By David Swanson
If you’ve lost your house to a predatory lender and you ask your congress member to impeach Bush and Cheney for your loss, will they look at you like you’re crazy? That depends entirely on how many of you are asking.
If there are not enough of you, they’ll look at you like you’re crazy for suggesting impeachment as a response to illegal wars, lies to Congress, misappropriation of funds, rewriting bills with “signing statements,” warrantless spying, extra-legal detentions, torture, war crimes, refusal to comply with subpoenas, or just about anything else. The White House could make the occupation of Iraq permanent or ignore a major hurricane or expose an undercover agent as payback for a whistleblower, and you’d get the “You’ve got to be nuts” look for suggesting impeachment if there weren’t enough of you. As a matter of fact, many of us already have.
But if the 81% of Americans who disapprove of the job Bush is doing as president were to demand his removal, he’d be out on his ear faster than you can rig an election, award a no-bid contract, or fire an honest prosecutor.
A different question, of course, is whether, in asking for impeachment as a response to losing your house, you really would be crazy. On what grounds, after all, could you really argue that Bush and Cheney stole your house?
Well, actually pretty solid ones in a lot of cases. They didn’t do it single-handedly, but they did it. A one-month moratorium on foreclosures is a joke, but it illustrates what the White House could do if it wanted to. It could institute a 5-year moratorium on foreclosures. To not do so is arguably as gross a failure by the President to perform his duties as has been his response to Hurricane Katrina, his reaction to pre-9-11 warnings, or his sending troops into battle without body armor, all sins of omission for which constitutional experts much better informed than I have argued he should be impeached.
But Bush and Cheney have not just failed to respond to the immediate crisis. Their actions have largely created it. Whether you are convinced, as I am, that they deserve much of the blame for the growing recession, you would be hard-pressed to exculpate them in the area of mortgage industry regulation.
Bush appoints and oversees the Secretary of the Treasury and all of the federal financial regulators. Federal banking regulations tend to trump state and local measures. In fact, early in the Bush-Cheney years I spent a lot of time trying to pass bills to protect borrowers from predatory lenders, dishonest mortgage lenders who mislead people into loans with the goal of forcing them to refinance again and again, paying additional fees each time, with the ultimate outcome being foreclosure. This outcome was sought, not avoided, by these lenders who profit precisely by making “bad” lending decisions. Working at ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, I watched our members lobby successfully for local ordinances. However, in some cases the state legislatures stepped in and erased all local protections. Then a bill was proposed in Congress to ban all state and local protections in one fell swoop. That bill has not yet passed. Its leading proponent was Bush-Cheney crony, and now incarcerated former Congressman, Bob Ney.
Meanwhile, with Congress refusing to take serious protective action, but refraining from passing the destructive Ney Bill, the job of making the world safe for predatory lenders fell to federal regulators, including prominently the OCC (the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency). These Bush appointees have worked on our dime for seven years to strip us of our homes while protecting the abuses of mainstream corporate loan sharks.
But, even setting aside the question of who is to blame, the question of what can be done now to solve the problem leads straight to Article II, Section 4, of the U.S. Constitution. Asking the loan sharks to reform and monitor themselves is destined to end in disappointment. Asking Congress to pass bills to protect people from foreclosure, or to accomplish any other noble end, is destined to end in veto or signing statement. State attorneys general do not have the power the federal government has. But asking Bush to start regulating his friends, just when they’re devising creative new ways to profit from the rapidly spreading misery of others, is never going to work. And, wherever “compassionate conservatism” may be hiding, it’s not at Dick Cheney’s house.
The current Congress is behaving as if it cannot and should not do anything major on any of the problems that face us for the next 11 months. But millions will lose their homes in that time. Hundreds of billions of dollars will be flushed down the Iraq Occupation in that time. Even the threat of impeachment greatly improved the Nixon administration prior to his departure. The House of Representatives is where we can insist on being represented. My recommendation is this. If you lose your house, move into your congress member’s nearest office and live there until they agree to support the impeachment of the despots who are destroying our nation. Only one loan should be foreclosed, and that is the loan we made George W. Bush of our White House.
Note: While any mistakes in the above are mine alone, the general idea comes from an activist in California named Michael Blomquist, and credit is also owed to U.S. Senate candidate from Maine Laurie Dobson who has been connecting the issues of foreclosure and impeachment for months now.