The Romney Loophole billboard is up in DC

Update: Read this article that Think Progress posted: "Romney Economic Adviser Defends Tax Loophole That Saves Romney Millions." We wish we were joking.Thanks to the support of Rebuild the Dream members our new billboard is up! We've put it on a truck that's traveling around Washington, DC this week urging Congress to "Close the Romney Loophole" that allows millionaires to get away with paying a 13.9% tax rate.Here is the image on our billboard:

This billboard was paid for by thousands of Rebuild the Dream members all across the country. Take a minute right now to share it on Facebook or post it to Twitter.

Thanks for your support. And check out this email that went out to our DC members earlier today:

Dear friends,

We've put our billboard on a truck and it's hitting the streets of DC this week.

That's right. We have a new mobile billboard driving around Washington this week that urges Congress to "Close the Romney Loophole" that allows millionaires like Mitt Romney to pay only 13.9% in taxes.

If you spot it, take a photo with your camera phone and post it to Facebook or tweet it. (Use the Twitter hashtag #romneyloophole.) Let your friends, family and co-workers know about the Romney Loophole.

This billboard was paid for by thousands of Rebuild the Dream members all across the country.

Thanks for your support. And remember, if you see the mobile billboard, post a photo!

Thanks,NatalieRebuild the Dream


Show solidarity with students!

March 5 is a huge day for students across the country. In New York and California, thousands of students are protesting the high cost of education. In a culmination of the rising student energy, crowds will gather at each state capital to demand that everyone pay their fair share in taxes to fund higher education and make it accessible to all. Though these actions are local, this is a national issue.Can you help spread the word? Good news -- you can easily show solidarity by tweeting, emailing, and writing a post on Facebook:

TWITTER     FACEBOOK     EMAIL

This year, California voters will consider a groundbreaking state ballot initiative. The Millionaires Tax of 2012 would raise $6 billion directly for higher education in the state. We can use this strategy nationally! Educated citizens are a public good -- our tax money should go towards making education available to all, so everyone can contribute to bettering the country.Students in California and New York are making a huge statement on March 5. But everyone can play a role in taking a stand for education to have enough funding. Spread the word about the California Millionaires Tax and the fight for higher education today (and be sure to use the hashtag #M5 on Twitter). Will you join the national discussion and draw attention to the right to education?Yes, I'll spread the word on Facebook, Twitter, and email about the student marches in California and New York:

TWITTER     FACEBOOK     EMAIL

Editor's Note:  Want to show even more support? Students marching in California could use some pizza and bus money to keep them going -- click here to contribute to their pizza and bus fund.Editor's Note #2: Don't miss this great video from participating groups in California: "Rally to Defend Your Education".


Bloomberg: DeMarco Should See the Upside of Forgiving Debts

The editors of Bloomberg agree that Edward DeMarco is standing in the way of principal reduction - and they say it's messing with the economy! Principal reduction is the best possible way to help homeowners who owe more than their homes are worth. This article breaks down Bloomberg's theory that principal reduction, if done in a cost-effective way, will ultimately help Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in the long run:NHC 2010 \

Edward DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, was back on Capitol Hill this week explaining to lawmakers why he can’t -- or won’t -- allow mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to forgive the debts of homeowners at risk of defaulting on their loans.

DeMarco argues that debt forgiveness goes beyond his authority and would result in untenable losses for the mortgage giants. This is a curious position given that he is a presidential appointee and everyone from President Barack Obama to lawmakers to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has called on him to go ahead and do it. Economists and housing analysts say debt relief is essential to preventing a death spiral in which rising foreclosures and falling housing prices reinforce each other.

It’s no secret the housing market is dragging down the economy. Weak housing prices are hampering construction, which typically powers post-recession recoveries, and making consumers feel too poor to spend. Much of the problem stems from foreclosures, which continue to drag down home prices. New data this week showed that as of December, prices in 20 U.S. cities stood at their lowest since the housing crisis began.

Fannie and Freddie, which own or guarantee 60 percent of outstanding mortgages, are a critical part of any solution. Their loans account for about 3 million of the estimated 11 million mortgages that are “underwater,” meaning the borrowers owe more than the homes are worth and are hence prime candidates for foreclosure. To support strapped homeowners, Fannie and Freddie are refinancing loans and offering “principal forbearance,” in which principal payments are temporarily deferred. Helpful as those efforts are, they clearly are not enough.

