George Bush visits Wall Street. Photo by Spencer Platt, Getty Images.
I'm not sure, but I think they greeted him with flowers.
It's been a year since Congress put into effect a new bankruptcy law that makes it harder for people to declare bankruptcy and get a fresh start. It was easy for Congress to characterize bankrupt families as "deadbeats" and ignore the reality that more than 90 percent of all bankruptcies are due to medical emergencies, job loss, divorce or a death in the family.
This anniversary has got me thinking. Our middle class is built on shaky ground. The latest sign: a wave of new foreclosures driven by higher interest rates, lower housing prices, and predatory mortgage lending.
Middle and low-income families are under attack from predatory lenders who offer deceptive terms, charge unfair fees, and trap the unwary or the unlucky. According to Fannie Mae, about half of the subprime borrowers could qualify for regular interest rates, but didn't get them. That means there are hundreds of thousands of people paying much more than they should for their home loans.
What's especially outrageous is how predatory lenders go after African-American and other minority communities. If you are an upper-income African-American family, you are twice as likely to get a subprime loan as a lower-income white family. It's incredible -- even though you are doing better, you get a worse loan if you are African-American.
We didn't see the full impact of these abuses during the housing boom, but now -- with home prices sliding down and interest rates moving up -- we are seeing the first signs of a big problem. Tens of thousands of families have gotten into unfair deals and are now in over their heads. Mortgage foreclosures are up 53 percent from last year, and they are expected to keep rising.
Rather than passing laws that punish consumers trying to make ends meet, we should be cracking down on the irresponsible lenders that prey upon them. Congress needs to start paying attention to the growing problem of predatory lenders.
Just like with the bankruptcy bill, we aren't seeing action on Capitol Hill because financial companies are huge campaign contributors.