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Banks can’t seem to acknowledge hard times for regular folks

Updated: December 23, 2011 8:13AM

Just when I thought things couldn’t get much worse in the housing market, I got a statement from my bank telling me my monthly mortgage has shot up by $400.

Apparently the bank’s escrow department underestimated the increase in my real estate taxes and thus failed to adjust my monthly payments in the past.

I can’t begin to understand how my home is worth a lot less than it was just five years ago, according to the Cook County assessor’s office, and the bank wants me to pay more for it.

It doesn’t make sense.

There’s a boarded up house across the street — no, make that two boarded-up houses across the street, my home has lost nearly half of its value, and the bank wants me to pay $400 more a month?

No wonder so many people are walking away from their mortgages and letting the banks foreclose. Big banks and lenders are still squeezing homeowners even though these entities caused the housing meltdown in the first place.

I’m mad enough to grab a sign and join the Occupy Wall Street protesters. They may not be a sophisticated bunch, but they’re right. Something’s got to give.

Thankfully, I’m able to come up with the extra $400.

But what about the homeowner who is scraping up his or her mortgage in the first place? What about the employee that has been forced to take furlough days or the person that has had his or her overtime cut?

Having to pay an unexpected $400 a month for a home in this housing market could push a person right into foreclosure.

When I called my bank, the representative was apologetic, but the best he could do was set me up with something called the “Loss Mediation” department.

Turns out that department only deals with mortgages already in default. Ironically, a person has to wait until he or she has fallen behind on a mortgage before being eligible for assistance.

Policies like this are a big reason that improvements in the housing market have stalled.

There are a lot of decent people doing the best they can. They aren’t trying to scam the system or take advantage of government subsidies or hitch a free ride through life.

They just need someone to hear them and to care.

But unfortunately, these homeowners are simply not getting the help they need when they need it.

A study by the Center for Responsive Politics may shed some light on why.

That study found that the median net worth of congressional members is $891,506 — nine times that of a typical U.S. household, and 47 percent of these elected officials are millionaires.

When so many elected officials are wealthy, chances are they think those who are struggling just haven’t worked hard enough.

Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the center, pointed out in a statement that the “vast majority of members of Congress are quite comfortable, financially, while many of their own constituents suffer from economic hardships,” according to Gannett News Service.

“It’s no surprise that so many people grumble about lawmakers being out of touch. Few Americans enjoy the same financial cushion maintained by most members of Congress.”

The average person is fighting to stay afloat.

Banks used to be looked upon by many as helpful institutions. But today, a lot of people are resentful about the power banks have over our lives. After all, if you don’t have a credit card that was issued by a bank, you can hardly rent a car or register for a hotel room.

So when a bank arbitrarily raises a mortgage because it did a poor job taking care of its business, there’s little that can be done about it.

In this instance, my bank is making me pay for its flawed escrow system. As far as I’m concerned, that’s just the same as gouging customers with unfair fees.

But that’s OK. This is one reason the Occupy movement won’t just fade away.

They speak for a lot of people who are fed up with abominable greed.

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