Posted: Aug 04, 2008

Editor's Note: One woman whose home has gone into foreclosure figures the only way to get help from the government is to change her name to Fannie Mack. Carolyn Patmon is the head of the Anti-Foreclosure Committee for Orlando ACORN and a family delegate for Equal Voice for America's Families. Families from the campaign are now video-casting their stories each week at the campaign's blog site. New America Media's coverage of this issue is underwritten by the Marguerite Casey Foundation.

I'm changing my name to Fannie Mack.

I figure when the federal government is handing out all those billions to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to solve the mortgage crisis, I'll just slide in line and get a few dollars for my own mortgage crisis. Luckily for me, my maiden name is Mack, and my grandmother's name was Fannie, so the paperwork should be easy.

That's about the only way that I -- or any other victim of predatory lenders -- can expect to get much public aid. Since my home went into foreclosure, I've been helped by ACORN, I've been helped by my family and friends, but I haven't been helped by the government yet.

I appreciate the president for signing the "American Housing Rescue and Foreclosure Prevention Act" into law this week. It's better than nothing.

But I learned from my experience with a deceptive lender to always read the fine print. And the fine print of this bill sounds more like an "American Corporate Rescue Act" for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae than much help for an ordinary homeowner like me. You can bet Congress didn't make the CEO of Freddie Mac give up any of his almost $20 million in pay as part of this $300 billion sweet deal.

For us, of course, there are strings attached. If you've already gotten a 60-day notice, tough luck for you, because the refinancing program doesn't start until Oct. 1. You'll have to pay a fee to refinance. Lenders don't have to agree to easier terms. Many won't qualify because their incomes are too low or their debt is too high.

Of the million homeowners foreclosed on last year, or the 2 million expected to face foreclosure by the end of the year, this program will only help 400,000 at best. And I bet a lot of those 400,000 still won't be able to afford their so-called re-financed loans.

Sometimes I blame myself and think I should have been smart enough to avoid IndyMac's slick marketing. But state and federal regulators should have been smart enough to see the subprime crash coming and smart enough to put regulations in place to stop it. Like how about a rule that bank robbers and embezzlers can't be mortgage brokers? ACORN and other community groups saw the crisis coming as early as 2002.

We didn't make those banks and mortgage companies cook their books, or hire felons, or hand out mortgages like church bulletins to everyone who walked through the door. In fact, for years ACORN has been doing everything in its power to stop predatory lending. Last week hundreds of us rallied at National City Bank offices in 30 cities and persuaded the company to negotiate their loan practices- good news for future borrowers, but little help for those who have already lost their homes.

The federal government continues to bail industry after industry, but the buck always stops with the taxpayer who ends up footing the bill for every corporate crash. Our country is like a dysfunctional family with one spoiled kid rescued every time he messes up and the other given tough love even without doing anything wrong.

So I'm changing my name to Mrs. Fannie Mack. Maybe then, as Tom Paxton said in his 1980 song about the infamous Chrysler bailout: When they hand a million grand out; I'll be standing with my hand out; Yes sir, I'll get mine."

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