Congress Passes Trade Deals while Families Suffer

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

Unemployment in most places is higher than it has been in decades, and worse still unemployment rates have started rising again as private-sector job growth has stalled and the public sector continues to shed jobs. The economy needs a boost, but Congress is making no progress towards passing a jobs bill. You might be tempted to think Congress can agree on nothing. Well, it depends on what you mean by nothing.

The economic benefits are projected to be small [blogger's note: even according to people whose models capture gains from trade but not the downside]. A federal agency estimated in 2007 that the impact on employment would be 'negligible' and that the deals would increase gross domestic product by about $14.4 billion, or roughly 0.1 percent.

This 112th Congress is building a solid record of having a negligible effect on employment. Meanwhile, back in the real world, a story that just breaks your heart.

What [Chelsea] Hines wants most are answers — and the confidence that one day she would be able to support a family.

Cheri Honkala for Sheriff announcement - Thursday at 11 AM

From the Green Party of Philadelphia, via Hugh Giordano:

Cheri Honkala for Sheriff

Join Us on Thursday, February 17, 10:00 am

Cheri Honkala,, will announce her run for the
Green Party nomination as Sheriff of Philadelphia .

718 Market St, Home of Casino Free Philly, 10:00 am


Cheri Honkala for Sheriff
Keeping Families In Their Homes

Veteran Philadelphia Activist for the Poor to Run for Sheriff on No Evictions Platform

Cheri Honkala Says Appealing to the Banks to Restructure Loans for Families Facing Foreclosure Did Not Work So She Will Run for Sheriff and Refuse to Evict Families.
If Elected, Honkala Would Suspend Sheriff Sales of Properties Indefinitely.

PHA Director Faces Foreclosure

A sign of the times?

Carl R. Greene, the director of the Philadelphia Housing Authority, has certainly had a bad couple of weeks. Since last week, the Inky has revealed his salary ($305K base plus another $40K-some odd bonus for this year), where he lives (Naval Square), that Wells Fargo has filed for foreclosure, and today it's revealed that Carl had to pay back $52,000 to settle an IRS lien against him.

Jump to the Inky article.

Since that $52K IRS payment was back in winter or so and that coincides with when he stopped paying on his mortgage, it seems that nobody, not even long-time public servants, are immune from this economy.


Philadelphia Unemployment Project in four parts

If you guys are curious about PUP, here's a little video an intern put together for us. This is the first part, which captures a clip from a rally we did to get a woman access to a hospital. It's the first of four parts.

Part 2 - Unemployment Compensation

Part 3 - Foreclosure Prevention

Part 4 - Workers' Campaigns

Give Loan Modifications a Chance: Philadelphia's innovative plan, for homeowners and for lenders

Judge Darnell Jones anounced an innovative plan to stem foreclosures in Philadelphia Wednesday. Philadelphia homeowners will have a chance to modify the terms of sub-prime and predatory loans so that they can again afford the payments. It's a modification, not a re-finance, which means that they don't have to reapply or accrue new settlement fees. The lender simply agrees to lower the interest rates and change the terms on the existing mortgage. The deal only applies to owner-occuppied residences. It also only applies if the owner-occupant takes advantage of the court-mandated opportunity to meet with attorneys for their lender within 45 days of the foreclosure filing. If they don't, foreclosure will proceed like it always does.

In Harold Brubaker's story on the deal in yesterday's Business Section of the Inquirer, Tobi Walker of the Pew Charitable Trusts said, "This is one of the more innovative approaches we've seen."

The situation for lenders has been bad enough that they have been willing to pursue modifications with homeowners, but the process has been so cumbersome that many homeowners have still lost their homes because the foreclosure moved faster than lenders' workout staff could get through the volume of cases. Philadelphia advocates had a key insight: we have a large workforce of housing counselors available and willing to manage the lion's share of the modification process, if only the lenders would agree to give them that authority. Now, the court is requiring it.

Common Please Court has made this happen procedurally. It now simply requires lenders to give homeowners the opportunity to modify loans before permitting a foreclosure to go forward in court. There's no case or decision to look up. The court has simply changed the way it conducts the business of foreclosure.

Here's how it happened: late last year The Philadelphia Unemployment Project began calling Philadelphians holding mortgages through Countrywide. We invited them to meet as a group with our housing counselors, discuss their options as individuals and ask them to join with us as a group to press for a better deal through our Foreclosure Crisis Committee. Then, in December, the Save Our Homes Coalition convened in the PUP offices. Community Legal Services, ACORN, Philadelphia Legal Assistance and various Housing Counseling Agencies from around the city.

Meanwhile, the whole economy began teetering badly as the collective misjudgement of America's housing market by the world financial industry became apparent. Click read more to find out the rest of the story.

"More-closure solutions" DN Editorial in favor of a reasonable approach to dealing with foreclosure volume

PUP Members and Clients for Reasonable Workout Program before City Council

The Daily News today editorialized in favor of the demands PUP and the coalition of groups working here to prevent foreclosure made before City Council last week.The editorial board wrote:

Those people on the front lines of the issue - such as ACORN and Philadelphia Unemployment Project- seem to agree that pressure must be put on loan servicers to work more closely with local housing agencies to devise workout agreements with homeowners facing foreclosure.

Lenders and servicers can't work fast enough - or don't want to - to handle large numbers of mortgage workouts. But they need to be pressured to come to the table and work with those on the front lines to help homeowners.

Click read more for a breakdown of our demands!

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