The Obama administration agrees and has called on FHFA, which oversees Fannie and Freddie, to allow the mortgage giants to cut the principal balance for borrowers in danger of foreclosure. To make it worth their while, the Treasury recently offered to pay Fannie and Freddie as much as 63 cents for each dollar of principal that is forgiven.

DeMarco has so far rebuffed calls for principal reduction, saying it is difficult to do and violates his mandate to protect taxpayers against losses at Fannie and Freddie. Although his motives are commendable, we think he’s wrong. Fannie and Freddie can offer principal reductions in a cost-effective way that helps the companies minimize losses and may actually improve their financial condition down the road. The solution is a shared appreciation model, in which Fannie and Freddie agree to forgive a certain portion of a borrower’s debt in exchange for sharing in any future increase in the home’s value.

The idea is already being employed with some success by private-sector mortgage servicers like Ocwen Financial (OCN) Corp., which has used shared appreciation principal reductions in more than 20 percent of its mortgage modifications, or about 9,000 loans. The result so far is encouraging: Ocwen’s redefault rate on principal reductions is about 8 percent, far lower than the 20 percent industry average for other types of mortgage modifications, such as refinancing.

No wonder, then, that the idea has caught the eye of legislators. Last month, Senator Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, introduced promising legislation that would require Fannie, Freddie and the Federal Housing Administration to use a shared-appreciation approach.

Here’s how such a program would work. The lender cuts the borrower’s outstanding balance, generally to 95 percent of the current market value of the home -- a move that reduces the monthly payments, restores equity and provides a renewed incentive to maintain the home in good condition. The written- down portion is set aside in a non-interest-bearing account, which is forgiven over a three-year period as long as the homeowner makes monthly payments. In exchange, the homeowner agrees to give up a portion -- typically 25 percent -- of any appreciation in the home’s value. The debt relief requires lenders to take an immediate loss, but they tend to fare better financially than if the home went into foreclosure, and they benefit once the housing market recovers.

Incomprehensibly, DeMarco told lawmakers that FHFA does not need to consider such an approach because it is essentially performing shared appreciation reductions through its forbearance program. He also points to FHFA analyses that show forbearance to be slightly less costly than forgiveness for cases in which all underwater borrowers get modifications. The difference -- about $300 million on $300 billion in loans -- is far too small for certainty. More important, it ignores the upside that a shared appreciation program would provide.

By requiring borrowers to give up a portion of what is most Americans’ largest investment, shared appreciation also mitigates the biggest knocks against principal reduction: that the prospect of debt forgiveness could encourage more homeowners to default, and that it rewards people for taking on too much debt. Some of that will still happen, but those unavoidable downsides do not outweigh the need for a stronger housing market, which will benefit all Americans by boosting the U.S. economy.


Video: Rally to Defend Your Education

March 5th will be a huge day of action for students in California and New York. Students, individuals with student debt, and allies defending the right to education will gather to rally at their state capitals - Albany and Sacramento. Catch this video from groups in California:


March 5th in Albany and Sacramento: Save higher education!

Yesterday was a mass day of action for students around the country, and March 5th will be another huge day in California and New York. If you're near Sacramento or Albany, join students to stand up for higher education and protest the growing burden of student debt. Check out our email below:Students join Occupy Boston

Dear friends,

Just yesterday, from Berkeley to Brooklyn, students across the country walked out of class and took to the streets to protest the growing burden of student debt and the assault on higher education.1

On March 5th, to top off a week of action around student debt, tens of thousands of students and allies will march on the capitals of California and New York, demanding relief from the shackles imposed by being thousands upon thousands of dollars in debt. Can you join students in Sacramento or Albany to show solidarity for higher education and demand relief for those struggling with student debt?

Yes, I can attend the March 5 rally at my state capital in solidarity with students.

Higher education has historically been a vital component of the American Dream, and yet, for more and more Americans, going to college is out of reach. Student debt has officially topped credit card debt in the US, and total loans outstanding will hit $1 trillion for the first time in history during the next few months.2 This year, campuses in states around the country will face even more cuts -- in Pennsylvania, for example, the Governor has proposed 20% more in cuts to public universities. In California, the cost of attending a University of California has nearly tripled in the last decade.3

Average tuition has gone up nearly 3400% since the 1970s -- costs are out of control, increasing far faster than the rate of inflation.4 Classes are being cut, workers laid off, and students are piling on more and more debt to cover the costs of a college degree. Of those who do graduate, many are unable to find jobs to cover their monthly student loan bills.

