Prince is performing a series of concerts next week in Chicago. Rebuild the Dream will be there to support and lift up local community organizations working towards a new economy (Find out more about our partnership here.)
Ever wonder how this all came to be? Watch Prince explain to the ladies of The View why the partnership with Rebuild the Dream was a perfect fit.
This morning, Rebuild The Dream President Van Jones joined Prince and Rosario Dawson on The View to explain the collaboration between Rebuild the Dream and Prince on the "Welcome 2 Chicago" concerts next week in Chicago."
In Chicago, you have people with real solutions, and they are coming together at this concert. It's not just about the music. It's about the solutions and people being neighbors with each other," Van Jones stated.
Find out more about Rebuild The Dream and Prince's collaboration at "Welcome 2 Chicago" here.
Over the past several years, we've reported extensively on the big banks' foreclosure failings. As a result of banks' disorganization and understaffing — particularly at the peak of the crisis in 2009 and 2010 — homeowners were often forced to run a gauntlet of confusion, delays, and errors when seeking a mortgage modification.
But while evidence of these problems was pervasive, it was always hard to quantify the damage. Just how many more people could have qualified under the administration's mortgage modification program if the banks had done a better job? In other words, how many people have been pushed toward foreclosure unnecessarily?
A thorough study released last week provides one number, and it's a big one: about 800,000 homeowners.
The study's authors — from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, the government's Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), Ohio State University, Columbia Business School, and the University of Chicago — arrived at this conclusion by analyzing a vast data set available to the OCC. They wanted to measure the impact of HAMP, the government's main foreclosure prevention program.
What they found was that certain banks were far better at modifying loans than others. The reasons for the difference, they established, were pretty predictable: The banks that were better at helping homeowners avoid foreclosure had staff who were both more numerous and better trained.
Unfortunately for homeowners, most mortgages are handled by banks that haven't been properly staffed and thus have modified far fewer loans. If these worse-performing banks had simply modified loans at the same pace as their better performing peers, then HAMP would have produced about 800,000 more modifications. Instead of about 1.2 million modifications by the end of this year, HAMP would have resulted in about 2 million.
That's still well short of the 3-4 million modifications President Obama promised when he announced the program back in early 2009. But it's a big difference, and a reasonable, basic benchmark against which to compare the program's failings.
The report does not identify these poor performing banks, but it's not hard to ID them. A "few large servicers [have offered] modifications at half the rate of others," the authors say. The largest mortgage servicers are Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Citi.
Rick Simon, a spokesman for Bank of America, said the banks' "home retention results are significant and in line with our industry peers to date."
The Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) paid subsidies to mortgage servicers on the theory that doing so would convince them to embrace modifications. The authors say that voluntary approach apparently didn't have much effect with the biggest servicers. They weren't very good at modifying loans before HAMP was launched and weren't much better after it launched.
The authors wrote that while they can't be sure why these banks underperformed, they "may not have responded to the program since doing so would involve changing their business focus from processing and channeling payments to actively renegotiating loans. In addition, this may have involved significantly altering their organizational capabilities, such as building appropriate infrastructure and hiring and training servicing staff."
That echoes on our reporting on how ill-suited the big banks were when it came to modifying loans. The result inside the banks has sometimes been chaos. As one Bank of America employee complained, "The whole documentation collection thing has got to be purposely not funded. Like, I can't get a fax. I work for a huge bank that has tons of money, and you're telling me that I can't get a fax?"
Since HAMP's oversight has been lax — the Treasury Department, which runs the program, has responded indulgently to mortgage servicers breaking HAMP's rules — banks haven't had to worry much about their low modification rates. (You can see this explained with a song. It's also a big part of our book on the foreclosure crisis.)
A Treasury spokeswoman, responding to the new report, said HAMP had resulted in "one of the most comprehensive compliance reviews of mortgage servicing operations in the country. Servicers in the Making Home Affordable Program are subject to an unprecedented level of compliance oversight."
The report did have some positive findings concerning HAMP. As we've reported, modifications in the program have been more generous to homeowners than modifications done outside HAMP. The authors also found that the program did boost the number of modifications — i.e. it caused modifications that likely would not have happened if not for the program.
The authors also say that HAMP might have induced more modifications if the program had not required such extensive screening of homeowners seeking a modification. From the program's launch, the administration emphasized that the program wouldn't help the wrong sort of "irresponsible" homeowner. That emphasis led to requirements that homeowners send in lots of paperwork to prove their income, which in turn further taxed the big servicers' inadequate systems.
