We can debate whether or not owning property is an American birthright. Home ownership, however, is part and parcel of a dream that we’ve all been sold on since before we could walk. What does 10 million foreclosures say about that dream?
Most anyone reading that number is likely to have a couple of reactions, I’m guessing. One, where did the 10,000,000 number come from? I’ll get to that in a moment. By the way, 10,000,000 is a number that represents the number of people making up the population of the state of Michigan, America’s 10th most populated state.
The 10,000,000 number is the conservative estimate on foreclosures since the start of the Great Recession; some say the number could easily be double, or even triple that number. Whether it’s 10, 30, or even 1 million that number speaks volumes about our country and about Americans as a people.
For the past two weeks, I’ve been making my way through George Packer’s, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America. It’s not a breezy, summer beach book. I don’t usually read those types of books, anyway.
Packer’s book tells a tale about America that began in 1973, when the unwinding began (and actually, it began before that). This was the year that I was 11-years-old, slinging afternoon papers, buying baseball cards and bubblegum, and coming into my own as a slugging catcher for Trading Post in the Lisbon Junior Athletic League (LJAL). My dad was my coach. He also worked for Pejepscot Paper, and we seemed to be doing ok, or at least ok for a middle-class family at the time.
I caught a few minutes of Laura Gottesdiener on BookTV this morning, talking about her new book, A Dream Foreclosed: Black America and the Fight for a Place to Call Home. She details what Packer touches on in his book, when he looks at the foreclosure crisis from its epicenter in Tampa, or more specific, Hillsborough County. Packer’s book takes a broader view than merely focusing on the foreclosure mess. Gottesdiener’s book is focused on foreclosures, but also people pushing back and resisting. I’ll likely read it.
Lots of water has gone under the bridge since 1973. Packer shows us through stories about Americans and America that we’ve been on a steady downward slide.
Socioeconomic disparity and inequality, false promises from politicians, and an inability in Americans to face reality hinder our capacity as a people to address the facts and find solutions. This would entail difficulty, sacrifice, and a possible reordering of life as we know it. Many believe that volatile mix makes recovery and stemming the tide impossible.
The other option and the path we are traveling at the moment is that we’ll continue to unwind until we reach a point we can’t turn back from.
Packer’s book is a powerhouse, packing a wallop unlike any I’ve read in the last four to five years. I plan to come back to it here at the JBE, most likely in the form of one of my “big books” type reviews. Stay tuned.