Workers’ Correspondence

Is anyone familiar with the term “reverse mortgage”? The pitch goes something like this:

• Cash now! Take cash in a lump sum. Or: Cash as you go! A line of credit or monthly income for life.

• It’s always yours! You always retain the title to your home. When your home is sold, the reverse mortgage comes due. As the value goes up, it’s yours!

Sounds good, but the reality is, this scheme is part and parcel of the race to the bottom. These proclamations are based on the assumption that real estate values will continue to rise unabated. But if so, won’t everything else follow upward? So the longer one lives, the less real equity remains.

Back in the ’60s, when I was an apprentice in Local 6 of the NY Typographical Union, I first heard the words “sweet-sounding phrases.”

It was during a time of transition and decline when much of Local 6’s work was moving south. Newspapers were automating and looking for ways to cut staff. The method they came up with and used was called attrition. International President Elmer Brown reminded us that attrition meant that upon retirement, death or leaving the industry, the vacated position would not be filled. Hence President Brown’s words — “sweet-sounding phrases.”

Today, a college degree does not guarantee upward mobility for our children. We have entered an economy of minimum- and low-wage service jobs, and many retirees may find the reverse mortgage the only option to stay in their homes and live out their lives. Today, while pensions are stolen or lost in bad investments, and the tax burden continues to shift to the working class, a reverse mortgage is offered as a way of preventing the elderly from becoming homeless.

It’s my opinion that the American people would not tolerate a large segment of the elderly living on the streets. However, one must admit, the capitalist class continues to come up with the cleverest schemes to extract our money and perpetuate the system.

Our working lives are spent creating surplus value that winds up in fewer hands. For many retirees a home is the only equity they have acquired, with the hope of leaving their children something to build on — a piece of the American pie.

Our hope and our children’s best hope — socialism! Now that’s a sweet sounding phrase!