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Author: rackjite

Republican Economics Of Eviction – Bob Herbert

November 24, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Lost in a Flood of Debt
By BOB HERBERT

CHICAGO

I’ve been visiting some of the people who have been most affected by the subprime mortgage debacle. It’s a largely bewildered, frightened group that includes people like Dorothy Levey, a 79-year-old widow who sits alone inside the small house she has lived in for 41 years, afraid to answer the telephone or the door.

She has every reason to be worried. The monthly note on her house in the city of Markham, just outside Chicago, is approximately 100 percent of her meager monthly income. Broke and behind in her payments, Ms. Levey expects a foreclosure notice to show up any day, followed by a visit from “the sheriff, or whoever they send to tell you to get out of your own home.”

While the media coverage has focused on the high rollers who created the subprime frenzy (“If you can breathe, we’ll give you a loan”), the hapless victims have remained in the shadows, condemned to economic ruin.

After faithfully making mortgage payments for decades, Ms. Levey and her husband, Dan, were persuaded to take out a new loan, ostensibly for debt consolidation, in 2002. It was like plunging into quicksand. Dan was seriously ill at the time and he died two years later.

To this day Ms. Levey does not understand what she and her husband of more than half a century had agreed to. The terms might as well have been written in Sanskrit.

But she kept trying to meet her obligation. She exhausted her savings. She lost her car. She stopped buying clothes and cut back on food. But there was no way to keep up with the payments.

“I had to go to the state and tell them I was hungry,” she said.

I heard the same story again and again — decent people enticed, sometimes fraudulently, into loans they never understood and couldn’t afford.