“Just nine years ago, I was homeless, and only in America can someone go from being homeless to the House of Representatives in less than nine years. “I ended up getting involved when in 2011 an Obama-era housing program took away our family’s cattle ranch out west, and after being homeless for several months, I made the life decision to get involved rather than take over the family business, which had been my plan all along. I remember so distinctly, thinking I’m never going to be in this position again. I don’t have to get depressed or sad about this, because life is about choices, and I’m making a choice that is going to be better for me tomorrow and keep on going, and that’s how you pull yourself up from your bootstraps.”
Cammack said Obama’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) program was the one that cost her family the ranch.
“The turning point was in April 2011, when … my mom she got the call that we had 23 days to evict, and the Obama initiative which was the HAMP program, his signature housing program, which no one actually signed up to be a part of. About seven million people lost their homes under that program and very few legislators were vocal about the failure of this program. It just blew my mind. The older I got, the more I realized how swampy and disgusting this type of legislation was. Republicans and Democrats were complicit in this.”
Obama’s HAMP program was a mess. It did help some people, but many others were sandbagged by the banks taking part in the program that used loopholes to foreclose on their homes and businesses. How did that happen? Here’s an explanation from the American Prospect.
Servicers quickly discovered that they could game HAMP in their own interest, using it as a kind of predatory lending program. One tactic was to chronically lose borrowers’ income documents to extend the default period. “I’m doing a book now,” Bair says, “and [in] almost every family I interviewed, servicers had lost their paperwork at least once.” Prolonged “trial modifications” allowed servicers to rack up payments and late fees while advancing the foreclosure process behind the borrower’s back. They could then trap the borrower after denying the modification, demanding back payments, missed interest, and late fees, using the threat of foreclosure as a hammer. “They created a situation where the borrower would start making the payments, end up not getting the modification, and still go into foreclosure,” Bair says.
This pattern happened with disturbing regularity. According to a recent Government Accountability Office report, 64 percent of all applications for loan modifications were denied. Employees at Bank of America’s mortgage servicing unit offered perhaps the most damning revelations into servicer conduct. In a class-action lawsuit, these employees testified that they were told to lie to homeowners, deliberately misplace their documents, and deny loan modifications without explaining why. For their efforts, managers rewarded them with bonuses-in the form of Target gift cards-for pushing borrowers into foreclosure.
Someone who is motivated by that kind of injustice seems like exactly the sort of person we need in Congress. Also, there are an awful lot of liberals who will tell you that America is a terrible place. But, in how many countries in the world could a woman at the absolute bottom of society rise all the way up to make it into Congress? That type of upward mobility is common in America and one of the many reasons why this is still the greatest country on God’s green earth.
John Hawkins is the author of 101 Things All Young Adults Should Know.