How is The Economic Crisis Affecting Middle Class America?

Eunice Winchester

Eunice Winchester. Anne Hawke, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Anne Hawke, NPR

On Friday, I went to visit Eunice Winchester. She's one of hundreds of thousands of people over the age of 50 who may lose their homes because of foreclosure. She lives in Anacostia — a short drive from NPR, and one of the poorer neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.

Her house is modest, to say the least. It feels as though the entire building could fit into the foyer of some of the mansions north of here. It has two floors and is made of brick and wood. She unlocks the black wrought iron storm door and we enter through a glassed-in porch. Eunice, 62, and her cousin built the porch and she loves it. With its hanging plants, a comfortable couch and small action figures on the window sills, this place is a haven for her. She can sit here in any season and watch the goings-on in the neighborhood.

Eunice Winchester's Kitchen

Eunice Winchester's kitchen. Jessica Naudziunas, NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jessica Naudziunas, NPR

You can immediately feel the love in this home where she raised her family. She talks about the Thanksgiving dinners she made — although how she was able to cook in a kitchen the size of a hall closet amazes me. There is no dishwasher, barely any counter space, and two people cannot fit between the stove on one wall and the salvaged wood cabinets on the other. Just by the way, she points out some of the improvements she's made — mirrored tile on the living room wall, shiny wood floors and brickwork where rotting wood used to be. You can tell she is very proud of this place.

She would not just lose her home if there was a foreclosure on her house. After meeting her, I think she would lose her heart and soul.

Eunice's story is typical of the many senior citizens who are facing foreclosure in these tough economic times. We're also working on a series about how the economic crisis is affecting middle-class Americans and their ability to feed their families. If you have a story to share with us, post it here.

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Wasting my air time with your umpteenth incomplete coverage of social ills. Whether it is AIDS, Foreclosed Homes, Bad Schools, Teen Pregnancy, Somalia, Congo, Religious Nonsense, Interviews with Politicians, Opinion Makers... What about some real journalism; digging for causes, reasons, facts, patterns? Afraid of loosing funding both private and public.

Little intellect. less rigor, shallow research, people not up to the task...

WIFI radio is here. Many of us have used our computers as radio receivers for years.

Today's example: the lady's house was foreclosed on yet you stated she owned it for twenty years! She never did. Do you dare do a full study as to purchase price, salary, spending patterns? Gracious no...

Pfui

Sent by Frederic J. Feingold | 8:40 AM | 9-28-2008

At 61, I work full time. I love to work, but after a heart attack 2 years ago, all of my retirement savings is gone. My 21 yr. old daughter works part-time as a restaurant hostess.
She can pay for auto gas, some food and clothes for work. My 31 yr. old married daughter was fired from her $23,000/yr teaching job last spring. She has a 1 1/2 yr.old and a 1 day old child! My 80+ parents helped ME financially through over a year of trying to get on my feet. I can't even help my children. I was self -employed while my children grew up and we made a fine living. An injury to my husband took all we had, and then the ultimate divorce sealed the deal for both of us. I don't expect anyone to "bail" me out. I work hard to keep my bills paid and just get by. One paycheck makes my house payment. The second paycheck just about pays utilities. I use about 1 1/2 tanks of gas a month to get to work. I often must use a credit card for fuel and food. I don't mind working hard, I don't expect someone to bail me out. It is obvious that those who lead, are not qualified to make financial decisions that have such deleterious effect on the lives of the general public. Perhaps there ought to be a committee of citizens who participate in the process of governing...selected by the community...NOT elected...just general representatives of the populus. I THINK that's what our founding fathers had in mind. Not the ego-manic, publicity-hungry decision making of politicians. The sum of money that we, the middle class, will be responsible for giving to the failing financial institutions would be far better spent by equal distribution to citizens over the age of 18. The value of this "buy-out" would be far reaching in comparison. Each citizen would receive a significant, 6-figure dollar amount and the FIRST payment would be taxes...talk about an economic stimulus!! The remainder would be put in the economy instantly. I don't know that this is a viable solution, but the point is: why give it to the VERY people who have mismanaged so horribly historically AND currently and HOPE that it will make a difference. Reminds me of the story of the man who beats himself on the head with a hammer, because it feelos so good when he quits!!