The more people who show up in support of relieving student debt and prioritizing higher education, the more we can show our elected leaders that this is a huge issue. Can you help make the marches on Sacramento and Albany a big deal?

Yes, I will stand in solidarity with students on March 5th.

We hope you can make it this Monday.

Thanks for helping to rebuild the dream,Molly Katchpole

P.S. Can't make it on Monday, but want to show support? Students marching in Sacramento could use some pizza to keep them going -- click here to contribute to their pizza fund.

1. Huffington Post: Occupy Colleges Planning Walkout To Support Higher Education2. USA Today: Student loans outstanding will exceed $1 trillion this year3. Annenberg Digital News: UC, CSU Tuition Increases: The Causes And Consequences4. Campus Progress: Infographic: A History of the Shrinking Pell Grant (1972-????)


The American Dream 2.0

We are living in exciting times.In the midst of an economic crisis that was created in part by unprecedented levels of corporate greed and corruption, a peaceful and conscientious revolution is emerging.Around the country, everyday people are creating their own solutions to address issues of poverty, unemployment, exploitation of natural resources, food scarcity and racial disparity.These innovations are at the core of the paradigm shift Rebuild the Dream likes to call The American Dream 2.0.The old American Dream promised: if you work hard and follow the rules, you can have a good life in America - earn a middle-class wage, own a home, send your kids to college, retire with benefits, and still have room for dessert.For many of us, the American reality has been battling foreclosure on our homes, being trapped under a mountain of student loan debt, living check-to-check and feeling powerless to turn things around.The American Dream 2.0 is about challenging ourselves to take the steps necessary to create an economy and social system that benefits all people. It’s about shifting from a focus on individual success to thinking about our collective well-being and acting on it.It’s about asking ourselves the tough questions. What are we willing to do to solve some of the most basic problems in our community? Are we willing to take ownership and responsibility for injustice and inequality in our community? Who can we turn to address our collective struggles?“We need to stop criticizing Washington for what it is not doing, and focus on what we as concerned citizens, can do,” says Van Jones, founder of Rebuild the Dream. “Change doesn’t come from Washington, it comes to Washington.”In the weeks to come, we’re going introduce you to some of the people who aren’t waiting for Washington but are rethinking old ideas and developing innovative solutions that are driving the American Dream 2.0.We’ll touch on new models for employment and economic opportunity like worker-owned cooperatives - businesses where you are your boss. Can they offer a more meaningful, viable alternative to the 9 to 5 job at the factory?How about housing? With no end in sight to the housing crisis, nor a move to a market that’s within reach to most wage earners, should we question the idea of individual ownership? We’ll talk to a few families and friends who are finding their way through shared living and shared ownership.We’re also going to take a look at innovative resource-sharing programs at the heart of the new economy movement. Can these “greener” corporations impact the local economy of communities that desperately need the resources, but may not be able to afford the buy-in required to participate?We’ll continue the discussion on equitable access as we discuss urban food deserts--areas with high poverty rates and low access to healthful food--and the innovative work of everyday people who believe healthy food is a right, not a privilege.We also want to hear from you. What does the American Dream 2.0 mean to you? Are you or do you know of organizations, individuals or groups that are taking an alternative approach to creating economy and justice at a local level? Write to us at info@rebuildthedream.com and stay tuned for more to come!


Robert Reich: Stop Starving Public Universities and Shrinking the Middle Class

In coordination with yesterday's huge day of student action around the country, Robert Reich wrote a great article on the starving of higher education in the United States. Reich points out that educated citizens are a public good, and that as members of society our dollars should go towards nurturing the country's education system. California, which is considering a millionaire's tax to fund higher education, sets an example for the rest of the country:"The two principles lead to an obvious conclusion: America’s richest citizens have a duty to pay more taxes so kids from middle and lower-income families have chance to make it in America.A pending initiative in California would raise taxes on millionaires and use the proceeds to fund public education at all levels. It’s a good idea, and it comes at the right time. Other states should follow."Robert ReichRead the article below:

Last week Rick Santorum called the President “a snob” for wanting everyone to get a college education (in fact, Obama never actually called for universal college education but only for a year or more of training after high school).

Santorum needn’t worry. America is already making it harder for young people of modest means to attend college. Public higher education is being starved, and the middle class will shrink even more as a result.

Over just the last year 41 states have cut spending for public higher education. That’s on top of deep cuts in 2009 and 2010. Some public universities, such as the University of New Hampshire, have lost over 40 percent of their state funding; the University of Washington, 26 percent; Florida’s public university system, 25 percent.

