Record Bank Profits - American Dream Foreclosed

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Mike Prokosch"Last week, JP Morgan Chase launched the 2010 Wall Street Bonus Sweepstakes. The bank is still losing money on consumer services, but well-heeled investors and financial traders more than made up the difference. The bank announced $11.7 billion in profits and $26.9 billion in compensation, including bonuses that will run in the multimillions for the top executives. Goldman Sachs reported record profits of $13.4 billion, and is set to dole out a staggering $16.2 billion in compensation and bonuses, which could provide an average of nearly $500,000 per employee. And Morgan Stanley, even having sustained a loss in 2009, has set aside $14.4 billion for compensation and bonuses.

Then there's Roberto Velasquez -- the other face of the foreclosure crisis.

Mr. Velasquez, a general contractor, bought a single-family home in Dedham, Massachusetts six years ago. Unfortunately, his mortgage turned out to be a predatory time bomb. After a few affordable years, the interest rate on his adjustable-rate mortgage ballooned and his payments rose to $4,800 a month. He kept up though; until the Wall Street crash knocked the stuffing out of the construction industry. Then he fell three months behind.

Mr. Velasquez found jobs and came up with the three months' payments, but the bank wouldn't work with him. His home was foreclosed on in November. A local bank offered to buy the home and sell it back to Mr. Velasquez for its present market value, which is the most his bank would get for the house if they sold it at auction. Still no deal. 'We did what they asked,' says Mr. Velasquez, 'but they don't want to work with anybody.' [...]"

Read the full op-ed by Mike Prokosch on CommonDreams.org.

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UFE's Estate Tax Message Reaches South Texas

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Brian Miller"On Jan. 1, the estate tax, an essential part of the U.S. tax system for nearly 100 years, disappeared because Congress failed to act in December.

Congressional leaders now are pledging to act early this year to reinstate the federal estate tax retroactive to Jan. 1. In the meantime, rhetoric over the estate tax is heating up while Congress grapples with what to do now.

This crazy situation is the result of the Bush tax cuts for the super-rich, tax cuts that were supposed to lead to “trickle-down” prosperity for the rest of us.

What we have seen instead is stagnation of wages for most Americans, while those at the very top have become extraordinarily rich. In fact, disparities of wealth and income are now at the highest level since the Gilded Age just before the stock market crash of 1929.

With so much wealth in so few hands, our economy has begun to operate more like a casino, with high-risk speculation fueling boom-and-bust cycles that have wrecked communities across our country.

The gilded yachts of the super-rich have left in their wake capsized rafts of the unemployed and whole communities drowning in foreclosures. That's not what America should be about. [...]"

Read the full op-ed by Brian Miller in the San Antonio Express-News.

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RW Success: State Street Accepts Greater Proxy Voting Responsibility

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"Last year Walden Asset Management filed a resolution at State Street Global Advisors (SSgA) seeking a proxy review. While SSgA successfully obtained a “no-action” letter from the SEC, their voting practices were still the subject of a debate at the annual meeting. This year United for a Fair Economy picked up the torch and filed a similar appeal. This time, SSgA responded positively and UFE has withdrawn its resolution. [...]

According to Timothy Smith of Walden Assets, SSgA will now abstain if the resolution’s economic impact case is not clear, but will vote FOR resolutions where a strong case regarding how this affects shareholder value is made. [...]

Our congratulations to Walden’s Timothy Smith and to Mike Lapham of Responsible Wealth. [...]"

Read the full article by James McRitchie on CorpGov.net.

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State of the Dream 2010 on "Letters to Washington" (podcast)

Letters to Washington - January 18, 2010 at 10:00am

Click to listen (or download)

Forward to 24:05 for interview with Brian Miller

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State of the Dream 2010 on The Surreal News Show (podcast)

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Forward to 41:05 for interview with UFE's Brian Miller

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State of the Dream 2010 in The New York Times

"In some poor neighborhoods, a man or woman with a traditional full-time job is the exception, not the rule. In five Midwestern states — Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin and Oklahoma — the jobless rate for blacks is at least three times as high as that for whites.

Some decades ago, you would have heard a sustained outcry against such dire conditions among blacks, and there would have been loud demands for policy changes designed to bring more black Americans into the economic mainstream. You don’t hear much of that now. Too many so-called black leaders are much more interested in invitations to the White House and positive profiles in mainstream publications than in raising any kind of ruckus that might benefit people in real trouble.

What the politicians and today’s civil rights types won’t tell you is that we’re looking ahead to many long decades of grief and strife in America’s black communities because of our failure to respond effectively to the horrendous impact of the Great Recession and the policies that led up to it. Black Americans are going backward economically, and right now no one is stepping up to stop the retreat.

United for a Fair Economy, in its latest “State of the Dream” report, which is released annually around the time of Dr. King’s birthday, is urging Congress and the president to identify communities with the highest unemployment rates and develop specific job-creation initiatives for them."

