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If We Knew Then What We Know Now

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By George W. Mantor

RISMEDIA, August 10, 2010—Last week brought to a close another year in my life. I can’t say that I celebrated, but I marked the occasion as I normally do with some reflection on the journey up to this point.

It is sobering to note that, even under the rosiest of circumstances, I have come way further than I have left to go. That awareness is accompanied by a sense of urgency and a relentless clock ticking in the back of my head.

The irony is that as your capacity to appreciate life increases, your ability to so declines. Carpe diem. Gather ye rosebuds.

Like everyone, if I could tinker with a few things, I suppose I would, but I know it doesn’t work that way. You take the good with the bad. Then you realize there is no good or bad about it—it is what it is. Some of it is what you attracted; some of it is beyond your control.

You learn, you grow, you try to do better; you try to forgive yourself and soldier on. You tell yourself that everyone makes mistakes and that we do the best we can with the knowledge and tools we have available to us at the time. And, you move on…if you can.

But, moving on is not so easy for those who have been targeted for misery by someone else; someone who wants what you have but doesn’t want to work for it.

Sure, most folks get taken advantage of a time or two over the course of a lifetime. And, usually it doesn’t amount to much. But, that was before Wall Street transformed itself from venerable investment specialists to cheap, two-bit grifters.

It took twenty years of methodical effort to put the pieces in place and involved the corruption of politicians and a dismantling of the reasonable legal protections that would have prevented the artificial appreciation and predatory lending that is at the very heart of our economic meltdown.

Lately, I spend the majority of my time and energy trying to help people save their homes from unlawful foreclosures. And, what is so discouraging is that at every level where they are supposed to get help and hope, they get neither.

The people who contact me from all over the country have provided me with evidence of the most unbelievable break down in our society. Corporations and complicit or indifferent government agencies are actually eager participants in the pillaging of middle class America.

HAMP is nothing more than a cynical web through which to ensnare more homeowners into default.

Regulatory agencies, law enforcement and the judiciary have all turned their backs on us.

This is a crisis of callousness. No one cares what is happening to our neighbors and neighborhoods where job losses and vacant houses are leading to a new reality.

Despite all of the recent talk of an improving economy, the numbers out here on the street don’t add up. Out here, it’s getting worse, not better.

We’ve lost 8 million jobs, and at the same time, more workers are entering the job force for the first time. Just to get back to where we were three years ago, we would need over 10 million new jobs immediately. But, the economy has shown that it cannot produce more than 100,000 jobs per month.

Does anyone have a scenario for how and where those jobs will develop? What industries are poised for historical growth?

Prisons. A recent Pew study said that more than 2.3 million people are behind bars, and that the United States continues to lead the world in both the number and percentage of people who are incarcerated. At least we are still number one at something.

According to a recent report of the Congressional Research Service, the U.S. has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of it are prisoners.

The corrections sector directly employs 770,000 people, a number that is expected to grow by up to 16% by 2016. Still, that’s only 223,000 new jobs.

But, prisons also fuel a multi-billion dollar contract services industry that employs tens of thousands more to build prisons and provide inmates with health care, education and food, according to the report.

In contrast, the entire U.S. automobile industry employs about 880,000 workers, the report states. So, who is making money off the prison industry? The same people who made money off of the collapse of the economy—Wall Street.

Back in 1999, when Graham-Leach-Bliley gutted the protections of the Glass-Steagall Act, we didn’t know the consequences.

When MERS dismantled our county recording systems, we didn’t know there would forever be a cloud on title or a method to achieve an unlawful foreclosure embedded in the plan.

When will we have seen enough to stand together and fight for each other? We cannot say that we still don’t know. Sure, I’ve heard that it’s all conspiratorial raving.

But, when you follow up on every fact, dig down through every occurrence, and eliminate every other possibility, what you are left with, no matter how improbable, is the truth.

If we knew then what we know now, we never would have participated. Now we know where they are leading us. Now we must act.

George Mantor is a nationally respected authority on all areas of real estate and is frequently quoted in a wide range of publications. He is an oft invited guest of Fox Business Network and for many years, he was the host of “Keepin’ It Real…Real talk about the real thing, real estate” on KCEO radio. His articles have also recently appeared in Real Estate Finance, The Real Estate Professional, National Real Estate Investor, Broker Agent News, and Realty Times. His blog is http://www.realtown.com/gwmantor/blog.

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