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Michael J. Kitchin

Michael J. Kitchin
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Palmer Lake, Colorado, USA
Birthday
September 03
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Professional Coder on Closed Source. Do Not Attempt.
Bio
Software engineer, father of two, husband of one, rider of a black motorcycle, sporting a haircut he believes in, and leader of a considered (if messy) life.

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MAY 25, 2010 2:12AM

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Lose My House

Rate: 29 Flag
In 2006 we went looking for new opportunities and left Colorado Springs for Seattle. My friends, coworkers, and I packed everything my family owned into a rented van and hustled across country with an old dog and three cats in tow. The job opportunity I had waiting for me was easily the most lucrative of my career so things looked good, despite it being the wettest winter on record (which is saying something for Seattle). The next year we bought a house in a nice neighborhood in town at the peak of the housing bubble -- despite a few doubts -- and today we're ready to hand this place back to the lender.

We weren't overly-naïve or greedy homeowners, if it matters. This is the third home we've owned since 1998. The first doubled in value by the time we left DC for Colorado Springs and the second turned a surprising (if modest) profit, even after only two years of ownership. Both of those were purchased with 10-20% down payments and old-fashioned, fixed-rate loans. When we purchased in Seattle, the mortgage/escrow payment remained roughly a third of our (higher) income, even with a 100% loan and high-triple-digit increase in monthly outlay over our previous rent (did I mention we purchased the house from our landlord at the time?).

See, we're a single income household (mine) with two children, one with special educational needs. With these in mind we've at least tried to take the cost-of-living formula seriously: A fixed housing expense much above a third of our income (at least in this town) and we'd simply die working and broke.

That said, everything ran off the rails with remarkable ease.
  • In mid-2008, the company I worked for went out of business. I didn't realize it at the time, but that year's taxable income would be a third less than the year before, bumping our mortgage payments past 40% of our income.
  • After going on unemployment and motoring through our savings (for longer than I'd care to admit) I found good contract work, but without medical benefits.
  • Gambling on a contact-to-hire possibility, we stuck with this for a year, running headlong into thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket prescriptions, a pair of E.R. visits for the kids, and other unremarkable costs of living.
  • By mid-2009 we were surviving with installment plans from every medical provider and eating a lot of beans and ramen, yet hadn't missed a single mortgage payment. We'd never missed one before when times were even leaner, so why give in then?
  • Starting in July, however, we timidly asked our lender for help. Seeing as we hadn't missed any payments, however, we were at most allowed to submit a hardship affidavit, tax returns and statements, and pretty much get ignored for the next two months, despite regular pestering by phone.
  • By September, however, both of our vehicles -- a '98 Saturn and '95 Ford van -- developed expensive problems which ended ambitions of keeping current with the mortgage. We canceled our twice-monthly, automatic "Equity Accelerator" debit and waited for the bank to call us.
  • Come early October, the bank had a crisp information packet on the Federal Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) to send us, complete with a much improved version of the affidavit and other materials we'd filled out earlier in the summer.
  • We filled all this out hopefully and FedEx-ed it back within a few days, then followed up by phone several times a week over the next month. More thoughtfully than with our unofficial attempt earlier, the lender apologized for mail room/processing delays and this/that but still left us in the dark.
  • At the end of November, just as we were losing hope, we were sent a concise HAMP "trial period plan,"  scheduling three monthly payments roughly 8% less than before (a difference in the low triple digits, to be specific), to be followed by a genuinely modified loan.
  • This didn't improve the bottom line and we lost hope again. After consulting with the lender, however, we returned the agreement unsigned with (as directed by them) a letter explaining why we couldn't make it with this plan and asking for a better deal. They suggested we try and it couldn't hurt, right?
  • About this time, however, I secured a full-time position with benefits, though with slightly less actual income. Things were looking up, at least in a personal sense. If we got sick, we'd get cured, and we could finally get current with our doctors, the hospital, etc.
  • We heard nothing further through the end of the year, however, and by mid-January we'd been notified  a foreclosure sale was set for the end of May (yeah, this month). By the end of January, we were actively looking for an apartment and considering a deed-in-lieu-of-trust (in English, that's "giving the house back to the bank", which is less convenient than it sounds).
  • The very Friday we were about to write a check for a rental deposit, however, we received a new deal from the lender. Word for word the same sort of trial period plan, except now they wanted a little bit less than a third of our (newly reduced) income. Hot dog, we thought: We're back in business.
  • We made all three payments on time -- from March through May -- checking two, sometimes three times a week by phone for updates on (a) a final loan agreement and (b) cancellation of the foreclosure sale, seeing as we were pouring much of our income back into the house and couldn't leave on a moment's notice.
Along comes the week before the foreclosure sale (that'd be last week) and we get the final loan agreement, and what...a...surprise. We were denied for HAMP due to reason #11 on a long-ish list of possible ones -- "insufficient documentation before the deadline," more or less. This seemed nuts, considering how obsessively we'd worked the phones to prevent such an outcome, the lender assuring us repeatedly that our paperwork was in order and a final modification in the bag.