Read the full article by Bob Herbert in The New York Times.

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The Crisis in Haiti

All of us at UFE would like to share our deepest condolences with the people of Haiti. Our thoughts are with them and our hope is that the good of this world will shine through such tragedy. There are many individuals and organizations working to help in the wake of this disaster and Grassroots International, among many others, provides a wealth of information on how to be a part of relief efforts in the area.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also has a Family Links website that can aid in restoring communication between family members and loved ones separated in the aftermath of the earthquake.

It is sobering to see the impact of economic inequality around the globe, as is evident in the devastation caused by the earthquake in Haiti. We stand in solidarity with both short-term and long-term relief and rebuilding efforts - may we work together as a global community to ensure that no country is left this vulnerable to natural disaster again.

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State of the Dream 2010 in the Washington Post

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"Unemployment for African Americans is projected to reach a 25-year high this year, according to a study released Thursday by an economic think tank, with the national rate soaring to 17.2 percent and the rates in five states exceeding 20 percent.

Blacks as well as Latinos were far behind whites in employment levels even when the economy was booming. But throughout the recession, the unemployment rate has grown much faster for African Americans and Latinos than for whites, according to the study by the Economic Policy Institute. [...]

The economic devastation for blacks and Hispanics is underscored in another study issued this week by a Boston-based nonprofit research organization called United for a Fair Economy. "State of the Dream," its annual report issued in connection with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, asserted that blacks and Hispanics are three times as likely to be poor as whites; that blacks earn 62 cents for every dollar whites earn; and that the family median net worth of whites in 2007 was $170,400, compared with $27,800 for blacks and Hispanics.

"We have a long history of discriminatory policies and practices, including outright segregation, redlining, misguided urban renewal plans and predatory lending, that have prevented people of color from building up personal wealth," said Brian Miller, executive director of United for a Fair Economy and co-author of the report. [...]"

Read the full article by Dion Haynes in The Washington Post.

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Surprise! White - Minority Income Gap Continues to Widen

AlterNet Logo"The income gap between whites and blacks in America has been widening for some time. A few years ago, a Brookings Institution study spelled out the fact that thirty-something blacks in 2007 were worse off than their parents had been at the same age in the mid-1970s. Despite the civil rights wins, the gap between African-Americans and whites had at some point started getting worse, not better.

And with the recession comes even disturbing news. A new study by United for a Fair Economy, aptly titled "State of the Dream 2010: Drained – Jobless and Foreclosed in Communities of Color," paints a dismal portrait of the situation at the end of last year. Its authors broke down the unemployment rate by race and ethnicity and found that the Dec. 2009 rates were higher for African-Americans and Latinos than any annual rate in nearly three decades.

Black unemployment was at 16.2 percent; for Latinos it was at 12.9 percent. Meanwhile, unemployment among whites fell for the second month in a row to 9 percent. And in certain states -- like Michigan and Ohio -- the African-American unemployment rate could hit the 20s this year.

Of course, the terrible strain on the economy has caused job losses all across the spectrum -- no socio-economic demographic has been untouched. Just this morning I was marveling over this sobering animation that geographically maps the rise of unemployment from 2007 through last year.

But even as we've watched our economy flush itself down the proverbial shitter, whites only saw an increase of unemployment of 2.4 percent from Dec. 2008 to Dec. 2009, in the worst recession since the Great Depression. Additionally, the report points out that in 13 states -- mostly in the Midwest, Great Plains, and the South -- unemployment for blacks was at least 2.5 times higher than for whites. In five states, Latinos were twice as likely to be unemployed as whites. [...]"

Read the full article by Daniela Perdomo on AlterNet.org.

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We Need a Fair Jobs Policy (op-ed)

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Ajamu Dillahunt"From the stern way that President Obama dismissed the Congressional Black Caucus last month, you'd think the CBC had insisted that every last dollar of job-creation money go to African Americans.

And from the way some conservative pundits responded (columnist Michelle Malkin, for instance, called it a "shake down"), you'd think the CBC had demanded that the Secret Service round up white folks and force them to empty their bank accounts and hand the money over to black folks.

But of course they didn't. The Congressional Black Caucus made the very reasonable suggestion that 10 percent of the stimulus be targeted to the poorest urban areas, where so many African Americans live. Given that African Americans are about 13 percent of the US population, 10 is actually a very modest request. [...]

December's white unemployment rate of 9% is bad, though better than November's; but the Black and Latino rates jumped to the devastating levels of 16.2% and 12.9%, a 27-year high.

Families survive unemployment better or worse depending on how much of a cushion they have. African American and Latino families entered the recession with a dangerously low median net worth, according to a new report by United for a Fair Economy, The State of the Dream 2010. [...]"

Read the full op-ed by Ajamu Dillahunt, UFE Board member, on HuffingtonPost.com.

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