Amy Goodman

Produce the note

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Marcy Kaptur of Ohio is the longest-serving Democratic congresswoman in U.S. history. Her district, stretching along the shore of Lake Erie from west of Cleveland to Toledo, faces an epidemic of home foreclosures and 11.5 percent unemployment. That heartland region, the Rust Belt, had its heart torn out by the North American Free Trade Agreement, with shuttered factories and struggling family farms. Kaptur led the fight in Congress against NAFTA. Now, she is recommending a radical foreclosure solution from the floor of the U.S. Congress:

“So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes. Don’t you leave.”

She criticizes the bailout’s failure to protect homeowners facing foreclosure. Her advice to “squat” cleverly exploits a legal technicality within the subprime-mortgage crisis. These mortgages were made, then bundled into securities and sold and resold repeatedly, by the very Wall Street banks that are now benefiting from TARP (the Troubled Asset Relief Program). The banks foreclosing on families very often can’t locate the actual loan note that binds the homeowner to the bad loan. “Produce the note,” Kaptur recommends those facing foreclosure demands of the banks.

“[P]ossession is nine-tenths of the law,” Rep. Kaptur told me. “Therefore, stay in your property. Get proper legal representation ... [if] Wall Street cannot produce the deed nor the mortgage audit trail ... you should stay in your home. It is your castle. It’s more than a piece of property. ... Most people don’t even think about getting representation, because they get a piece of paper from the bank, and they go, ‘Oh, it’s the bank,’ and they become fearful, rather than saying: ‘This is contract law. The mortgage is a contract. I am one party. There is another party. What are my legal rights under the law as a property owner?’

“If you look at the bad paper, if you look at where there’s trouble, 95 to 98 percent of the paper really has moved to five institutions: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Wachovia, Citigroup and HSBC. They have this country held by the neck.”

Kaptur recommends calling the local Legal Aid Society, Bar Association or 888-995-HOPE for legal assistance.

The onerous duty of physically evicting people and dragging their possessions to the curb typically falls on the local sheriff. Kaptur conditions her squatting advice, saying, “If it’s a sheriff’s eviction, if it’s reached that point, that is almost impossible.” Unless the sheriff refuses to carry out the eviction, as Sheriff Warren Evans of Wayne County, Mich., has decided to do. Wayne County, including Detroit, has had more than 46,000 foreclosures in the past two years.

After reviewing TARP, Evans determined that home foreclosures would conflict with TARP’s goal of reducing foreclosures, and that he’d be violating the law by denying foreclosed homeowners the chance at potential federal assistance. “I cannot in clear conscience allow one more family to be put out of their home until I am satisfied they have been afforded every option they are entitled to under the law to avoid foreclosure,” he said.

Bruce Marks of the Boston-based Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America is taking the fight to the homes of the banks’ CEOs. Last October, as the TARP bailout was shaping up to benefit Wall Street and not Main Street, NACA blockaded the entrance of mortgage giant Fannie Mae until it got a meeting with executives there. Now NACA is working with Fannie Mae to restructure mortgages. Marks is organizing a nationwide, three-day “Predator’s Tour,” going to the CEOs’ homes to demand meetings with them. He told me: “This is what we’re going to do with thousands of homeowners, go to their [the CEOs’] home and say: ‘I want you to meet my family. I want you to see who you’re foreclosing on.’ ... If they’re going to take our homes, we’re going to go to their homes, and we’re going to tell them, ‘No more.’”

Before the inauguration, Larry Summers, the chair of President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council, promised congressional Democratic leaders to “implement smart, aggressive policies to reduce the number of preventable foreclosures by helping to reduce mortgage payments for economically stressed but responsible homeowners, while also reforming our bankruptcy laws and strengthening existing housing initiatives.”

According to a report by RealtyTrac, “Foreclosure filings were reported on 2.3 million U.S. properties in 2008, an increase of 81 percent from 2007 and up 225 percent from 2006.” As the financial crisis deepens, people facing foreclosure should take Kaptur’s advice and tell their bankers, “Produce the note.”

Denis Moynihan contributed research to this column. Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!,” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 700 stations in North America. She was awarded the 2008 Right Livelihood Award, dubbed the “Alternative Nobel” prize, and received the award in the Swedish Parliament in December.

New Money Silver Reef
Past Columns
The Missing Half

December 5, 2018

Making election firsts last

November 14, 2018

All Governments Lie

August 22, 2018

Muslim Ban

July 4, 2018

Race Paper

June 6, 2018

‘Bloody Gina’

March 21, 2018

The Future of Gun Control

February 28, 2018

Statues of Limitations

August 23, 2017

Real Election Fraud

July 12, 2017

White House for Sale

June 21, 2017

A long train ride

January 21, 2009

Events
Today
Bellinghamster One-Act Theater Festival (BOAT)

7:00pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Cascadia Weekly's Fiction 101 Contest

10:00am

A Forest of Words Poetry Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Ferndale Book Group

2:30pm|Ferndale Library

Infra-Supra Opening Reception

5:00pm|Western Gallery

Group Run

6:00pm|Skagit Running Company

Ferndale Books on Tap

6:30pm|Downtime Taps

Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

A Sea Change

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Intro to Improv

7:00pm|Improv Playworks

Plant Society Talk and Meeting

7:00pm|Sustainable Living Center

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Tomorrow
Bellinghamster One-Act Theater Festival (BOAT)

7:00pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

A Forest of Words Poetry Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Cascadia Weekly's Fiction 101 Contest

10:00am

Call to Artists for Spring Juried Exhibit

10:00am|Jansen Art Center

Literacy Council Seeks Volunteers

10:00am

English Country Dancing

1:30pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Wine Tasting Social

5:30pm|Lighthouse Grill

Incognito

6:00pm|Ciao Thyme

Basic Emergency Preparedness

6:00pm|Ferndale Library

Winter Soups for the Body and Soul

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Bangladesh Travelogue

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Good, Bad, Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

Village Books Trove Web
Friday
Bellinghamster One-Act Theater Festival (BOAT)

7:00pm|Bellingham Theatre Guild

Cascadia Weekly's Fiction 101 Contest

10:00am

A Forest of Words Poetry Competition

10:00am|Whatcom County

Call to Artists for Spring Juried Exhibit

10:00am|Jansen Art Center

Literacy Council Seeks Volunteers

10:00am

Wild Things

9:30am|Lake Padden Park

Deep Forest Experience

11:00am|Rockport State Park

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Peace Vigil

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Art Auction Gala

5:30pm|Lightcatcher Building

Photography Exhibit Opening

6:00pm|Fourth Corner Frames and Gallery

Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Quieting the Monkey Mind

7:00pm|Village Books

Urinetown

7:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Courthouse Vaudeville

7:30pm|Territorial Whatcom County Courthouse

Sanford-Hill Piano Series

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Concert Hall

VoicePlay

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Space Trek

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

see our complete calendar »

Village Books Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Choir of Man Los Vivancos Trove Web