An all-points bulletin sounded through the corridors of a Minneapolis hospital where I was standing at a coffee counter yesterday before a routine appointment.
It was a summons to an emergency: “Dr. Blue, report to Room 420.” The announcement was repeated several times as men and women in green scrubs rushed through the hallway. “Dr. Blue” is generic hospital code telling staff there is no time to lose. I’m always moved and humbled by the drama of doctors and nurses and technicians rushing to save a life.
For several days edgy Wall Street investors and brokers have been sounding their own version of Dr. Blue, demanding action to rescue them from a market gone haywire in the midst of the housing and mortgage bust. Huge hedge funds had gone belly up. The credit well was going dry. So fresh money poured in from central banks all over the world to prop up the corporate gamblers. Friday morning the U.S. Federal Reserve reduced its discount rates after pumping billions of dollars of liquidity into the credit markets.
That scene is not nearly as appealing as the response in the hospital. What it lacks is some small symptom of comparable tender care for the millions of hapless stiffs who are losing their homes, their jobs and their health because of the cutthroat conduct of the mortgage industry and the insurance goliaths.
The squeeze on these millions continues unabated and there are no credit Galahads on the horizon rushing in to cry: “Give these people a chance to hold on to their houses. Wall Street isn’t the only player here. Find some formula where they’ve got a chance to cover the loan.”
No such formulas are in sight. The small print in the mortgage contract is airtight. So is it in the credit card contract. The peddling of The Good Life, the American Idyll, on the internet, on the billboards and in the U.S. mail every day, every time cycle, is merciless. So he says,“OK, honey, we’ve got decent jobs. Let’s buy the house.” They do, and they become upstanding home-owning Americans like everybody else.
A year later the guy loses his job to a robot in telemarketing or a travel agent in Bombay. This is the flat earth economy. It’s the future.
Somebody says “you can consolidate your credit debts. There’s an agency in the shopping center on the other side of Ferndale,” was the good news. They consolidate their debts. Two months later the kid breaks a leg and they have medical bills. They can barely cover the co-pay. In fact, they can’t. The interest on their credit card debt balloons.
“We’ve got no choice,” he tells his wife. “We’ve got to file bankrupcty.”
Well, of course, they can’t. His debt consolidator gives them the bad news. The credit card companies took care of that option four years ago when they lobbied a new law that pretty much reserves bankruptcy for organizations and upscale plungers with access to a fleet of lawyers and accountants. The law says in effect, if you’re gullible enough to be sucked in by all the enticements of the credit card companies, you have to deal with the consequences.
No such accountability is attached to the money manipulators and investment gamblers on the floor of the stock exchange. Save us, they asked the bankers of Europe and the Federal Reserve suits. And if it gets bad enough to threaten political damage as well as economic turmoil, the knights will arrive on the scene with their flags and their rate-cutting cleavers.
No one needs to claim that all of the damage has been inflicted on harmless victims of the working class. Some of them took chances. Some were heedless in search of a good time. Others weren’t very bright. But almost none of them could foresee the crunching blows dealt to America’s wounded middle class by the accumulated weight of deregulation, loaded tax breaks for the wealthiest, endless war, deceit on the spread sheets by multi-billion dollar corporations, their collapse, and the increasingly heavy hand of the insurance industry.
If it’s any consolation to the folks who are losing their homes, their jobs and their credit , they should know this: Their numbers will be increasing. There are thousands in America today who took out long term care policies, trying to be responsible to their children and their relatives. They are now confronted with cadres of claim departments who just don’t read those policies as though they were actually intended to provide long term care.
The bottom line of the family’s application now says; “Claim denied.”
You can, of course, take it to court.
Good luck. Or there may be an alternative strategy.
Try not to get old.