Wednesday, March 06, 2013

TOP STORY >> Bankers cheated military

Leader editor

The bankers who illegally foreclosed on about 1,000 military families are paying billions of dollars in fines for their criminal behavior. These bankers cheated service members and their families even if they were current with their mortgages.

Bank of America, Wells Far-go, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and other banks have agreed to pay $3.6 billion and additional costs for evicting thousands of homeowners, many of them in the military serving overseas. That fine is less than the bonuses the fat cats give themselves every year.

“It’s absolutely devastating to be 7,000 miles from your home fighting for this country and get a message that your family is being evicted,” said Col. John S. Odom Jr., a retired Air Force lawyer in Shreveport, La., who represents military members in foreclosure cases. “We have been sounding the alarms that the banks are illegally evicting the very men and women who are out there fighting for this country. This is a devastating confirmation of that.”

The courts should make the banks give generously to service members and their military bases, which are trying to make ends meet during the so-called sequester. There’s not enough money at Little Rock Air Force Base for flight training, which has been curtailed from five days to four days, or to repair equipment and buildings as $2 million has been eliminated for those projects. Food services could also be cut if the sequestration fight continues indefinitely.

The least the bankers could do is donate 1,000 gallons of aviation fuel for every wronged military family — about a million gallons of fuel — to keep the C-130s flying.

The fat cats should come to Little Rock Air Force Base and see the sacrifices the military is making. Or send the bankers to Helmand Province in Afghanistan and see what war is like up close. That might make them think twice before throwing innocent families out of their homes.

Across the nation, Air Force pilots will lose 200,000 flying hours. Active-duty combat units will reduce training at their bases. The Army will reduce training by 80 percent for its ground forces because of the sequester. Two-thirds of its combat teams will be unprepared for combat.

As the Pentagon’s budget is cut, the military’s insurance program, Tricare, faces a $3 billion shortfall. That will hit veterans and their families pretty hard, although the bankers won’t lose much sleep over that either.

Although enlisted personnel are excluded from the sequester, civilian workers, many of them military veterans, face up to two days of furloughs a month. That will make it harder for them to pay their mortgages. Let’s hope the fat cats don’t take advantage of them and try to evict them before this latest crisis is over.

Let the bankers come here and rehabilitate some of the homes they’ve wrongfully foreclosed on. According to a recent report, 141,000 veterans — 10 percent of them women — spend at least one night a year in a homeless shelter.

Bankers and others could help homeless veterans by donating to Volunteers to America and U.S. Vets that have reached out to women veterans, many of them back from overseas, who have had a hard time readjusting.

Many of these veterans are single mothers who can’t afford child care.

The cost of taking care of homeless vets is three times greater than helping those who live at home.

And isn’t it time to end bonuses for bankers while military members are told to do more on salaries that are a lot less than what bankers spend a day flying their private jets?

How about sequestering those private planes? Give their fuel to the hard-working crews flying those old C-130s, many of them still in Southwest Asia.