Sunday

US Rep Mike Turner Tries to Help

We live is some tough times. And some politicians aren't helping any. US Rep. Mike Turner, however, isn't one of those.

Too many policitians vote by party label first and people's needs second. That shows up early in the process too. Such as when they sign on as a sponsor of a bill or amendment. That sponsoring is important because it signals to other members of congress where they stand on an issue.

Maybe that's why Rep. Turner, a republican from Centerville, Ohio, signed on as the only republican as a sponsor of an amendment to help bankruptcy homeowners keep a roof over their heads.

Maybe he did it because he realized the much-ballyhooed government home loan program earlier this year (you know, the one that was supposed to help millions of homeowners modify their mortgages to keep their homes in hard times) had pretty much failed to accomplish anything at all. A good idea, badly implemented, which created lost of paperwork and frustration but accomplished no good. Only about 4% of homeowners whose homes were reworked thru the program have managed to get a permanent modification to save their home from foreclosure, reports USA Today writer Stephanie Armour.

Maybe he heard the defensive clamoring of near countless mortgage companies that said they were still "working on it" while hundreds of thousands of modifications remain tied up with their red tape. Why? Well, after all, lowering interest rates and reducing payments is not going to put any extra money in those mortgage company pockets. And, bottom line, that's what bankers are all about.

George Bailey may have been running his savings & loan to help folks out, but that's just a seasonal movie to be found on television once a year. George Bailey doesn't live on Wall Street.

Maybe Mike Turner did it because he's from one of the hard hit states that have suffered the loss of thousands and thousands of jobs, foreshadowing the foreclosure crisis that always follows on the heels of pink slips being passed out.

Whatever the reason, we say "Good for Mike." He appears to be the first republican to wake up and realize that the ultimate power to modify a mortgage is not to be found in a mortgage company's boardroom. It's to be found in the power of a federal bankruptcy judge.

No one has seen more foreclosures, or the impact they cause, than the judges who sit on the nation's bankruptcy courts every day.

On December 11 Rep. Mike Turner signed on as a sponsor of an amendment to the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 that would give federal bankruptcy judges the power to modify mortgage terms on primary residences when the homeowner is in bankruptcy. In doing so, Turner acknowledged reality and, at the same time, necessity.

In the Dayton, Ohio area, Turner noted, it is estimated that some 10,000 housing "units" (let's just call them homes, or at least they used to be) have been abandoned because of the mortgage crisis (let's just call that a mortgage mess, which is what it is).

Ironically, bankruptcy judges already have the power to modify mortgage terms for people's vacation homes (that tells you something about who wrote that law, for sure). This new amendment would give them that power for primary residence homes. It's about time.

Meanwhile, the money-grubbing American Bankers Association came out against the amendment, shouting from the roof tops that the amendment will "impose unforeseeable costs on lenders." Gosh, folks, I just feel so very, very bad for them bankers.

Not surprisingly, another Ohio congressman, Rep John Boehner (looking remarkably well-tanned for someone from wintry cold-weathered Ohio), opposed the amendment. Clearly, while he knows where the tanning parlor is, Boehner's home is not in foreclosure. He just doesn't get it.

Helping banks and mortgage companies will not stop foreclosures. Creating government programs that they don't have to do anything about is not exactly going to keep roofs over the heads of the jobless victims of this economy.

Judges are notoriously conservative and almost always neutral. What's wrong with giving them the power to make a mortgage company accept a little less profit in order to keep another home from being abandoned, boarded up or not?

Abandoned homes are a major cause of crime increases, blight, and reduced home values for everyone. If you doubt that, then just call up the Detroit police chief and ask him.

Rep. Mike Turner has spoken his conscience. That's because he understands what he sees in his hometown.

It's too bad a lot of people in Congress don't get that. But then again, it's not their homes (or their neighbors) that are being foreclosed on. If it were, they'd be voting a lot differently.