Sent by Leeanna Brunsell | 8:55 AM | 9-28-2008

Eunice I wanted to say that your goodness in life will surpass the odds which is trying to reuin your accomplishments. Keep your energy positive and remember that you didn't get this far to fail. Today more than ever our society is plague with greed and selfish folks who have very little regards to the folks like you who have spent your life savings just to live a decent and honest life. I am sure glad when I heard that you have some legal help to challenge your mortgage company. It is absolutely sickening when I see whats happening in America. The land of the great. I pray for you and all of us that live in this country. We as a nation has a chronic problem, and that problem is where noone is there to help good folks who fall behind or along the wayside to pick them up and help them stay afloat from the evil which is drowning this country. Eunice I want to commend you and remember the good things that you have done in your life will help to make your life a better one. So stay positive and all good things will come your way. The Lord did not die in vain, so remember, lift your eyes to the mountain top and let your mind be at ease, trust me you will find that your goodness and your determination to survive will be greatly rewarded. Bless you.

Sent by Bri Concerned Citizen. | 9:22 AM | 9-28-2008

Good morning,

When I listened to Liane Hansen's story this morning on NPR, I got the distinct impression that in NPR's opinion, sentimentality outweighs sound decision-making. The subject of your story openly admitted she had not always made her mortgage payments. She openly admitted she continued to have big plans for her home, but not whether she felt these were financially realistic, nor how she planned to pay for them. Throughout the story there was an unspoken sense of entitlement to material well-being, despite having a terrible grasp of what one can and cannot afford. While I in no way support banks who sought to profit by making foohardy loans to people like this, your story in no way addressed whether a more reputable bank would extend her credit.

Sincerely,

Will

Sent by Will | 9:40 AM | 9-28-2008

Hi! Thank you for getting the conversation started, Liane. It was an interesting piece on this woman. But while I do not agree with the tone of Mr. Feingold's comments below, he touches on some points that occurred to me too after listening--and before I saw his comments. After listening I was left wanting to know either more about Ms Winchester and her family story and/or more concrete details about how she ended up in foreclosure. Depth was given to neither. As Mr. Feingold said, she never owned the house. Yes, her income is low--but why did she not talk to the bank the first time she could see a pattern of late payment? What became of her children? Why were they unable or unwilling to help? What became of her husband? I think it is great she did purchase a home for family. And that she able to save it. But, Liane, these questions other commentors and I have point to other dimensions of this problem that have to do with Mrs Robinson's decisions. For example, her mortgage payment on a house in Anacostia that she bought 20 years ago--well, it cannot be much! Especially if she had refinanced during those years. So, I say, smart move on her part to buy a home--But the listener is left with so many questions! In fact, Liane, you led with a question that presumed what I think you wanted her to say, that she had been paying all those years until 'the man' took her house away from her out of the blue. Her own sense of honesty kept you from being able to say that. She timidly offered that indeed she had not been good on making her payments even before the financial crisis! Again we are only left to guess this! And I think Ms Robinsons' own concience instictively knew that she had blame to own.

If you had just left it as a human interest piece, OK. But without the proper information trying to make it a political commentary is not fair. Am I to believe that Ms Robinsons plight is a simply a result of corporate greed? I am left thinking that it could be as much the result of an attitude of entitlement. I think NPR can do and should do much better.

Sent by Chad Smith | 9:48 AM | 9-28-2008

What a ridiculous waste of time listening to this story today. She was able to get legal help to keep her house. Hopefully she learned something during the process. Since she was usually late on her house payments, maybe she got into more of a house than she was capable of paying for!!! Liane wants us to feel that Ms. Robinson was a victim! Shame on you. Now Ms. R has a reverse mortgage.......can't wait to hear Liane's story when Ms. R passes away.......it will be her kids whining that they bank got the house, not them!
Geez!

Sent by Elizabeth | 10:38 AM | 9-28-2008

Thanks Elizabeth, a note that in our story we said that Eunice owned her home for nearly 20 years. She had four children. Two of them have passed away and currently she lives alone.