Despite the recent stabilization in home prices and a drop in the rate of homeowners falling behind on their payments, HAMP's limited impact remains a very relevant issue. Even in the sixth year of the foreclosure crisis, the country remains saddled with an extraordinarily high number of loans in foreclosure — about 2 million. That backlog hasn't improved much in the last couple years, meaning it's still hard to forecast when the foreclosure rate will return to a normal level.
This article has been republished from ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.
"Deep patriots don't just sing the song, 'America the Beautiful' and then go home. We actually stick around to defend America’s beauty -- from the oil spillers, the clear-cutters and the mountaintop removers. Deep patriots don't just visit the Statue of Liberty and send a postcard home to grandma. We defend the principles upon which that great monument was founded -- 'give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.'"-Van JonesI'm the graphic designer here at Rebuild. I loved that quote so much, I decided to put it on a shirt... and so far, it's a hit! I've got mine, do you want one?
This is the kind of patriotism our country needs right now more than ever. With a big election coming up in just a few months, this is the perfect time to get this message on a shirt for Rebuild members to proudly wear.You can order yours today by clicking here.
The right-wing is gathering together to repeal one of President Obama's major accomplishments that's saving taxpayers billions of dollars and helping millions of young people.
No, I'm not talking about Obamacare.Last week, extreme conservatives enshrined their opposition to another Obama accomplishment you may not have heard of -- the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA).Before SAFRA, student lending banks got a sweet deal. Normally, when these banks charge young people sky-high interest rates, it's because they have some skin in the game and need to cover their losses. But for student loans, the federal government would back any money loaned to students. Banks got to charge students a hefty interest rates completely risk-free as a very expensive middleman. President Obama's student loan bill removed the bank as a middle man and is set to save taxpayers over $60 billion during the next 10 years.Nice deal, right?Not if you represent the banks and student lenders instead of students and taxpayers. This made it into the Republican platform last week:
The federal government should not be in the business of originating student loans; however, it should serve as an insurance guarantor for the private sector as they offer loans to students. Private sector participation in student financing should be welcomed.
The platform might as well read: The government will give money to the banks, or it's socialism!President Obama's student loan bill saves billions in fees that were going to the banks, it reduces the deficit, it helps students save money on student loans, it removes predatory banks from the repayment process -- but it's clearly evil.Help us come up with a good way to explain how messed up this proposal really is. What's a good analogy to what's going on here ("Letting banks profit off of education is like...")? Submit yours by clicking here.
Hey all -- in continuing with our work to engage artists and tell stories, we wanted to share a film that's currently in the works, "American Winter." Here's an email we sent out:
You know something amazing when you see it, and there's a video that I think you should see. This is real. It's about what's actually happening in America. Please watch and share this.
Emmy award-winning filmmakers Joe and Harry Gantz are releasing a documentary called "American Winter: A Documentary About a Country In Search of Its Promise." The film focuses on the personal stories of families in Portland, OR who are feeling the immensely crushing weight of the 2008 economic collapse. Many of these families never thought they'd be in the dire situation in which they find themselves.This video is especially poignant this week, during the Republican National Convention. You know they'll be talking about the deficit -- all numbers -- but too often that conversation ignores the pain felt by real Americans. Your neighbors. And maybe you.We've been inspired to take film very seriously because it can move people and change how they think. The pain and frustration is proof that people are not okay in America. And if you agree that it's powerful -- chip in to help them finish the film. Once it's finished, we can hold screenings of it in cities across America.It may be the most important thing you watch all week.
Rebuilder,You hear it again and again. "America is broke."Whenever we ask our elected leaders to do anything, that's what they say.No scholarships for our kids? Bridges falling down and roads crumbling? No jobs program to put Americans back to work?"Well, that's too bad," they say. "We can't afford to fix anything. America is broke."This is a very dangerous lie. It freezes people into thinking there is no solution... when there is. But it gets repeated, and repeated. You start to think you're crazy -- and they are right.So that's where we need to start. Will you commit, right now, to reject this lie and help us spread the truth?Add your name now.In the coming weeks, we'll be following up with everyone who makes this commitment with opportunities to get involved and get this message out there: America is Being Robbed.Our economy today is almost as big and rich as all of Europe's COMBINED -- including economic powerhouses like Germany. Our economy today is almost twice as big as China's. (And we have only one third of the Chinese population.) No other country even comes close to our wealth.If that is so, then how come only some of us are hurting? How come big corporate profits are at an all-time high while people are out of work? Why are Wall Street banks thriving while folks are losing their homes?One reason: global corporations and big banks are hoarding so much cash, refusing to recirculate it in the form of fair taxes and good wages. Instead, they use a few of their extra bucks to buy elections and elected officials -- Paul Ryan is just the worst example, not the only one.Those politicians then try to convince us that we should all accept more misery, while their mega-donors stockpile more cash than the Pharoahs ever dreamed about having.Enough is enough.If someone tells you we're too broke to do anything positive, ask them where the money went. Ask them who got a big bonus last year. Who got a new private jet? Ask about the Bush tax giveaways for the rich. Ask about the bailouts for Wall Street. Ask about tax shelters, subsidies for polluters, Halliburton expense accounts, or the massive bill for two wars.Fighting back starts with each of us making the choice to reject the myth, and committing that we won't sit silent while today's robber barons set the terms of the debate. So say it with me:"We're not broke -- we're being robbed, and I commit to fight back!"Families aren't just "falling" out of the middle class. They're being pushed. I promise I'll be out there pushing this. But this community together has way more power than any one person.Let's stand together,Van and the rest of the Rebuild the Dream team
Campus Progress compiled this amazing fact sheet on how Mitt Romney has handled any and all questions relating to student debt."Enjoy."
