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Bill Clinton touts Hillary Clinton's plan
to stem foreclosures

Former President Bill Clinton follows Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums during a visit to Everett and Jones restaurant in Oakland Wednesday to promote Hillary Clinton's plan to solve the sub-prime mortgage crisis.
Photos by John Han

By John Han

January 17, 2008

Former President Bill Clinton said at a round table discussion in Oakland Wednesday that allowing housing foreclosures to continue in areas throughout the country is "the most expensive way" to handle the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

"The American people, the tax payers, and the economy will pay more if we let all these mortgages collapse. Never mind the tragedy and heartbreak of the individual families," Clinton said at Everett and Jones restaurant in Jack London Square.

Sitting amongst a panel that included Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and other East Bay officials, Clinton said the mortgage crisis could get worse if the "larger economic crisis" leads the country into a recession.

"The national government tells us we're in the seventh year of economic recovery," Clinton said, while citing rising costs of healthcare, gasoline, housing and education going "through the roof."

"We have created very few jobs, probably less than a fourth as many as we created in the eight years that I was President," Clinton boasted. "And that is a big problem."

Clinton stressed that a lack of job opportunities, as well as lenders packaging home mortgage loans and selling them to investment banks and hedge funds, has brought the country to a foreclosure crisis.

According to Clinton, presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has a plan that would place a ninety-day freeze on foreclosures, adjust mortgage loans to five-year fixed interest rates, and "accelerate economic activity" by creating jobs in local communities with new energy policies involving building structures to be "as energy efficient as possible."

"We're going to be able to have jobs not just for engineers and architects, but for high-school dropouts who can be trained as green-collared workers," Clinton said.

Clinton said Congress could pass laws to provide federal funds to state and local governments to offset mortgage loan debts.

James and Eleanor Warren of Oakland, who sat on the panel beside Clinton, described Clinton's visit as being positive. They are victims of a sub-prime loan gone belly up. They refinanced their North Oakland home in 2005 after Eleanor's mother passed away and inherited the house. They paid their mortgage on time, James says, but when their family business slowed down, they were late on one payment, which led towards a foreclosure.

They were able to temporarily halt the foreclosure through the help of a housing counseling agency, but say governments need to step in and address the issue at the federal, state, and local levels.

James and Eleanor Warren.

Dorothy King

Everett and Jones owner Dorothy King agreed. She said her lender didn't explain to her that the loan she agreed to was a sub-prime loan when she refinanced her home in 2004.

"They basically target the demographics of African Americans and Latinos," King said.

West Oakland homeowner and pre-schoolteacher Marilyn Reynolds acknowledged that African Americans and Latinos have suffered the most from the crisis. She is a single mother who took out a sub-prime loan on her house after she and her husband divorced.

"I'm not a sub-prime person," Reynolds said. "I have excellent credit. And when I say excellent, I mean excellent."

Studies indicate that 55.6 percent of African American homebuyers and 54.4 percent of Latino homebuyers in California cities received sub-prime loans in 2006, as opposed to 14.5 percent for whites.

Fifty-two percent of African American homebuyers who were in the upper-income bracket, and 57.9 percent of upper-income Latinos, still received sub-prime loans as opposed to 14.4 percent of whites in the same income bracket.

But Clinton said that predatory lending, a phrase he didn't use during his discussion, didn't cause the mortgage crisis.

Rather, he insisted several times that it was caused by a lack of new job opportunities, and blamed the Bush Administration's failed economic policies.

"If our economy was growing and people had general confidence in it, then this sub-prime mortgage crisis wouldn't have occurred," Clinton said.

But Steve Zeltzer, a labor journalist for over 20 years and producer of Labor Video Project, which produces labor documentaries, says Clinton's past administration that implemented NAFTA more than ten years ago, has to share in the blame for job losses.

"NAFTA has had a direct impact on the lives of American and Mexican workers, and on the lives of workers in Latin America, whose living conditions have declined as a result of these economic trade agreements," Zeltzer said. "They benefit multinationals, not the working people."

Zeltzer says Democrats and Republicans have joined in supporting deregulation of the nation's economy sectors such as in airlines, energy, and telecom industries.

"To blame the Republicans for basically a joint policy by Democrats and Republicans is not accurate or honest," Zeltzer said.

The visit was the first of three areas scheduled in Northern California yesterday to promote Hilary Clinton's plan for the mortgage loan crisis.





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