The good news in the same FedEx (from their standpoint) was our investor (Fannie Mae) had a a whiz-bang alternative program we were a shoo-in for, (a) minus borrower incentives (cash, which we didn't need), but (b) with very different details. Specifically, a return to the original mortgage terms after a five-year ramp-up from the trial period payment and (apparently) late fees and penalties from the last few months tacked onto the end of the loan, extending it another three years after restarting the clock (yes, 33 years from now). 

Ugh, we thought: Any chance after five years -- when our children are in their teens and we're even closer to being unable to earn income -- we'll actually need less money? Kinda doubt it. And with this house now valued at roughly 60% our purchase price, we estimate it would take ten years to return to where we could consider selling it. This would be taking food from our children's mouths for the rest of their young lives, pure and simple. I do not expect a lender to casually surrender an asset's value, but I also don't expect them to play every angle to keep marginally-informed borrowers in over their heads.

I needed to know what we'd missed, regardless, or might otherwise bite us in the ass if we talked ourselves into this new solution after all. Fortunately, having called our lender's loss mitigation department so much I'd dealt with the same, specific people several times, to the point they acknowledged this whenever I bumped into them. On my next call with one of these regulars I picked at the reason for denial and learned that "everyone is getting that" -- reason #11 -- and "they're all printed that way," and further that our file did not appear incomplete. There was also no apparent reason we could be denied for either program, certainly nothing in the lender's own records.

Huh...Well, since we're such good friends after all this time: Screw them.
 
Hazarding a guess, I'd say the HAMP program tastes bad to the lender, probably due to restrictions on modified loan terms, upcoming imposed principal reductions, or some such. Much better to lever desperate/credit-obsessed borrowers back into their original terms, it seems, complete with heaped-up penalties on the back of the loan, shaking everyone else loose to trim losses. I think this noise is shady, but I don't care any more, and I should think the lender doesn't either. These kinds of deals are for people fixated on keeping a house, who'll kill themselves to meet the terms they signed for, even when their investment will no longer do them any good.

This is also a speculation game we're sure to lose, so now is the time to cash out.
 
What else have I learned? Well, I came of age just as mortgages became the only loans with deductible interest and home values soared (in the 80's), when the common wisdom was that buying a home was integral to a civilized future. That's an extinct notion, I can see that now. I'm not terribly bitter, however, even though I'm leaving a nice neighborhood where we've made good friends. I've lived in (a) some nice homes, including (b) this one, (c) rent free for much of the last year, even if the lender still has their hooks in me for a huge amount of money. Home buying and selling for the amateur (meaning me), however, is for the birds.

We probably will get to live on and live well, thankfully, and provide a good future for our children. That's what matters, no matter where we hang our hats.
 
- - - -
 
Addendum: So, over the last year or so we've been scraping together what we could to build out a rental unit in our finished basement, perhaps ~700ft2 (nothing extravagant). Renting this out would've made the trial period payment doable over the long term.

