As a Consumer Advocacy lawyer, I can tell you that my colleagues and I have been on the front lines for years, dealing with the anguish of clients who have been victims of mortgage scams, of mortgage accounts that have been assigned and re-assigned into huge pools; who have had mortgage servicers who played games with their payments; and who have fallen for home equity scams and wound up in foreclosure.

We’ve tried to sound the alarm with limited success in Congress and State legislatures, but people funded initiatives don’t quite have the same pull as powerful industry lobbies.   Sometimes, a successful lawsuit or compelling story attracts dedicated journalists who tell the stories and get the ears of legislatures.

Unfortunately, as with Katrina, the early warning signs were ignored, and the dams have burst.

I’ve followed recent analysis of the “mortgage crisis” and have put the lion’s share on consumers for taking out overextending mortgages.  The post-mortem doesn’t take into account the advertising campaigns that got people into the offices of mortgage brokers where people were lied to and subjected to deceptive and often high pressure sales, drive-by appraisals, high closing costs, etc.

I want to hear how candidates for national office discuss this because I want to know if they get it.

I watched the Vice Presidential debate last night and was pleasantly shocked to hear this exchange with Sarah Palin:

Gwen Ifill:  Who do you think was at fault? I start with you, Gov. Palin. Was it the greedy lenders? Was it the risky home-buyers who shouldn’t have been buying a home in the first place? And what should you be doing
about it?

PALIN: Darn right it was the predator lenders, who tried to talk Americans into thinking that it was smart to buy a $300,000 house if we could only afford a $100,000 house. There was deception there, and there was greed and there is corruption on Wall Street. And we need to stop that.

Those darn predator lenders.  Exactly, Gov. Palin. Kudos, you got the point, and you expressed it to America.  We DO need to stop that.  Please tell Senator McCain.

Barak Obama, with his background in the grassroots, also gets it and has for a while.

BIDEN: But here’s the deal. Barack Obama pointed out two years ago that there was a subprime mortgage crisis and wrote to the secretary of Treasury. And he said, “You’d better get on the stick here. You’d better look at it.”

Yes, we should all look at it and make sure that consumers are the first to be protected.

Could it be that consumer advocacy has become, dare I say, sexy?

Louis M. Green

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