Sent by Davar Iran Ardalan | 10:44 AM | 9-28-2008

1, I agree with the other viewers' comments that you have lost your edge for investigative reporting in favor of light fare and sentimentality. What made you great was the fact that we could count on you for digging into the story, uncovering the facts, the root cause, the unknown...You are doing us a disservice by trying to be the new entertainment media. It doesn't work. What we need is more honest hard-edged reporting. We don't need cute.
2. On the mortgages...no one is looking at the other end of the process...or the front end of the process about how banks are repossessing homes. You talk to someone that has struggled and lost or won, but you are not researching the very process.
I know two people who have been involved in foreclosure. Both stories are very telling about the way the repossessions are being done. While the banks are crying that they are saddled with risky and bad mortgages that they made, they are doing little, if anything, to change the way they do business. What about loans at an acceptable interest rate? What about loans that give the homeowner the opportunity to start fresh and keep up with their payments? What about changing the shark process where they take the home back in place of some reasonable negotiation.
3. Story one. My close friend and her husband bought a home with another "friend", a realtor. A year into the process, my friend learned..quite by accident--that the payments had not been made in some months and the property was in jeopardy. She contacted the realtor who was, of course, very sorry but was ill, whatever. My friend contacted IndyMac, talked to them about the property...found out the amount due, changed the address on the paperwork so they would be on top of the problem. The paperwork never arrived. She contacted them again. The property had been sold. IndyMac refused her requests for the information. She now has an attorney and a credit rating that is in the tank. (Yes, and somebody's going to write in and say that it serves her right for trusting a realtor or for being so dumb.)
2. Another friend is a certified HUD counselor...yes, there are such folks and they know the law and can help people negotiate with the banks.
She was contacted by a woman who was fighting Wells Fargo to keep her home.
She was not in arrears, was employed, was a single parent with a special needs child and had been diagnosed with cancer. She was going to be off of work while she had surgery and treatment. Planning for the absence, she made an extra house payment to Wells Fargo. The mortgage terms did not allow for any prepayment, so they began foreclosure proceedings. The woman fought them with no success and finally learned about my friend whom she contacted. My friend said that she had some leverage with the bank via her HUD certification, "the federal government" and succeeded in getting Wells Fargo to stop the foreclosure.
3. The HUD counselor works for our county's Housing Association whose mission is to promote affordable housing. However, they will not agree to having her help people who are losing their homes, as their mission is to get people into homes...not stay there. She told them the story; they thought it was great; they won't change their focus.
4. So what about it? Look into the bank actions and policies. Expose the indifferent processes that make no concessions. Investigate. Report. Get back to the basics. Please.

Sent by Sharon | 11:03 AM | 9-28-2008

Something I have not heard anything about in regards to the current Credit Crisis Bailout plan are any details about the funds to be set up to deal with this. What are the management fees going to be? Even at a 1/2% fee to manage these proposed 50 Billion dollar funds could total 3.5 Billion dollars for the entire bailout program. Where are the details on who is going to profit from this mess?

Sent by George | 11:35 AM | 9-28-2008

Thank you for this story Liane. My best to you Eunice.
Sincerely, Nancy

Sent by Nancy Perin | 12:04 PM | 9-28-2008

Ms. Robinson didn't own her home for 20 yrs. She was making payments on it - the bank or mortgage co. owns it until the final payment is made!

Sent by elizabeth | 12:23 PM | 9-28-2008

I am a small business owner. I financed my business on my credit cards because I had no way to prove I could make this business go. Well after 7 years in business, I have good credit and have managed to pay on the $100,000 in credit card debt. I have tried to get bank loans but cannot because I don't have enough collateral. So my dilema is this; how come when I have good credit and a viable business I can't get any help but we can bail out mega money institutions that no longer are good credit risks nor do they have the colloteral sufficient to cover 700 Billion Dollars? Why not give each small business the loans they need if they are good businesses and can prove it. Why not re-adjust bad housing loans that were given to people whose homes were not worth what they paid for them? Calculate the new home values, apply payments made and see if they can pay what is the new amount owed. Lets see what happens when the big banks fail, but first pay everyone their retirement accounts in full so they may re-invest in reputable firms that are REGULATED not by wall street but by college finanacial teachers. There are lots of ways that 700B can be much better spent. It's all speculative. Why give the losers and crooks more to cheat and loose?

