Lisa Madigan Agrees to Attend IIRON’s June 10 Assembly
by Don Floyd, IIRON Lead Organizer
Following a recent meeting with a dozen IIRON leaders, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan agreed to attend the IIRON Covenant for Economic Justice Assembly on Sunday, June 10th, at St. Mark United Methodist Church, 85th and St Lawrence in Chicago.
IIRON leaders invited Madigan to attend the assembly because she has a leadership role on the federal taskforce that President Obama created earlier this year to investigate the wrong-doing of bankers and Wall Street financiers whose manipulation of the residential mortgage-backed securities market ended up crashing the economy in 2008, with resultant plummeting housing values and sky-rocketing unemployment.
While these bankers and financiers have recovered well from the crash (thanks, in no small part, to trillions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts) and are once again chalking up record profits and executive bonuses, more than 11 million families are stuck with over 700 billion dollars of negative equity on their homes. These “underwater” mortgages mean that homeowners owe thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands, more on their mortgage than the market value of their home.
At the meeting with Attorney General Madigan in late April, IIRON President Rev. Marilyn Pagán-Banks made the purpose of IIRON’s invitation clear:
Our neighbors and our neighborhoods are hurting. More and more of our neighbors are losing their jobs and are unable to pay their mortgages. More and more homes and buildings are being boarded up in our neighborhoods. Government bodies at every level, with budgets that have been devastated by the economic crisis brought on by the banks, are cutting basic human and neighborhood services to the bone, moving more and more poor and working people to the margins of society.
As people of faith, we find this to be completely unacceptable. We will not stand by and watch those who created this economic crisis continue to profit from it, while our neighbors’ families and our neighborhoods are devastated. Our faith and our values demand that we act as powerfully and decisively as possible to bring justice to a situation that has become more intolerable every day.
We are not looking for more halfway measures that continue to let those responsible off the hook, or that give a slap on the wrist for outrageously immoral behavior, behavior that has ruined countless lives and costed countless millions of workers’ hard-earned dollars. We are aware of what has been done so far and we, along with many others, judge it as not nearly enough. We are looking for clear and comprehensive restoration for our neighbors and for neighborhoods throughout the country.
Others at the meeting pointed out that while there are many families who are in imminent danger of losing their homes to foreclosure and who need immediate help, there are millions of others who continue to make mortgage payments, but who have certainly lost their hopes and dreams for a better life for themselves and their children.
These are families who purchased homes when the housing “bubble” was growing and were convinced that they were doing the “right” thing, the “responsible” thing—that they were “buying into the American Dream.” Millions of families were sold the dream that rapidly increasing values in the housing market would create enormous wealth for their families, enough wealth to provide a comfortable life, send their children to good colleges and help contribute to an early retirement. Little did these families know that their mortgages, built on false promises and studded with pitfalls like adjustable interest rates and balloon payments, were merely fodder for a feeding frenzy of greed on Wall Street.
Millions of families were badly hurt when this house of cards came tumbling down. And millions are still hurting. They deserve restoration from those who intentionally and unjustly manipulated the economy for their own profit.
For this to happen, our country desperately needs bold and courageous political leaders who are willing to publicly name this injustice and hold banks and Wall Street firms accountable for the damage they have caused.
Lisa Madigan can be such a leader. Her authority as Illinois Attorney General, her leadership role on the federal investigative taskforce and her close relationship with President Obama provide her with the platform and the power to bring significant change on this issue and real justice for millions of families.
On Sunday, June 10th, at the IIRON Covenant for Economic Justice Assembly, Lisa Madigan will be given the opportunity to publicly commit to being that leader and to working for justice with IIRON.