EDITORIAL: Rogue bankers = homelessness

The stock market continues to skyrocket, corporate profits are rising at a record-setting pace and mortgage foreclosures surged 90 percent in May compared to a year ago. The rich are getting filthier and working families are on the street.

RealtyTrac, a national real estate database, reports that in May, typically the height of the home buying season, 39,659 California families stood on the curb watching the bank take their homes; Floridians followed with 21,704 homes seized by financial institutions; and 13,214 Ohio moms and dads loaded photographs, kids’ toys and family heirlooms into their trunks just ahead of the county sheriff. Across the country, 176,137 families who cooked out on Memorial Day 2006 in their own backyard, lost that backyard in May 2007.

In typical industry-speak, James Saccacio, RealtyTrac’s chief executive officer, predicts foreclosures to increase and home prices to slide. “Such strong activity in the midst of the typical buying season could foreshadow even higher foreclosure levels later in the year,” he told Bloomberg News. That adds to “downward pressure on home prices in many areas.”

Where’s the government? Isn’t banking and lending regulated?

Used to be. After the 1929 stock market crash, the collapse of banks and depression, the Roosevelt administration enacted reforms based on the reality of financial institution behavior, not their slick advertising. Since 1999, those safeguards are gone.

Between 1999 and 2006, 10 of the largest mortgage corporations spent $22 million supporting federal candidates whose policies shredded banking regulation and created the sub-prime lending fiasco that has dominated the business pages of the papers. Now, the only thing more stacked against working people than the U.S. Tax Code is the current process of buying a house or condo.

Can the government protect families and their homes? They did it for 64 years, not perfectly, but better than the financial industry, which is setting records for mortgage foreclosures.

“Families before bank profits” is on the 2008 electoral agenda — a faint blip, but there. Speaking up at the thousands of candidate forums will light up that blip and help to restore to millions of working families the right to own a home.