Sent by Beverly Malo | 12:36 PM | 9-28-2008

It's amazing how insensitive people can be simply because of a different style of journalism. Get over it. Her voice is on the air and she probably has a lot more notariety than you. The story is about Eunice, not the journalist. If you want to comment, focus on the story, not the medium or person it was brought to you by.

Sent by Harlow | 12:36 PM | 9-28-2008

I agree with Frederic J. Feingold (previous comment), I expect better reporting from NPR. The headline, seniors loosing house due to current economic crisis and content don't match. The reporting is just like any other channel with splashy headlines but shallow content. Her condition had nothing to do with current situation, even if it were it did not come out in the reporting!. For my continuing pledge, NPR needs to have better research

Sent by madhu grandhi | 12:39 PM | 9-28-2008

I do was very underwhelmed by this story. Not only did Liane seem to "lead the witness" ("Did you feel misled...?") But Liane failed to point out the plain fact that Eunice (like so many other problem buyers) could not afford the house the lives in.

Like many of the other commenters here, I also noted that Eunice was often late with payments. How did someone making $32,000 a year qualify for a home? How much did she put down? How resourceful was she in looking for more work, getting re-trained, or getting help from her 2 kids?

Eunice didn't sound financially responsible at all, just sentimentally selfish. Why should I feel bad for every person who wants a house?

Ha - she kept her unpaid-for house anyway - nice work. Good to know this deed-pulling and reverse-mortgage scheme. This was probably the most useful part of this story.

I am a lifelong Democrat, but I have no pity for people who skate on their obligations and then go looking for handouts.

I'm a single breadwinner, taking care of my mom. Who's going to subsidize my dreams of homeownership?

I know - I'll buy a house I can't afford, and then pull the deed and get a reverse mortgage. Thanks, NPR.

Sent by J. Dole | 12:40 PM | 9-28-2008

I don't see two underlying causes of the credit mess addressed by the government. First, banks use to and should now require a 20% down payment on every house mortgage so the owner has a stake in the property. Second, credit card companies should be forbidden to charge high interest rates and a cap on total individual debt should be in place. Credit plays far too large a part in the lives of citizens. We should return to pay as you go.

Sent by Russ Agreen | 1:00 PM | 9-28-2008

I was going to comment on the story about Eunice and add my own but upon reading the posts so far I can only say, "And so it begins!" My son started kindergarten this fall and he has learned the Pledge of Allegiance. When he recited it for me I asked him what he thought it meant. He said "I don't know, it's just a poem right Mom?" It struck me that this is how many Americans view our democracy now. It's just a quaint fable from the olden days without a lot of real meaning and we certainly don't practice the principles outlined in those familiar words. With this current "crisis", just like with all the others our government has cooked up in order to push forward their own agendas, we are not acting like a nation that is indivisible and provides liberty and justice for all. Instead, the "me against them" mentality is played out over and over again. Eunice is just a fellow American, making mistakes, trying her best, and clinging to dreams. Maybe she could have been smarter, more fiscally responsible, and more aware of her domestic situation but why should we ask more from our citizens then we demand from our government and the people they put into power? When fear reigns, humanity is the first casualty. Listening to another person's story is never a waste of time and we should never forget how easily the tragedy may become our own.

Sent by Sarah Coggins | 1:24 PM | 9-28-2008

It's interesting to realize how many people complain about the reporting or seek to villify the protagonist w/o having carefully listened to key facts in the story. Little things like:

"Eunice owned her home for 20-yrs" (yes Elizabeth, we get the whole "mortgage co./payments" thing)

"Eunice lost her job after an ANEURYSM"

and more importantly:

"Eunice contacted her mortgage company to rehab the loan (we call that 'taking responsibility') and was advised to 'hold onto the money' she had for the payment she was prepared to make only to find out that her home was being sold out from under her despite her efforts to make good and bring a 20-yr loan back into good standing.