Anyway, after getting permitting/plans like the city wanted, craigslisting a fridge, building a sink/flooring from Ikea, and a new dish washer/garbage disposal we're considering calling the plumber who connected everything last month to see what he'd give us for the stuff :(

(Wondering if it'd be too over the top to take back the new 30yr roof we put on the place two years ago...) 

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I assume you're somewhere near my age (I'm 48), and that your father, like mine, was born during the Great depression and came of agae amdist the Post-War Boom, a time of wealth creation unparalleled in human history. I get the impression that our fathers thought this was the natural order of things, one that would cintinue without any intervention on anyone's behalf. And while a geenration of Rip van Winkles snored in front of their television sets, their leaders were busy shredding the social contract that made it possible for them to go from hardscrabble beginnings to comfortable affluence in half a generation. I don't know what else to say, except thanks for posting this, and hang in there.

http://open.salon.com/blog/xylocopa/2009/09/27/goodbye_to_all_that
I assume you're somewhere near my age (I'm 48), and that your father, like mine, was born during the Great depression and came of age amidst the Post-War Boom, a time of wealth creation unparalleled in human history. I get the impression that our fathers thought this was the natural order of things, one that would continue without any intervention on anyone's behalf. And while a generation of Rip van Winkles snored in front of their television sets, their leaders were busy shredding the social contract that made it possible for them to go from hardscrabble beginnings to comfortable affluence in half a generation. I don't know what else to say, except thanks for posting this, and hang in there.

http://open.salon.com/blog/xylocopa/2009/09/27/goodbye_to_all_that
Good lord. What an ordeal!

You all have great courage to face this as you say you have. I think I'd have crumbled somewhere along the way.

Bless you and your family.
I wish I could say "unbelievable" with a straight face, but I can't. I believe it all too easily. The lenders have cynically completely circumvented the intentions of the HAMP program, and no one is doing anything to fix that. We truly are a nation of the corporations, by the corporations and for the corporations. Disgusting.
Excellent post. You are doing the right thing.
If you haven't seen this article, you might be reassured: "It’s OK to Walk Away, A Law Professor Argues" from the WSJ:
http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2009/10/30/its-ok-to-walk-away-a-law-professor-argues/
or the full paper here:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1494467
I feel for you. We haven't reached that point, but the economy since 2001 has been humbling and financially difficult for our household. We are fortunate that we bought at a lower point in the market (although we're also stuck in this house forever - good thing we like the neighborhood) but our consumer debt is ghastly. Like you, we wanted to do everything we could to keep paying the mortgage. So when crisis times came - and came again, and came again - we did things like pay essential bills (health insurance, for example) on credit cards. We also have a special needs child, who is doing great now but needed therapies paid out of pocket when we could least afford it. There were months without income when my husband become ill. On and on . . . won't bore you.

We keep holding on - our credit scores are great! They love us. We are their indentured servants. Anyway, I'm tired of pretending it hasn't happened to my family. It can happen to anyone. Best wishes to you and your family, and thank you for sharing your story.
How many fewer countries would the US have to invade in order to keep US citizens in their homes? What would the world look like if we stop spreading US dollars across the globe as "aid" and used the money to keep US citizens in their homes?
Whew - a journey of infinitely exasperating twists and turns. You did the right thing...over and over and over again. I'm nearly dizzy from shaking my head. Hang tough. My gut says the worst is behind you! This is an important and infinitely valuable post-thanks for sharing your story.
Excellent post, well done. Feel your pain. Sometimes knowing the right thing to do can be antithetical to received wisdom, but it nonetheless remains the right thing to do. That is how true wisdom is generated.
i'm going through that same process right now. the bank recently decided that I'm not eligible for trial loan modification that i have paying for 6 months under HAMP. I also received vague explanations of why i was not eligible. The banks don't want to do these modifications and they are not doing them, they are just running millions of us around in circles.
Gordon-- I wonder the same thing.
Thank you all for your kinds words and support. It's been a very frustrating experience, but the kind that causes a lot of anguish without real, day-to-day suffering. I'm glad we've finally made some sense of this.
This is very smart thinking. You are a business, your family is your business. Houses are no longer homes, people buy them or iphones and a few years later become bored or whatever and get rid of them.

