Thursday, October 9, 2008

Suicide Rates are up - due in part to foreclosures

No doubt about it - these are tough times for Americans and it does not appear that any relief is in sight as Congress continues to dodge a national discussion regarding the adoption of a national mortgage restructuring program.

Senator John McCain believes that a program is needed to provide assistance to families and individuals who are in danger of losing their homes. Senator Obama flips back and forth on the issue. One day, he's supports the idea, the next day, he's opposed to it -- claiming that Secretary Paulson can enact the program without input from Congress or the President. OK, if that is the case, why hasn't Paulson enacted such a program?

Congressional indifference to the plight of millions of Americans who are struggling to keep their homes has contributed to an marked increase in acute stress and suicides.

A recent report published by the American Psychological Association reveals that 80% of Americans are losing sleep over the financial crisis.

Untold millions have been siphoned away from 401 K Plans and public retirement systems. As a result, America is facing a retirement crisis that is unprecedented in most modern western nations. If Congress refuses to act, millions of Americans will be forced into a retirement haunted by poverty and misery.

Meanwhile, the CEOs who contributed to this fiasco walk away with millions and millions of dollars. Only Freddie Mac managed to strip away a multi million dollar golden parachute from its CEO.

Perhaps Iceland is right. It's time to nationalize the banks. Put an end to discriminatory lending practices that place high risk borrowers in even higher risk loans that were doomed to failure before the ink dried on the loan documents.

In many cases, borrowers were oblivious to the fact that they were signing a financial contract that would begin to adjust and force them out into the street.

What are the social consequences of Congress refusing to take action on festering domestic issues?

On October 27, 2007, in Huston, a 12-hour standoff ended with a north Houston man lobbing Molotov cocktails at Houston Police before taking his own life rather than leave the home he’d lost to foreclosure.

On July 23, 2008, a 53 year old Taunton, Massachusetts woman ended her life with a rifle shot to the head, "rather than face the consequences of having to leave the home whose mortgage she and her family could no longer afford to pay with all the debt she was in." The mortgage company had arranged for the Balderrama’s home to be auctioned off starting at 5 p.m. on July 23rd.

Balderrama faxed a message to the mortgage company shortly after 2:30 p.m, in which she informed the company that she would die before the auction began. The mortgage company informed the local law enforcement authorities. By the time they arrived at Balderrama’s foreclosed home at 3:30 p.m. the woman was dead.

When the auction began at 5 p.m, horrified buyers learned what had happened. Mrs. Balderrama’s body was still in the house as the buyers started showing up on the property.

Balderrama's husband had filed for bankruptcy, but the courts would not approve the petition. His wife had not told him that the bank was foreclosing on the house. The nation's bankruptcy laws were revised in 2005, making it extremely difficult for people who need to file for bankruptcy to complete the process.

Wednesday before last, Addie Polk, a 90 year old Akron Ohio widow, shot herself twice in the chest when deputies arrived to evict her from the home she had lived in for the majority of her life. Addie is still alive, but her doctors do not know if she will be able to return to her home, now that Fannie Mae has cancelled the foreclosure.

Earlier today, ABC reports that,"historically, research shows, rates of depression and suicide tend to climb during times of economic tumult."

"In an article published in 2005 by Cambridge University Press, researchers compared suicide data in Australia from January 1968 through August 2002 with economic problems such as unemployment and mortgage interest rates. The study found that economic trends are closely associated with suicide risk, with men showing a heightened risk of suicide in the face of economic adversity."

"For some people, suicide is the rational option when they see no future," says Ken Siegel, a psychologist in Beverly Hills. "One's house is very much a projection of one's self. To have a home taken away is tantamount to having part of yourself taken away. There is embarrassment. For many, it's overwhelmingly unconquerable."

If foreclosure is imminent, troubled borrowers should consider filing for bankruptcy and asking family and friends for emotional support. As they say, "tough times do not last but tough people do."

Nationwide, foreclosures soared by over 75 percent from last year. By the end of the year, many analysts are predicting that many more homes will enter some stage of foreclosure. With no relief and long-term solution in sight, this is not at all surprising."

What should we do about Congress?

Fire the majority of them. Elect new members who are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and draft legislation that will address the basic needs of the American people. We need portable retirement programs that follow us from job to job, we need affordable medical insurance that doesn't vanish when the job ends or we are disabled. And, we need family wage jobs that don't force us to rely on credit for the necessities of life.

Finally, we need safe, affordable housing with stable financing that doesn't bankrupt the nation.

The days of unfettered capitalism are gone. Freedom in the marketplace is a wonderful gift, but greed apparently corrupts and destroys all.

We want and need a government that is not indebted to huge corporate interests.

I hope the state Attorney Generals band together to sue the pants off of the lending institutions that led us into this mess.

The articles quoted can be read here:

Icelandic Bank Article:

ABC News link on Foreclosures take an emotional toll on homeowners:

If you, or someone you love is considering or may be in danger of committing suicide, please contact a health professional or crisis center right away. The link for the National Suicide Prevention lifeline is here:

Foreclosure assistance and counseling can be found on the HUD site. There is no shame in foreclosure or bankruptcy: The tough survive and go on to build happy, financially stable lives.

Also, be aware of foreclosure scams: more information can be found at MSNBCs the Red Tape Chronicles web site:

Washington State has a hotline for Consumers who have questions about foreclosure. The WA State Attorney General's Office issued a warning: don't allow yourself to be victimized by a con artist. Read the press release here:

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