The point of the story is that people who have worked hard their whole lives are finding themselves devastated by unforseen financial crises like job-losses and medical issues which prevent them from continuing to work. Our society has become so skewed to benefit the upper-classes that no social safety net exists for people facing financial hardship. Further, it illustrates that even when people make attempts to meet their obligations, they are not properly advised of their rights, are fed misinformation and/or become otherwise in a bureaucratic morass that even those of us with advanced degrees and access to more resources often have trouble navigating.

Newsflash: THIS IS A SERIOUS PROBLEM AND THIS STORY SHOULD BE A WAKE UP CALL TO THE CITIZENRY THAT OUR WAY OF LIFE IS BEING SYSTEMATICALLY UNDERMINED! We are all just one unfortunate circumstance away from being right where Ms. Winchester found herself. It is not the case that everyone in foreclosure is a 'prblem buyer with more house than they could ever afford'... the issue is that the income gap is widening, social mobility (i.e., the measure of our ability to advance economically) is declining rapidly and our government appears more focused on saving those at the top of the economic scale with little regard to those at the margins. We should all be concerned about this issue.

Sent by Ryan | 1:59 PM | 9-28-2008

BTW -- it's important to further note that most reverse-mortgages require that one has at least an 85+ percentage ownership stake (i.e., the primary mortgage must be nearly paid-off) so it's wholly inaccurate to mis-characterize Ms. Winchester as 'trying to skate on obligations then go looking for a handout' -- this can happen to anyone - including YOU!

Sent by Ryan | 2:07 PM | 9-28-2008

How interesting that the word "entitlement" in some of the comments, found it's way into analysing how Eunice's got herself into this dilemma. Seems to me that for the majority of people in this country, "entitlement" is the norm. However, when it comes to certain individuals in the country - yes, I mean black people - we are not even allowed to think that we should have a decent home, better schools for our children and the ability to go to sleep at night and not worry about where the next days' meal will come from. Not to mention how will the boat be paid for, the summer home, and all the other trappings that the entitlelists indulge in without so much as a blink to how THOSE LUXURIES are enjoyed and paid for mind you. It's been my experience in the world of work for over 60 years, that from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs, this sense of entitlement is relagated to the white folks who from day one was brainwashed into thinking that it's this sense of entitlement will carry them through no matter what the cost.

Sent by Nileita Williams | 2:20 PM | 9-28-2008

Keep up the good work NPR.
In my opinion, "We the People" (Like Eunice) who do not have high paying jobs should be granted the right to borrow a low interest home mortgage loan based on income directly from the Federal Reserve Bank which should be nationalized for the people of our nation who for to long have been enslaved by bank's and lending institution's by high interest rates on money that they receive from the Federal Reserve Bank which might have spared the grief for the children of Sergeant Andrew Seabrooks of knowing that their father died in Afghanistan because he needed the money to stop a bank from taking their home away from them due to foreclosure.

Sent by Minister C.J. Di Donna | 3:49 PM | 9-28-2008

NPR, please stop making Eunice sound like a victim. She has the obligation to fulfill her contract by paying her mortgage whether she has the money or not on time every time.

Suppose that she lends her friend money. Suppose that her friend stops making payment to her. Don't you think that she, as THE LENDER, is ENTITLED to get the money no matter how including taking her friend's asset if it is agreed on the contract?

It doesn't matter how much the bank makes profit. You sign a contract, you have to follow the terms and conditions. If you can't pay for the house, then get out! I'm happy living in a decent apartment. Please, if you can't afford a house, stay in an apartment.

And also pay up, deadbeat!

Sent by Chris Ervin | 5:16 PM | 9-28-2008

Lianne,
Why will you not ask for the good things that have happened to the middle class. The last 10 years have been the best for me and my 13 employees (4 of which make more money than me) except for the last 18 months. Please ask how the middle class has prospered in the recent years. You are being unfair.