The banks aren't trying to screw people, they just have unintelligent people running things. We have some of these places hiring for these re-modification people. Low income, untrained, no motivation or guidance. I feel sorry for the ones doing the actual work.

The bank said your house or your childrens lives. I think you made the right choice and be very proud to value your family so much. I'm sorry you had to be brutalized by vermin.
@anewshound, et al: I've heard this from others, and I can't say if the lenders are subverting HAMP or the thing is simply undoable for some reason that makes no sense to me. I know that many of the (few) completed modifications are in default now, possibly up to half, so perhaps this is about cutting losses all around.

I.e., if the banks don't believe modifications are productive, they leave them in place for compliance reasons and the house-obsessed, but otherwise make them disagreeable.

They're being squeezed from both sides, FWIW -- pressure to lend to get the economy moving, pressure to tighten lending to prevent losses, pressure from investors not to write-down assets, etc. Not a good time for anyone.
Thanks for sharing this. I think the final message is, the most important thing is family. Money is great to have, but cannot love you back. You are doing the right thing and at this time, everyone is suffering, everyone is learning and everyone is seeing how necessary it it really is to shift focus and roll. Congratulations on your new job and don't look back, ever forward. What you are teaching your children is throughout this, life is unpredictable. You do your best with what you have. You strive to provide safety, security, food, shelter and direction. They will be the better for it especially if they understand what took place. As long as you love them, they will be okay. R.
You sound so... calm... reasoned. I'm glad you can live in your now and not in the storm-troubled past. I'm not sure I could.
I've been working on buying a house. Reading the tea leaves for guessing the future of our economy. You've make me think about renting for a few years...
Great writing. Very clear. very heartfelt. Clean response to a vicious muse. Thank you.
MK--

I once stood on the edge of losing my home too, but for a much different reason: b/c of a sadistic boss!

Long story short, he was w/holding my PAY such that I never knew how much $$ was coming in--even though I had actually worked all those hours! I think it came as a result of my blowing the whistle on him for stealing $$ (d'ya think?).

I got a 14-day suspension that'll stay on my record forever after never blemishing it (after 20+ yrs on the job), but HE lost his job--and in my circles (as a union official), that's a badge of honor for having kept my job. Still, I had many, many sleepless nites of wondering how to make my house payment, keep the lites on, and eat a little something for myself and my pets.

Times are slightly better, though a series of major car and home repairs forced me into Consumer Credit Counseling--which was the best thing I ever did. My $$ situation is very slowly improving, but that's life the in big city, I guess.

