I turn 70 this summer, and I've been fearing that President Obama was about to make a deal cutting Social Security and Medicare. But a few days ago on KPFA I heard of something just as bad--a possibility I hadn't even thought of. Obama is considering a deal to close tax loopholes which would eliminate the "home mortgage interest write-off." It's part of the Gang of Six Plan to reduce the deficit.
I don't have a mortgage or even own a house. But I do live in one and pay rent for a small living space. My landlady isn't rich either; she's barely getting by, and if the tax deduction for mortgage interest were eliminated, she may well lose her house.
If that happens, I would lose my place to live, and many other homeowners who might rent me a room will also be losing their houses. This is because many low income people included that tax write-off in their financial planning and by doing so stepped into a trap, now about to be sprung.
The current foreclosure and homeless crisis would get worse, and there'd be a ripple effect on coffee shops, restaurants and other small businesses, as people find themselves with less money.
So I did something I've never done before. I phoned the Obama White House. The reason I've never done that before is because I always doubted that it does any good. But a drowning man will clutch at a straw, and that news had me truly scared.
I found the number; it's (202) 456-1111. After a short wait, I actually got to talk to a live, living person who takes calls & messages for the president. However, the phone connection was poor on the landline.
"Hello, hello, can you hear me?" I asked. The reply, which I could barely make out, assured me that yes, the call-taker could hear. So I briefly explained that the proposed elimination of the "mortgage interest write-off" would push us out of our homes. "Please don't eliminate the mortgage interest write-off," I said.
Then, the call-taker asked me what issue I was talking about.
"The mortgage interest write-off," I said, naming it yet once again. I wondered if the call-taker couldn't hear me due to the poor connection, or if she was just totally uninformed.
Anyway, having finished what I intended to say, I started to give my name and address, but the call-taker told me that wasn't necessary. "Don't you need to know who's calling?" I asked in surprise. "No." and the phone went dead; the call-taker had hung up.
Later in the day I compared notes with a friend who'd also called the White House over that same issue. In my friend's case, the phone connection was fine, otherwise, the response was similar.
Many, many Americans could wind up homeless, but call-takers at the Obama White House didn't seem to know anything about it. Nor do most Americans, who depend on the corporate media for their information.
Cutting that deduction is only part of the "Gang of Six" plan. It's outrageous how the politicians of both parties, enabled by a complacent and deceptive media, are doing the bidding of wall street, declaring, in effect, all-out class war against the poor and the middle class.
DANIEL BORGSTRÖM lives in Berkeley and writes about antiwar and political activism in the Bay Area. His website is at http://danielborgstrom.blogspot.com/