Bart Crattie

Sent by Bart Crattie | 6:09 PM | 9-28-2008

Many examples of situations like Eunice Winchester's are finding their way into the media these days. These are sad, especially when people like Eunice are portrayed as the cause of the current credit crisis. We can have someone like Secretary Henry Paulson leave Goldman Sachs with a 700 million dollar package but Eunice, who has worked much of her life and has raised children, has so little material wealth and even almost lost her modest home. What's this about "an unspoken sense of entitlement to material well-being?" Well, yeah! She is entitled to quite a bit!

The so-called bailout will go far to protect Paulson's little nest egg. How's that for a sense of entitlement? But the bail-out will do very little for Eunice. Perhaps someday we will have a society that rewards hard work, no matter who does it as long as it contributes to the collective good. I'm not sure how Mr. Paulson contributed to the c ollective good, but if it was worth 700 million dollars, it must have been a real contribution!

Like Eunice I have been waiting a lot of years for the "trickle-down." I keep looking for it. Nothing seems to be trickling down except for a bill for 700 billion dollars.

Ken Watson

Sent by Ken Watson | 7:52 PM | 9-28-2008

Your story regarding Eunice hit close to home for me. I'm a 32 year old youg professional currently weathering the the economic crisis while trying to start a family. However my 56 year old mother has found herself in a similar situation as Eunice. She lost her job six months ago and has been unable to find emplyment. She has eaten through her saving and is now in danger of losing her home. In addition this crisis has started to affect her mental health. So much so that I've had a to travel home to ensure she isn't a danger to herself and is seeking help. Because she is working poor it is difficult to attain any assistance. It's frustrating to see that there aren't any safety nets for respectable working class Americans who find themselves in a bind. The only assistance available is for those who have no income and no assets left. At that piont it is to late. In my opinion our government is failing those who are the backbone of or country. It is frustrating to see my mother go through these troubles and not be able to help. I may have to mover her into our house in the near future.

Sent by Sean Stichter | 8:45 AM | 9-29-2008

There is a web-site that I was currently made aware of, publicmarkup.org, that allows you to read proposed bills. The proposed bailouts are on there and asks for comments on any part of the bailout. Aside from listening to what people/political leaders say about it all tax payers should try to read it to understand what we are being held responsible for. Another small step for democracy using the internet.

Sent by Juan | 10:38 AM | 9-29-2008

Shocked and saddened by the comments here, particularly from NPR listeners. Wow. Eunice was not perfect; she is human. And for those with little sympathy: When you are struck with a critical illness and thousands of medical bills, lose your job and your home is foreclosed on, please don't expect any "sentimentality" from your fellow Americans.

Sent by AH | 1:00 PM | 9-29-2008

those who can not pay there committments on time are as much at fault as the greed on wall street.It is becoming predictable and sickening that people like this women are being potrayed as victims when there aoethy and sense of entitlement are abig problem with this countries economy.Wall street greed should be procecuted and those who chose not topay there bills should be given tents on aone timeonly basis.

Sent by edna edwards | 2:53 PM | 9-29-2008

After listening to the story about Ms. Winchester, posts were requested regarding "How the economy is affecting the middle class' ability to feed their families."

This is my post:
My husband and I are in our late twenties and two years ago we purchased our first home. Unfortunately, we were wrapped up in actually being able to own our own home and entered into an ARM 80/20 loan with the hopes of refinancing two years later. That will not happen, and on December 1 our mortgage will go up $300.

I work two jobs just to be able to have something to rob from Peter to pay Paul. I commute to my primary modestly paying job, so the gas prices have seriously affected our net income. We have had to scale our grocery bill down extensively...beans, rice, and multivitamins get us through.

When I was little I used to think that my grandfather was so strange because he always had a pantry full of non-perishables. He used to tell me that he grew up during very different times and he was raised to prepare for the worst...just in case. My rebuttal would always be something to the effect of "It's not the great depression anymore grandpa, snap out of it." Well, a close friend is giving us some gift cards to a local grocery store and with these I will buy some meat (the first of which we've had in a long time) and hopefully a pantry full of non-perishables...just in case.