Still, you're a better man than I, and I commend you on the courage you show in placing more value on your family than in your house. It is, after all, just a place to live; it's only your loved ones that make it a home, wherever that may be. You're working again, and you and your family will overcome this obstacle too. Hang tough.
Kudos to you and mate for giving the "system" a college try. I live in Phoenix, one of the maximum disaster areas. I've heard many similar tales. Also heard that R/E is starting to recover elsewhere. Not here. Our modest little 2-story abode dropped another 2% THIS MONTH, and now comes in at 57% of June '07 purchase price (6 months after the slide began). We relocated from Florida for jobs after losing both my small business and then my wife's 27 year finance career to "corporate downsizing". Easily, the worst financial mistake of my life. We lost 20% on our 2 year old home in FL, then (oh, the agony) decided to "hedge" this house against "some" deflation by putting 22% (65K) down. The DP's gone, of course, and we are around 61K under mortgage water at my tender age of 62. Our creative I/O mortgage contract flips to a P&I in 24 months, amortized for 25 years. That means the payments go up from $1550 to around $2400. For a property worth - maybe - $150K then? Nah. Screw it. I'm done with this home ownership garbage. The bank can have it back, including the 30K we spent on remodeling the place. I won't give a flying f**k about what it does to my 800+ credit rating. I'm looking forward to being a "Renter" with the same excitment that I once anticipated being a "Home Owner". Just think! One lousy payment a month - way, way less than my recent mortgages. AND - somebody else has to fix the freakin' air conditioner. And the dishwasher. And the garage door. And if we decide to move, we wait out the lease and simply "move". Wow.
Thank you for sharing this post. This is all happening here in NJ too in the more affluent leafy green suburbs. Yet so many of us have been so concerned about keeping up appearances that these neighbors ...disappear so quietly...and no one seems to know until they are gone.
I was glad to see you get past January and not take the "deed-in-lieu-of foreclosure" route. That could have had even further devastating financial implications.
With some caveats, the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Act of 2007 allows homeowners/borrowers who have lost their property to foreclosure to be absolved of the responsibilty for paying taxes on the deficiency, i.e. the difference between what they owe and the low ball price the bank will sell the house for once they get it back. That's right. TAXES.
Had you taken the "in-lieu" fix, simply by definition you would not have experienced a foreclosure, and therefore would have exposed your family to Federal taxes which are reported to the IRS on a 1099-C.
State taxes differ in "forgiveness" scenarios and you may still find yourself being hounded to pony up to the locals.
Good luck.
@alsoknownas: Good points. Last I checked (which was some months ago, admittedly) the IRS was currently forgiving the tax liability from deeds-in-lieu, and WA also doesn't have income tax. I will re-check, however -- I'm clearly to the point where I'll except whichever option exposes us to the least risk. Either way, I'll lawyer-up when I have some paperwork.
Alrighty, here's the skinny as I recalled it (from http://www.allsup.com, of all places):

"...The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 addresses the issue of the tax implications of a deed in lieu of foreclosure. Through 2012, the act provides that you do not have to pay federal taxes on the deficiency amount if:
- The deed in lieu of foreclosure is for your primary residence;
- The original loan was used to purchase, build or improve the primary residence; and
- The original loan is secured by your primary residence.
You also may avoid tax liabilities if:
- You are insolvent (have more debt than assets) at the time the deed in lieu of foreclosure was facilitated; and
- You filed for bankruptcy prior to the closing on your home..."

...and, with respect to foreclosure (from http://www.foreclosure.com/statelaw_WA.html):

"...Are deficiency judgments permitted in Washington?
Generally, adeficiency judgment may be not obtained using thenon-judicial foreclosure process when a property in foreclosure is sold at a public sale for less than the loan amount that the underlying mortgage or deed of trust secures. A deficiency judgment can be obtained injudicial foreclosure sale, unless the property had been abandoned for the preceding six (6) months prior to the foreclosure judgment or decree that would preclude any deficiency..."

Sooo...yeah. Sounds like a zero-sum until I talk to the lender again (we were in non-judicial foreclosure, IIRC).
Great essay Mike! Excellent writing.
Terrific, honest, informative. I rent, a state of affairs which I think needs to be romanticized for the new American era, in the same way that home ownership was romanticized for previous generations. It certainly does make life simpler; I don't need to work more than 7 months out of the year, and the remaining time I'm able to travel, entertain, take classes, dream. Sweating a high-overhead lifestyle is absolutely not for me - I don't have the constitution for it. Better a serene life in a simple urban apartment than a worrisome life in an expensive private home.
You've done a great job of "humanizing" this problem. Great post and best of luck whatever happens!
this just isn't right and yet it is an all too familiar story. i am so sorry for your many losses.
You did everything you could to resolve the situation. Much more than most, but it doesn't do much good when the lender is disingenuous. Good luck with the next phase of your life.
I feel your pain. I'm feeling my pain as we speak. I will be moving in a few weeks after wasting 14 months trying to "do the right thing."
All of the bullets in your post are also in mine, probably just a different bank. They have been utterly impossible and have done everything possible to string me along -- until I finally made an unemotional business decision and stopped paying. I'm doing a strategic default, cutting my losses and getting out from under this burden of home ownership. My credit is going to be ruined, but I don't care. At 65, I don't need any more credit, I don't want to ever own a house again and I'm looking forward to letting someone else worry about the leak in THEIR roof. Best of luck to you and your family, Michael.
Lezlie
- mortgage interest has always been deductible, most economists, whether Blue or Red consider this a Bad Idea, because...