Rising tuition and fees are making up the shortfall. This year, the average hike is 8.3 percent. New York’s state university system is increasing tuition 14 percent; Arizona, 17 percent; Washington state, 16 percent. Students in California’s public universities and colleges are facing an average increase of 21 percent, the highest in the nation.

The children of middle and lower-income families are hardest hit. Remember: The median wage has been dropping since 2000, adjusted for inflation.

Pell Grants for students from poor families are falling further behind; they now cover only about a third of tuition and fees. (In the 1980s, they covered about half; in the 1970s, more than 70 percent.)

Student debt is skyrocketing – the New York Federal Reserve Bank estimates it at $550 billion. Punitive laws enforce repayment, and it’s almost impossible to shed student loans in bankruptcy. There is no statue of limitations for non-repayment.

And yet, Santorum’s rant notwithstanding, good-paying jobs in America are coming to require a college degree. Globalization and rapid technological change are putting a premium on the ability to identify and solve new problems. A college degree is also a signal to prospective employers that a young person has what it takes to succeed.

That’s why the median annual pay of people with a bachelor’s degree was 70 percent higher than those with a high school diploma in 2009 (the latest Census data available).

But public higher education isn’t just a private investment. It’s a public good. Our young people — their capacities to think, understand, investigate, and innovate — are America’s future.

We used to understand this. During the great expansion of public higher education from the 1950s to the 1970s, tuition at public universities averaged about 4 percent of median family income (compared to around 20 percent at private universities).

Young Americans received college degrees in record numbers – creating a cohort of scientists, engineers, managers, and professionals that propelled the economy forward and dramatically expanded the middle class.

But starting in the 1980s, as in so many other areas of American life, we took a U-turn. Tuition at public universities began climbing. By 2005, it was more than 10 percent of median annual family income. Now it’s approaching 25 percent – still a good deal relative to private universities (where it’s nearly 70 percent), but high enough to discourage many qualified young people from attending.

Public higher education has been the gateway to the middle class but that gate is shutting – just when income and wealth are more concentrated at the top than they’ve been since the 1920s, and when America needs the brainpower of its young people more than ever.

This is nuts.

What’s the answer? Partly to make public universities more efficient. Every bureaucracy I’ve ever been associated with (and I’ve been in some very big ones) has some fat to be trimmed. Yet universities are necessarily labor-intensive enterprises; research and teaching can’t be outsourced abroad or turned over to computerized machine tools.

Another part of the answer is to raise tuition and fees for students from higher-income families and use the extra money to subsidize medium and lower-income kids. Even now relatively few pay the official sticker price; many receive some discount proportional to family income. But this won’t solve the underlying problem, ether.

A big part of the answer has to be more government support for public education at all levels. This requires more tax revenues – especially from Americans who are best able to pay.

Most Americans still believe in the ideal of equal opportunity. And most harbor the patriotic notion that we have responsibilities to one another as members of the same society.

The two principles lead to an obvious conclusion: America’s richest citizens have a duty to pay more taxes so kids from middle and lower-income families have chance to make it in America.

A pending initiative in California would raise taxes on millionaires and use the proceeds to fund public education at all levels. It’s a good idea, and it comes at the right time. Other states should follow.


Who stole the American Dream?

Are you in New York City? This weekend, a documentary on restoring democracy and a fair economy in the U.S. will be showing near you. Heist: Who Stole the American Dream? recounts America's economic collapse and how Wall Street and corporate greed have played a role in slowing our recovery. Read this email below for more details:

Don't miss Heist's premiere in NYC this weekend.

Dear friends,

We want to let you know there’s a great movie coming to you in New York City this weekend, March 2-4.  Heist: Who Stole the American Dream is a powerful documentary that connects the dots to show you how and why we live in an era of class warfare, and what we can do to restore democracy and economic fairness.

Heist tells the tale of our country’s financial collapse and the devastation that ensues -- and what we can do about it.  We know that big corporations have played a huge role instealing our democracy and busting the economy.  We know families and communities are struggling across the country.  We also know that hope and change can and must grow from the shambles we're in -- people are organizing everywhere to demand and create solutions. Heist is a rallying cry of all of us, the 99%. Check out the film!

Get your tickets for the opening weekend screening of Heist, March 2-4 in New York City.

Our moment to transform the American economic and political landscape is here. What will it take to shift power from organized money to organized people? The film is showing for a full week, starting March 2. During the opening weekend, you'll get to meet and talk with the filmmakers. Join in the discussion of what we can do together, as we launch into a people-powered, action-packed spring for the 99%.