1. If you can’t afford a student loan, just borrow money from your parents.
“We’ve always encouraged young people: Take a shot, go for it, take a risk, get the education, borrow money if you have to from your parents, start a business.” – Mitt Romney at Otterbein University in Ohio, 4/27/2012.
2. “Shop around” or join the military to make higher education more affordable.
“The legislature in my state came together and said, ‘You know what, anyone that’s willing to serve in the National Guard, we’ll provide for tuition and fees for four years of college to make sure you get that start.’ So if you’re willing to serve, then we can be of more help. But my best advice is find a great institution of higher learning, find one that has the right price, and shop around. In America, this idea of competition, it works! [...] I want to make sure that every kid in this country that wants to go to college gets the chance to go to college. If you can’t afford it, scholarships are available, shop around for loans, make sure you go to a place that’s reasonably priced, and if you can, think about serving the country ’cause that’s a way to get all that education for free.” – Mitt Romney in Youngstown, Ohio, 3/5/2012
3. Let’s put the money from student loans back into the pockets of Wall Street.
“Now that the government’s taking over the student loan business, I think you’ll get less competition. I’d rather have more competition, with private lenders as well as government lenders,” Romney said. “The right course for America is for businesses and universities and colleges to compete, and for us to make sure that we provide loans to the extent we possibly can at an interest rate that doesn’t have the taxpayers having to subsidize people who want to go to school… I know there will be some who get up in a setting like this and give you a bunch of government money, free stuff… but that’s not who I am.” – Mitt Romney in Toledo, Ohio, 2/29/2012Romney switched his position in late April as the student loan interest rate debate started to heat up, despite his earlier stance that government was not responsible for helping students pay back their loans.
4. Don’t go to a college you can’t afford because the government isn’t going to help you out.
“It would be popular for me to stand up and say I’m going to give you government money to pay for your college, but I’m not going to promise that,” Romney said. “Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And hopefully you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.” – Mitt Romney in Youngstown, Ohio, 3/5/2012“I think this is a land of opportunity for every single person, every single citizen of this great nation. And I want to make sure that we keep America a place of opportunity, where everyone has a fair shot. They get as much education as they can afford and with their time they’re able to get and if they have a willingness to work hard and the right values, they ought to be able to provide for their family and have a shot of realizing their dreams.” – Mitt Romney in Sterling, Virginia, 6/27/2012
5. Support the Romney-Ryan budget plan, which hacks away at education funding.
“I’m very supportive of the Ryan budget plan. It’s a bold and exciting effort on his part and on the part of the Republicans and it’s very much consistent with what I put out earlier. I think it’s amazing that we have a president who three and a half years in still hasn’t put a proposal out that deals with entitlements. This president’s dealing with entitlement reform — excuse me — this budget deals with entitlement reform, tax policy, which as you know is very similar to the one that I put out and efforts to reign in excessive spending. I applaud it. It’s an excellent piece of work and very much needed.” – Mitt Romney in Chicago, 3/20/2012.It’s worth noting that the Ryan budget plan would cut $200 billion from the Pell Grant program and would negatively impact more than 1 million students. In addition, student loan rates would double.
Next time you meet someone who's puzzled about the Underwater Voter phenomenon, hand them a copy of Merriam-Webster's Dictionary.Merriam-Webster added new words and definitions to their iconic dictionary last week. The sheer number of underwater homeowners and economic impact of underwater homes and the housing crisis compelled the dictionary editors to add "underwater" as a new word.It's official: the housing crisis and the currently 16 million underwater homes have left a permanent dent in our language. The word "Underwater" now has a new definition.
un·der·wa·ter adj \??n-d?r-?w?-t?r, -?wä-\: having, relating to, or being a mortgage loan for which more is owed than the property securing the loan is worth