The first time I went to Detroit’s 36th District Court, I didn’t know the drill. Most people don’t know the drill the first time they go. A lawyer I’d met agreed to accompany me. He went in the side door, reserved for attorneys and court staff. I joined the long line at the main entrance, waiting to pass through the metal detectors and have my bag scanned. No cell phones, the guard told me. Put it in your car. I waved the lawyer back outside. He was due in court, and his car was blocks away. Give me the phone, he said. I’ll bring it in. I returned to the line. You can’t bring in that hair clip, the guard told me. Just throw it out, I said. I scooped my bag off the belt and joined the lawyer, who was standing where the entryway carpet meets the linoleum, near a line of people snaking through a rope maze, waiting to pay tickets. I was intimidated and upset, and I’d been at the 36th less than five minutes.
Last week, the housing market took another dive. Unemployment remained at about 9 percent, where it's hovered since January, and the economy added just 54,000 jobs -- far fewer than expected. The private sector added 83,000 new jobs, but continued government layoffs pushed the net number down.
A protester arrested in Manhattan in 2010. (AP Photos/Mark Lennihan)
Ninety-nine weeks is a long time. Ninety-nine weeks ago, it was early April 2009. President Barack Obama was wrapping up his first 100 days, and he saw "glimmers of hope across the economy." The official end of the Great Recession, in June 2009, was just around the corner.
Tell that to Wayne Drescher. Ninety-nine weeks ago, the 59-year-old was three months out of a job and collecting unemployment checks. Now, more than two years removed from his layoff -- "a Monday," he says, "the day my world turned upside down" -- he's joined the ranks of the so-called 99ers: people who have exhausted all 99 weeks of available unemployment assistance.
With more than 1 million total foreclosures predicted this year, the government is finally taking steps toward resolving a vexing dilemma: It has very few details about this very big problem.
Since the subprime mortgage market collapse in 2007, regulators, Congress, and consumer advocates have relied on what one housing expert describes as "a lack of even marginally accurate or complete data" on the level and nature of foreclosure activity. Incredibly, almost three years into the collapse, there is no nationwide, government- collected data on foreclosures.
When Congress began tackling financial reform, the overhaul quickly became labeled as "historic" and "sweeping," with attention deservedly focused on regulating derivatives, winding down large financial institutions, and creating the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to regulate mortgages and other financial products. But lost in the torrent of news coverage was a significant move to change the way key information on borrowers and mortgage loans is collected and made public. Those changes, to the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) represent a benchmark in the long fight against lending discrimination. They could become an invaluable tool for consumer activists, regulators, and researchers trying to identify egregious lenders and their loans.