- a house is NOT an investment, it is a place to live at a deductible price

Investment means buying a physical good, whose use increases one's income; said increase is the Return on Real Capital (that's Econ 101 speak). There is no return on housing. The "profit" which accrues to Banksters comes not as Return on Real Capital, but from wage inflation. Since there hasn't been any of that since Reagan (if you check, you'll see that median income is the same as it was then), we've wasted billions, if not trillions, of GDP on houses with nothing to show for it. How foolish.
Very impressive, well-written and clearly exlained post. And pleant of timely and relevent comments as well. Like M Chariot, I've alwasy been a renter and have enjoyed the freedom from life's administrative drudgeries it offers. Your article is quite the eye-opener for how home ownership can take over your life. Looks like you acted wisely at every step.
@Robert Young: You are correct, of course. I was really referring to the tax reform act in '86 which left mortgage interest as the only sort of deductible interest.

I was raised by my grandfather who was born in 1910, BTW, and in his day home ownership was an entirely different animal. Before easy 30yr loans buying a home was rightfully seen as a losing proposition and a pain in the ass, pretty much.

I get both the social control and community-building aspects of home ownership, however. It helps people feel invested in their neighborhoods, but also has us fixated on those payments and land values above all else.

I'd wager I'll care about my neighbors a little more, however, when I have the time to notice them.
My wish is for all these idiotic fannie may crap people to be sued for upkeep on all the empty homes THEY now own. They thought they would win and they hedged their bets to win and I really hope cities take them to court!
As for you and your family I wish you nothing but peace and a wonderful landlord to keep you all safe. I am so very sorry you were caught up in this...
I agree with all that has been said about the home buying process and the expense of maintaining the joint. I have thought of another reason why I will probably never be a homeowner: Homeowner Associations. I can't speak for the rest of you, but in my neck of the woods, HOA's are too powerful and too inflexible and really don't help homeowners as much as you think it would.

Now I am not much of a property rights fundamentalist, and I do get annoyed by people who let their grass grow so high you need a pith helmet and a walking stick to navigate it, throw trash in their yards, have cars on blocks etc etc. There are some health and safety issues that have to be appropriately addressed for everyone's well being. But to have to get approval on your home's paint color? And landscaping? And to have a playscape for your kids in the backyard? Oh and here where I live you can get your home foreclosed on if you don't pay your association's due, even if your mortage and taxes are up to date.

I have heard too many horror stories about HOAs . One of my former coworkers was cited by his because they deemed that his lawn wasn't cut as short as proscribed. Yep, fined because a handful of grass blades were 1/4" too high! Then there is the story of a current coworker of mine whose first choice of exterior paint colors were rejected by the HOA. And no, they were not anything too odd or bright etc. Then there is the story I saw on the news about a couple who fell behind on their dues. The HOA was kind enough to give payment plans, oh and an additional 25% in interest tacked on to the balance. My philosophy is: I pay the mortgage. I pay the maintenance. I pay the taxes. You, HOA, don't. So if I want to paint my house heliotrope with neon orange trim and plant Venus Flytraps in my yard, that's my business.

Whereas, being a renter, I don't have to deal with the issues involved in home ownership. As long as I pay my rent on time, keep my place clean, don't trash the place and don't annoy or disturb my neighbors, I get left alone. Plus my kid and I get to use a rather nice swimming pool without having dues to use it. Plus all I have to pay as far as utilities go is my electricity.

Still, a part of me would like a house if only for my daughter. But until it becomes a lot less complicated and usurious, I will rent.
Speaking from experience, it is hard to fully express the relentless mental and physical stress on an individual and/or family. And, the older you are the more stressful it becomes because there are fewer opportunities to find work, time is quickly running out to recoup losses and get back on your feet, and for most older Americans (think baby boomers) health becomes an overriding issue.

