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End of Year Reflections - by Ed Koch


          Here we are at the end of 2011.  Our Congress is made up of bumblers who are interested only in their reelection, and the Republican leadership is obsessively focused on preventing the reelection of President Barack Obama, rather than providing solutions to America’s huge economic problems, particularly the unemployment rate.  Yet, America is bouncing back.  Our stock market has substantially recovered from losses brought about by the Great Recession.  Even the unemployment rate is starting to go down from a high of 9.1 percent to the current 8.6 percent.  The commentator who said “91.4 percent of our workforce is employed” was inspired.


          When I was in the Congress during the years 1968-77, the full employment target was considered to be 7 percent.  As a result of our enormous economic boom, that goal became 4 percent.  Of course, our lives could and should be better, much better.  Economic disparities have multiplied in recent years.  It is obscene that so many have seen their lifestyles suffer while a few have benefitted from government acts or more likely the refusal to act to protect the public.  Special interests like the prescription drug industry have benefitted from a Congress seeking campaign contributions, so that we pay nearly twice as much for our prescription drugs as do the people of Canada.  Is the Canadian Congress smarter or less corrupt than ours?
          Millions of Americans have had or will have their houses foreclosed because of the actions of corrupt Wall Street securities firms and banks.  The Congress and President have failed to find a way to address this problem, when the answer is so obvious: Congress should pass a law allowing judges in bankruptcy to reduce the principal of the mortgage.  We have bailed out Wall Street firms and banks, but we refuse to prevent American families from losing their major asset – their homes.  We bailed out the car companies who, as a result of mismanagement, had lost sales to competitors from Japan, South Korea and Germany.  If taxpayer monies hadn’t been used to save them, they would have gone into bankruptcy.  If we can bail out American car manufacturers, why not the American families in extremis? 
          According to The Times of November 30, “close to 10.7 million borrowers – more than a fifth of all mortgage holders – owe more than their homes are worth.”  Gretchen Morgenson of The Times on December 24 wrote, “Throughout the foreclosure crisis, Washington has done little to help people hang on to their homes.  All those programs that were supposed to help – HAMP, HARP, Hope for Homeowners – have mostly failed.”  The President should now urge the Congress to address the issue by providing a change in the bankruptcy laws needed to provide the bankruptcy judge with the authority to reduce the principal of a mortgage.  That would prevent American families from losing their homes and at the same time, eliminate the glut of empty houses that is causing a major drag on our economy.
          Notwithstanding all of the bumbling by Congress and the President, America is coming back, while Europe, with the exception of Germany, is crashing.  Let us hope that in 2012, our economy continues to rebound and that we are not dragged down by the economic crisis in Europe.  “America, America, God shed His grace on thee.  And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”


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