Merry Christmas from our government, everybody. The other day, in an interview with MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, Harvard economics expert Elizabeth Warren dropped a little holiday bomb. Warren is chairman of the Congressional panel set up to oversee TARP, the spending of that $700 billion bailout. "In the next year," Warren said, "one in every seven American homeowners will be in foreclosure."
One in seven. That's up from the one in 10 that is already reported. I wondered if Warren's comment would make headlines next day. But it got buried by the breaking scandal in Illinois. Ho, ho, ho.
Think about it. First of all, roughly one in every 10 foreclosures might be a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered home. Think of the impact on our own world -- our activism, fundraising, community businesses, media, health services, events, and anything else you can name.
If Warren is right, then having a roof over your head might shortly be more important to many of us than the right to marry. Our LGBT world has few services of our own to cover the widening gap.
Actually the TARP chairman's prediction is not new. Warren has been making it for almost a year. She has been studying debt and bankruptcy in the American family for a long time. Her research uncovered the interesting fact that Americans aren't going under because they were greedy. They're going under because the fixed costs of everything that most of us face, especially a family, simply exceed the earning capacity of a couple, even if they're both working. Indeed, Warren found that the surest indicator that a family might go bankrupt was having a child.
But Warren was commenting from deep in the academic woodwork, so nobody paid any attention to her. Indeed, she made herself unpopular in some Wall Street circles for saying it. Now it looks like she might be so right that it hurts to say it.
One in seven means a boarded-up home on every block in America.
Everything I'm reading about the federal programs that were launched to supposedly help a lot of homeowners salvage their mortgage problems, like FHA Secure, tells me that these programs are helping only a small number of people so far. Among other things, the exploding needs of our population are hitting a processing bottleneck. One halfway honest lady working for a prominent lender told me off the record that their FHA Secure office is buried in paperwork, getting 20,000 requests for help every week.
One in seven. Think how many more Americans will be experiencing homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless says that right now, around 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness in a given year. So think where this number will go in the next year. With one in ten, we can estimate 350,000 gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered people will be out there on the mean streets.
Though the federal government has launched programs to get some homeless people with special needs into stable housing, most of our cities don't know what to do with the homeless people they have already. Many cities have actually passed laws that are hostile to the homeless.
Think of the added pressures on our already inadequate services for the poor -- everything from soup kitchens to hospital emergency rooms. Think of the soaring crime rate -- violent acts committed against homeless people, and by desperate hopeless people (theft, etc).
Just a few things to think about. And there will be more.
So Merry Christmas, everybody. And a Happy New Year that hopefully includes a secured home for everyone who needs one. President-elect Obama and his incoming administration have their work cut out for them.