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Whatever your feelings—whatever your understanding—of the various government bailouts under way or on the table, it should be increasingly evident that that the country’s economic problems are multilayered (that is, complicated as shit); and that rescuing various Fortune 100 firms may accomplish a lot of things, but it simply won’t do enough to help the millions of people and thousands of neighborhoods already devastated by job losses and foreclosures.
New Yorker writer Peter J. Boyer’s revealing and heartbreaking “Eviction,” the story of 90-year-old Addie Polk’s mortgage troubles in Akron, Ohio, illustrates why and how this is true, and puts it in sobering context: “By the end of June, there were 2.4 million homes in foreclosure or prolonged delinquency, accounting for 4.5 per cent of all mortgages in the country—the highest level ever recorded.”
Closer to home, the Chicago Rehab Network’s latest analysis finds that this city alone experienced 12,861 foreclosures from January through September, leaving some blocks on the south and west sides pockmarked with boarded-up buildings—and thousands of families forced to find other places to live in an already tight rental market. If you click on any of the monthly reports, you’ll see that some of the lenders doing the most foreclosing are also the ones asking for the most help from the taxpayers.
Not coincidentally, Chicago has at least 13,000 more unemployed people than it did in January. And that doesn’t include the people who’ve stopped looking for work.
Economists stress that the bank and lending bailouts are necessary to keep the credit markets from closing up. Without money to borrow, businesses can’t make investments that result in hiring people.
Makes sense. But I’ll state the obvious and point out that people need to work now, not just in a few months or years when loans come through. President Bush’s last stimulus plan—sending out checks—didn’t do much to get the economy moving; Barack Obama’s, whatever it ends up being, may not be the answer either, but something else has to happen.