Factory worker (1981): Ever since the Walmart moved into town, management has been pressuring labor to take pay cuts. Half the work force has been laid off. Thank goodness for low cost goods from Walmart to make up for my lower wages but I still need more money to make ends meet.
Savings and loans banker (1985): Hey, home values have been rising and new laws allow us to lend out up to 100 percent of the value of your home. Sounds risky? I know it does but not to you. If we have troubles, the FSLIC will protect your deposits now up to $100,000 so you might as well get started on your American dream.
Stock broker (1995): I hear the bankers that absorbed the savings and loans from the crash of its bubble are offering not only no money down loans, but now you don’t even have to prove your income and they have some pretty decent rates on home refinancing. With this new internet sensation, the stock market is on fire. Why don’t you just refinance your home and use part to make up for lost wages, but put some into this raging market and you will get ahead.
Factory worker (1999): But the market is up 300 percent when corporate earnings are only up 40 percent. I understand that you think the new fangled dot.com start-ups are going to sky rocket, but why are traditional brick and mortar businesses selling at such high price to earnings ratios?
Real Estate Broker (2001): So the Stock broker talked you into taking a home equity loan to get into the stock market? I am sorry you lost so much of your life’s savings. But perhaps you can make it back in the housing boom. I can show you houses that may seem beyond your reach but they are investment gold mines, trust me. Their prices are going up at 20% a year. In the mean time, just grab a few of the credit card offers being mailed to you each week to get by while you are recovering your retirement savings in your new home investment.
Factory worker (2003): Seems logical but housing prices no longer make sense. It used to be with a 20 percent down payment, rental rates would cover the remaining principle, interest, taxes and insurance but they no longer cover the loan amounts. My income hasn’t gone up and will not cover such a high mortgage.
Mortgage broker (2005): It’s a new economy. We no longer require rents to cover mortgages because equity is rising at 20% per year. And you can qualify for whatever size home you want. I will tell you what income you must claim to me and I can get you an introductory low rate on a no income verification loan. In fact, unlike the ’90s, you can get pretty low interest rates for the first 2 to 5 years of the loan, and I can even qualify you with credit scores as low as 600. You don’t even have to show that you have cash reserves. Criminy, you don’t even have to be self employed anymore. This surely can help you reach up to participate big in this boom, and you truly need to participate big with all you’ve been through. In the meantime, use your multiple, no income verification credit cards to get by until you flip your house investment in a couple years for a profit.
Real estate broker (2006): Oooooh, umm, yeah, after a couple years you want to sell now. After you bought, the market slowed a bit and I really can’t sell your home for more than you paid for it. In fact, there are three brand new homes on the street that have never been lived in and they are on the market for 10 percent less than you paid. If you want to discount your home 15%, perhaps we can entice buyers to buy yours instead of the new homes that have been on the market for more than six months.
Factory worker (2007): I can’t afford to take a 15 percent hit on my home so I will have to keep it on the market awhile and max out my credit cards to make ends meet in the mean time.
Banker (2008): I am sorry to inform you but when you maxed out your credit cards, they triggered the universal clause and your interest rates are now going to be raised from their original 10 percent up to 32 percent.
Factory worker (2008.5): Now what can I do. I cannot sell my home, I have maxed out my home equity line, and my credit cards. I have no more credit because as I pay off my cards, the banks cancel them. My introductory home loan interest rate has expired and my home loan has risen 50%. The local government, hurting for more taxes, is considering raising the mil rate. I am going to have to delay some consumer purchases and not make others. And because I have to survive, I may have to miss a few credit card or home mortgage payments.
Banker (2009): When you missed payments on your credit card, we did lower your credit rating to protect other creditors from your misfortune, and we did demand immediate repayment of your balance on your credit cards. I know it exacerbated your inability to pay us back on your home loan. But a result, I am afraid we will have to initiate foreclosure.
Factory worker (2009.5): I keep lowering my price trying to sell this house but it has now been on the market for over a year. To make matters much worse, my employer just told me that because most other Americans have lost credit, home values, or jobs, they have been unable to buy our company’s products. As a result, I was told that I am being laid off to join 20 million others. And in my hour of misfortune, my real estate broker has informed me that my house value is now worth 40 % less than I paid for it.
Foreclosure lawyer (2010): Let me understand this better, so the banker said he would work with you to comply with government assistance programs, but after asking you four times to send in your paperwork to determine if you qualified, he “misplaced” it each time until the bank finally filed bankruptcy proceedings. I have filed in court on your behalf to delay the inevitable, but because your state is a recourse state, the bank will ultimately take your house, sell it at a fire sale price, and afterward the banker will come after you for the difference, forcing you to file for bankruptcy and to lose your life’s savings.
Bankruptcy lawyer (2010.5): Unfortunately the bank took your house and your credit cards and the court took your newer car, your savings, and your “excess” belongings. I understand that Chinese factories are building the widgets you used to make, you haven’t been able to find a job for over two years and have been turned down in countless interviews. Your savings are gone, your credit is ruined, and your self esteem is crushed. Congress has left you without unemployment compensation, yet is about to pass trade agreements that will leave even more Americans unemployed. Congress will not cut expenses so unfortunately their failure to do their job means even more Americans will lose theirs and America’s interest rates will go up costing Americans even more in higher interest payments that will be passed through to consumers in higher prices. But on the brighter side, I was able to ensure that even though you have nothing, your debts have been discharged.
Occupy Wall Streeter (2011): I know police officers are bloodying us with batons and spraying us with pepper spray, that they are waking us in the middle of the night to take our generators and our tents, that they are throwing tear gas in the middle of our peaceful demonstrations, and arresting us for acting on our right to assemble, but we are voicing our urgent need for change in Zucotti Park. Before you lose all hope, join us.
Employed Middle American (2011): Is this park thing the right thing for the factory worker to do? I dunno. My unemployed college graduate son is down at the park and I am watching every brutal act of policeman on my baby. I am holding Wall Street and Congress responsible for this senseless brutality and I will remember at the polls. But I didn’t demonstrate during Vietnam Nam. Instead, I went to war. And the factory worker is no hippie.
Our leaders tell me that they are doing what they can for America, but they can’t pass a budget even when the world tells them our credit rating will suffer. They can however pass a law that makes pizza a vegetable when big business wants a greasy snack to be called healthy, but they can’t compromise to help America back to work!
Factory worker (2011): I have decided to go down to the park. Be patient with me. I know there are instigators down there but I want a better America and need to do something more. I don’t have the answers to what the banks and Congress should do to fix what they have done but I am going to ask questions. Support my right to assemble with others to debate the potential answers in a democratic way.
If America’s unemployment rate rose to 15 percent, would you lose your job? Some economists are warning of 50 percent unemployment if drastic changes aren’t made. I don’t know whose predictions are right, but please wish me well in doing my part to reverse our fate now. I just want my American dream back.
2 responses to “I Just Want My American Dream Back – A conversation from 1981 to 2011 (revised)”
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I’d rent the house out and work two part-time jobs if that’s what it takes. Maybe go to construction sites where they are building houses or buildings and offer to clean up. I’d check all the temp services daily, and without fail.