Click here to buy your opening weekend tickets for Heist, and join the film directors in discussion.

Hope to see you there!

Natalie and the rest of the Rebuild the Dream Team

Heist: Who Stole the American Dream

p.s. You can find out more about the film here.  For more details about the screening in NYC, click here.


Kamala Harris, CPC call on DeMarco to allow principal reduction

This week, both California Attorney General Kamala Harris and the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) went public calling on Edward DeMarco, the head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, to allow principal reduction for homeowners who owe more than their house is worth.Over 60,000 of you signed Rebuild the Dream's petition calling on President Obama to fire Edward Demarco. He is a holdover from the Bush administration who has repeatedly acted in defense of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, and he's deeply tied to Wall street. Until DeMarco is out of office, relief for homeowners will keep meeting a roadblock.Kamala Harris made public her letter to DeMarco calling for “a thorough, transparent analysis of whether principal reduction is in the best interest of struggling homeowners as well as taxpayers.”“I know this effort will confirm what many economists have already concluded," said Harris. "Principal reduction plans are the most helpful form of loss mitigation for homeowners and the most cost-effective for investors when compared to foreclosures.”Kamala Harris win nomination for Attorney General 86Read the CPC's statement here:

Washington, D.C. – Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva and Keith Ellison, the co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), today joined advocates in New York, Washington, D.C., and Southern California in calling on Edward DeMarco, the acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to write down mortgage principal amounts for struggling homeowners.

“Twelve million Americans owe more money than their home is worth,” Grijalva and Ellison said. “The American people have been duped, lied to, and kicked out of their homes,and now it’s time for Mr. DeMarco to stand up and do right by them.”

Combined, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae own or guarantee more than half of all mortgages in the country. DeMarco has faced calls for his resignation for refusing principal reduction, sometimes called “debt forgiveness,” for Freddie and Fannie mortgage holders.

“Underwater homeowners need justice,” Grijalva and Ellison said. “Write downs are about keeping families in their homes and saving taxpayers money by preventing foreclosures. Simple, straightforward principal reductions are a good way to prevent the foreclosure crisis anchor from dragging down the U.S. recovery.”

This call echoes that of a coalition of progressive organizations and families struggling to keep their homes. The coalition includes Bowie, Md., homeowner Bertina Jones, U.S. Marine Arturo de los Santos in Southern California, and advocates for Mr. de los Santos in New York. Along with their allies, they participated in protests yesterday at regional Freddie Mac offices demanding fair negotiations for themselves and other Americans who have been evicted from their homes.


Making Good: Order the new book by Billy Parish and Dev Aujla

At Rebuild the Dream, part of our mission is to strive towards a new economy, where everyone is accountable for doing their fair share and every individual contributes to making their community better in some way - what we like to call the American Dream 2.0.Today's working generations face a difficult challenge - how do we dedicate our careers to making the world a better place in a way that is personally meaningful, while also making enough money to support our families and loved ones? As progressives, it can be disheartening to postpone fighting for our vision of a better reality because of financial or economic restraints. Many of us find ourselves asking "Why isn't there a job for that?" or "How could I get paid to do this?" So how do we make good?Billy Parish had been asking those same questions , and commiserating with those harboring the same frustration. After having kids, his need to make money but also make change became even more real. When he met Dev Aujla, who was also asking these questions, they decided to find answers. And they wrote a book about it.

Order this book by Billy Parish and Dev Aujla

Making Good: Finding Meaning, Money & Community in a Changing World is the book with Billy and Dev's answer to finding meaningful careers. Over the course of three years, the two did hundreds of interviews, read hundreds of books, studied leadership development resources, and developed a process for people to find meaningful employment.Let's help Billy and Dev's book come out on the NY Times Bestsellers list! You can order your copy of Making Good here.

Sign up for a making good mission.

Accompanying the release of the book, later this month will mark the launch of Making Good Missions. The missions are a 12 week program to help people find a job that does good, using the best practices gathered in Billy and Dev's book. Those who sign up to participate in a mission will get weekly email guides, connect with others undertaking the same challenge, and learn the skills necessary to make money while also making an impact.The ultimate goal is for one million people to take concrete steps toward building meaningful careers and making good. Sign up to be part of the Making Good Missions on the book website, here. To learn more about Dev Aujla and Billy Parish's book, check out the book website at MakingGood.org. And don't forget to like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter (@MknGood) for the latest updates.