Friday, March 28, 2008

The Clerk's Tale

"[T]here are people of such disposition that, when they have taken a certain course, they cannot stop, but just as if they were bound to a stake, they will not slacken from that first purpose."
We happened to be visiting with a Pensacola court clerk for Escambia County's civil division yesterday. She mentioned another aspect of the mortgage crisis that hasn't received much, if any, attention locally.

Throughout the large office in which she was standing we could see stacks and stacks of unfiled manilla folders -- on the floor, on desk tops, leaning against the walls, piled precariously on chairs and on top of cabinets. We counted six of them four feet high or more and gave up after counting another seven smaller piles. Every one of them brought by mortgage lenders or whoever wound up at the bottom of the mortgage derivative "shitpile" as Atrios inelegantly, but accurately, puts it.

"Falling behind in the filing?" we asked.

The number of mortgage foreclosure cases being filed has "tripled the caseload in the last six months," she explained. "But because of the state budget cuts we're under a hiring freeze. We're doing the best we can."

Paul Krugman has a piece in today's New York Times assessing the policy proposal advanced by the three presidential candidates to address the mortgage crisis. It's the same crisis that's flooding our courts right now. Here's a short version of what each candidate proposes:
  • McCain: Do nothing. "Deregulation and tax cuts cure all ills."
  • Clinton: Rescue individual homeowners by creating "a modern version of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, the New Deal institution that acquired the mortgages of people whose homes were worth less than their debts, then reduced payments to a level the homeowners could afford."
  • Obama: "Broader financial regulation" of currently unregulated investment banks plus 'nudging' "private lenders into restructuring mortgages" rather than create (or recreate) a government agency to do it.
We're on Hillary's side in this one. Hoping for voluntary forbearance from mortgage lenders to help the national economy is as fruitless as saying "please don't" to a hungry grizzly bear. It's just not in their nature.

Like the Marquis in Chaucer's tale, "They will not slacken from that first purpose."

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