If you are making it now and have a job or source of income, you can pay your bills, and you have your health then you should count your blessings. Because as you all just read, even a highly employable person like Michael can suffer major life changing setbacks. Most people will never read or know Michael’s story and yet everyday, thousands of more lives will change on a dime often with much more tragic results than Michael’s family.

Many of you feel some empathy for what I, Michael and 10’s of millions of Americans are enduring. Others feel sympathy. However, most Americans are neither sympathetic or compassionate. Most people are selfish and focused on their own needs. Most, but not all, embrace conservative ideology. The party that is responsible for systematically destroying the country, also sponsors and promotes divisiveness and openly promotes elitism. Conservatives openly and overtly want this government to fail. The preamble to the Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” How many conservatives, especially conservative provocateurs support the Constitution in actions, deeds and words? Maybe they don’t know the meaning of the words justice, tranquility, common defense, general welfare or liberty.

As a country, as a civilization, we are teetering on the edge of economic collapse and yet seemingly most people are acting like ostrich’s with their heads stuck in the ground oblivious or ignorant to what is clearly happening to this country. The plutocrats have taken control of all three branches of government, they control the content of the mainstream media and they spend billions annually influencing and deflecting public opinion in order to further their greedy nefarious practices. Our country has been systematically raped, pillaged and plundered by the wealthy elite and yet that is not enough to pacify their insatiable greed! In capitalism, all things are defined, measured and evaluated by money. Those who have the money have the power. In America, less than 5% of the population has over 90% of the wealth. When a government completely kowtows to the plutocrats, the greed becomes reckless and out of control. Everyone is seeing and experiencing the effects of a failed democracy in collusion with the out of control plutocrats.

So I say to you Michael and for anyone reading, hopefully you understand that you are nothing more than an insignificant pawn in the eyes of the plutocrats. You are allowed to exist to work and to create money (more profits) and any discretionary dollars you have, you are expected to spend them. If it is possible to find someone, anyone, anywhere that will do your job for less, then they will be hired and you fired. In America, if you don‘t make money or spend it, you are literally expendable. According to conservatives, if you don’t have a job, it’s your fault and it’s your problem. Why should we pay for your irresponsibility?

Given what has happened in just the past two years, the evidence is overwhelming - the plutocrats and their proxies in government have taken over control of the country. I am here today because I think Michael’s story is the perfect example of a good person doing all he can to secure a decent life for himself and his family and at every turn his efforts were stymied by the powers to be. There is good news. He isn’t going to join the more than 3 million people living homeless in America, his child will not likely be among the 17 or more million children who are hungry and/or malnourished in America and apparently he won’t soon be joining the 10’s of millions of Americans who are without or cannot afford health insurance today and the many thousands that will die prematurely for lack of health care. I guess that’s something we can all can feel good about. I just wish I could.
Thank you for sharing. Trust me when I say I relate, deeply sympathize, and wish your family happiness and lives of less stress.

I gave up my "I'm never going to move, I'm here and keeping this place forever and ever" house just over 2 years ago. It was a very hard decision, but once made I came to peace.... I fought the bank, and the bank won.

My youngest is leaving the nest, so it's just my eldest and I.... I'm looking at it as a freedom to move where I want, when I want....
@Renee Smith: Roger that :)
I bit my fingernails to the nibs reading this! I'm going through a landlord eviction process now. Oh, I've paid the rent, on time for 7 years but the city's building inspectors cited the owner for substandard, housing and code violations (3 pages worth) and gave him one month to set up a timeline for repairs. I can no longer stay while the extensive work is being done. So, eviction it is. Disabled and living on a fixed income in the second most expensive rental market in the nation, I will become homeless. I write this not as a woe-unto-me story but rather to illustrate so many of us, homeowners and renters, are in similar straits, on sinking boats. Learn to swim cuz no one's going to throw us a lifeline.
I can't imagine living under this kind of stress for so long. I never worried until I had children. Then it became very important to have a stable roof over our heads. The neighborhood and schools meant a great deal and where we lived was paramount. Fortunately, I did not land in this terrible predicament but I've been close on a few occasions. Good luck...