The Rev. Jesse Jackson isn't an economist but he's right on the money when it comes to assessing the nation's mortgage foreclosure crisis. Jackson asserts that millions of people risk being tossed from their homes if the nation's political and financial leaders fail to address this growing calamity.
While Chicago's minority and ethnic communities are at great risk, this foreclosure epidemic is spreading throughout the entire area and country.
Even so, it's amazing that our society is not exerting greater pressure on lawmakers, industry regulators and lenders to fix this problem. Maybe we're just realizing the acidity of home foreclosures on neighborhoods and the economy. Maybe we're too proud to ask for assistance. Maybe we're just overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. Or maybe we feel it is all our fault.
That's why it's healthy for the charismatic Rev. Jackson to be out front on this issue. He doesn't buy into any of those excuses or guilt trips.
Unlike many political and financial industry leaders--who have their heads in the sand or are advocating half-measures to blunt this crisis--Jackson has been yelling the loudest and longest about the foreclosure disaster through his public forums and newspaper columns (which appear locally in the Chicago Sun-Times). Throughout, he has advocated a government-sanctioned rescue of home owners, not a bailout of the mortgage broker industry--which often victimized borrowers with tricky lending tactics and onerous repayment conditions.
This week, Jackson is stepping up those efforts. He's asking the Chicago City Council to address the home mortgage crisis and is organizing a Dec. 10 march on LaSalle Street, right in the heart of the city's financial district. Jackson is also pushing for a moratorium on home foreclosures until borrowers can change their adjustable rate mortgages into more manageable fixed rate loans.
Now, Jackson is an old political player and far from naive. He knows that the little Chicago City Council can't do much--if anything--to ease this mammoth housing problem. Nor can the powers on LaSalle Street, even if he does succeed in disrupting their day with a protest rally.
But Rev. Jackson also realizes that time is running out and soon millions of home owners are going to be in a world of hurt. Making a run at the Chicago City Council is just one example of flexing his clout and celebrity to goad the powerful into action. I suspect this is sort of a tryout--because in very short order Jackson will likely take this movement from his hometown to the national stage.
Truth be told, no one knows the exact remedy to this problem.
But as stated here before, I'm confident this country's power brokers are creative and resourceful enough to find some type of public-private way of rescuing home owners from massive defaults and bankruptcy.
Rev. Jackson has done the math and has reached the same conclusion.
But first, he's got to get the power brokers' attention. And nobody does that better than Jesse Jackson.