There is something wrong with America right now. Something very, very wrong.
Wages and benefits are being slashed. Workers laid off. Unions targeted -- and busted. Our kids' education cut. Across the country, from California to New York to Wisconsin, this assault on working-class Americans is being justified with a common refrain: It is time for us to tighten our belts.
But, there is one group who hasn't had to sacrifice at all -- the people who caused the financial crisis. People like Chase CEO Jamie Dimon. Mr. Dimon took home a $17 million bonus in 2010, all the while keeping New York homeowners in limbo as they fought tooth-and-nail to save their homes.
For years, the banking industry peddled predatory loans, targeting first-time homebuyers and African-American and Latino communities. When the party ended, and these toxic loans were exposed, the American taxpayer -- the American homeowner -- was left to foot the bill.
What happened to Mr. Dimon and the bank CEOs who preyed on people and caused the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression? Did he go to jail? Did he have his taxes raised to pay for the decline in revenue? Was he forced to help the people he scammed out of the biggest investments of their lives?
No! He got bailed out by the government. His taxes have been cut. He has permanently modified the loans of 6 percent (6 percent!) of New York homeowners who have sought help. He and his friends are now richer and more powerful than they ever have been before.
Meanwhile, children's education is becoming a second-class priority; workers are falling ever further behind executives; and working families are becoming homeless with no relief in sight. It is no understatement to call this a crime: the rich executives crashed our economy and have been rewarded, while the working and middle class pay for their continued excess and greed.
We sacrifice, sacrifice, and sacrifice some more, and we are told it's for the common good.
Well, I think we've given up enough.
That's why I told Mr. Dimon and JP Morgan Chase that it was their turn to shoulder the burden of the economic collapse. And why I joined my friend New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams in making it clear to Chase that until they use their record profits to help bail out the people, they will not be using any of my money to pay for Mr. Dimon's $17 million bonus.
My colleagues in the religious community and I have closed our Chase accounts as part of New York Communities for Change's Not the Way Forward Campaign. No longer will we be supporting JP Morgan Chase executives building their fortunes by taking families' homes away from them. We need to continue to close our Chase accounts until common-sense foreclosure prevention strategies are employed, adhered to, and aggressively administered. It's the right thing to do.
If JP Morgan Chase wants the business of the community and its leaders, it must:
* Stop all filed and unfiled foreclosure actions and put in a place a mortgage modification process which produces permanent, affordable, transparent, timely modifications whenever these have a positive net present value.
* Pay for an independent reviewer and pay for borrower representation for an independent appeal process for all mortgage modification requests that are denied by the bank.
* Pay restitution to homeowners who lost their properties unfairly -- that is when a modification under the above terms would have been possible.
* Release data about Chase's proprietary and HAMP mortgage modifications to the City Comptroller and the State Banking Commissioner.
Until that happens, unions, elected officials, local cities and villages, community members, and clergy will continue to close our Chase accounts.
Everyone who is disgusted by the attacks on homeowners and workers because of Chase's recklessness needs to be heard as well. That is why this fight continues.
Next Friday, March 18, at noon, UAW National President Bob King will be joining us here in New York at JP Morgan Chase's world headquarters (270 Park Ave) to lend his voice in the fight against the bank's predatory practices. We need all of you to come out and let JP Morgan Chase know that it is their turn to share in the sacrifice.