Sent by Melissa Parker | 4:40 PM | 9-29-2008

If I had been in Eunice's situation I would have sold the house and gotten out of the market for the time being. What bothers many of the listeners, I think, is the mentality of "because I work every day I deserve a house." If wages are an issue in this country, lets address it. If banks are taking advantage of people, lets address it. But to simply draw political conclusions from patchy reporting is a diservice to Eunice and to listeners.We can only go on the information that the reporter gives us. We all make mistakes. But let's own them. Let's put the blame where it is due. There may be some blame Eunice needs to admit. But blame may greedy people on Wall St. But let's get the whole picture, Liane.

I feel bad that people who ask for facts, logic and honesty are characterized as "mean." I am a registered democrat, annual contributor to NPR, and have given 19 years of my life to work in the inner city. I currently rent and am saving for a home. I don't think anyone owes me one. And, yes, bad things happen to good people. But, in those circumstances we do fund raisers at church, we ask for help from friends and family. It's not a good idea to say--"well, I did my best. Now the goverment owes me." Now, left wing indeologues will gladly take up Eunice's cause (not asking for details) and use her and others like her for their political ends. (Much like unscrupulous lenders who will say "everything is possible, Eunice, on a low income.") If we want to hold our government accountable, then we must hold ourselves accountable. The argument among some of the commentors seems to be that since government is not held accountable, we shouldn't be. How quickly we give up our principles when it not convenient. By the way, if tragedy befalls me, I don't want a sentimental story of me, thank you. But I will take a great community fundraiser! THAT is the American spirit!

Sent by Chad Smith | 5:20 PM | 9-29-2008

I'm a high school economics teacher and investor. I just don't understand why this meltdown is a surprise to anyone. Since 1985 our National Savings Rate (according to the Fed) dropped from an average of about 10% to 0. Actually in 2005 we were buying so much on credit we went NEGATIVE! Meanwhile our consumer debt has grown from half a trillion dollars to over $2.5 trillion. That is a personal debt of little over 18% of the US GDP (2007). Furthermore, US public debt reached $5 trillion, nearly 37% of the US GDP (2007), and total national debt reached $9 trillion or over 65% of the US GDP (2007). What a perfect trifecta: the government owes $9 trillion, consumers owe over $2.5 trillion, and consumers have been saving (on average) less than 3% since 1999... The total per capita debt is over $38,000 while the per capita income was nearly $27,000 (US Census 2007)... I realize I'm just a high school econ teacher but I don't think it takes much to understand that this consumer debt had to come crashing down on us.

Sent by Juan | 7:17 PM | 9-29-2008

The situation Eunice Winchester and millions of other Americans are or will be facing is testimony to our need to change our policies. They have tilted for too many years toward financial institutions and against interest and well-being of homeowners and consumers.
We would do well to adopt something like the British policy which when banks fail and people default on mortgage repayments, the homes go into public ownership with the former owner given an indefinite ability to rent the home for their own occupancy.

Sent by Paul and Sarah Edwards | 8:06 PM | 9-29-2008

My husband and I have managed to be in the wrong spot numerous times. We have lost $300,000 in 2 years. First we moved at the peak of market for a new job with a city position that ended up being a contract position and he was let go after two years of employment.; my husband became very ill and was in and out of hospital for 6 months and we lost more money; He is still unemployed after 1.5 years. I own my own business and work has been constantly declining with my largest client declaring bankrupcy. I signed for a mortgage for my son and as I knew we were going into bankrupcy I begged my adult kids to get the loan out of my name only to find out that the $178,000 home is now worth $110,000. There is no way they can refinance the home and put it into their name. All the funds to purchase the home were put in by them, Their home is also going into foreclosure,

I wake up with terrors about living on the street. We are a doomsday away from losing everything. The news and stories are filled with terror provoking information. I don't understand the financial buyout and wonder if there are other dangers that will ply on me. I would like to see a ven diagram with how the money will flow and where the middle class people are, particularly if we were unlucky enough to have made changes in our housing and work during this fateful 3 year time.

Sent by Catherine DuChene | 9:54 PM | 9-29-2008