Scrooge would be proud. Even Mr. Potter, the greedy banker in "It's A Wonderful Life," didn't think of this. The bankers whose disastrous and incompetent speculations were subsidized by taxpayers through gargantuan bailouts, were foreclosing churches while they were celebrating their giant holiday bonuses.
I first became aware of the magnitude of this from an excellent story in The Washington Post on Wednesday, Dec. 30. I have been doing research about church foreclosures and making phone calls to both Democrats and Republicans in Washington since reading the Post story. I can promise that while I will be pursuing this matter in my column, there are also players in national print and network television media who have begun digging as you read these words.
The banks' attacks on the churches began well before the holiday
season, and follow the pattern of the banks' attacks on other Americans
such as victims of the Grapes of Wrath foreclosure wave generally:
consumers who are being gouged with credit card rate increases over 30
percent, creditworthy small businesses that are denied loans, the tidal
wave of outrageous fees, and the long litany of abuses that continue in
our modern version of the Gilded Age.
Long before the holiday season, the banks turned the screws on many houses of worship of many denominations, in many states and congressional districts. Some were simply foreclosed because they fell behind on payments in hard times where they were the last refuge of the hungry flock or the jobless workers who has nowhere else to turn.
In one of the most heinous financial abuses in decades, other churches with a perfect payment history on their loans were forced by banks to create large capital reserves. In one example mentioned in the Post story, a church with a perfect payment history was forced to create a $750,000 capital reserve, and desperately had to raise $500,000 of emergency money just to satisfy the voracious hunger of its bank.
That bank finally backed off, after the intervention of Jesse Jackson, but in many other cases, easily researched, the banks did not back off.
Think about what this means: With so many Americans hurting, in large measure because of the financial abuses that required huge taxpayer bailouts, many churches are forced to use scarce money to satisfy the voracious hunger of banks. That money cannot be used to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe the needy, and perform their vital missions in the service of the Lord.
The banks, who became charity wards of the state with taxpayer money, paying themselves gigantic salaries and bonuses for their failures, now place under attack the vital missions of churches, even those who have always paid their bills.
I have only begun with this issue, after reading the Post story, and others are now joining. We should follow the trail of the money. Are banks using money they force churches to put in reserve accounts to meet their own capital reserve requirements? What do Treasury Secretary Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke think of this? Isn't it time for a full congressional investigation? Will President Barack Obama fight for the churches being wrongly placed under attack? I hope so.
The American people are not happy with the behavior of banks, or the performance of the government. They are right.
It is one of the great outrages in history that those who speculated with credit derivatives and bundled mortgages, and countless bankrupted machinations that even they did not understand, lost oceans of money and become wards of taxpayers through bailouts of the largest magnitude ever, and then show the greed and arrogance to pay themselves gargantuan bonuses that they celebrate with champagne on New Year's Eve for a job well done. Then they foreclose churches doing the mission of the Lord and they attack and abuse even those churches that have always paid their bills.
Have they no shame? No honor? No decency?
Yes indeed, Scrooge would be proud, Mr. Potter would be joyous. But the American people are angry. It is time for Democrats and Republicans to unite to make this stop.
To mix a Biblical metaphor, the moneychangers are foreclosing the temple, and it is time to chase them out.