60 Years Ago
By Stephen Bishop
Some 60 years ago, in a tiny brick Congregational church in Hutchinson, Kansas I learned right from wrong. I’m not sure exactly how old I was, nor precisely how it was imparted to me, it might have even been an injection directly into a vein while I dozed, sitting next to my parents in a Sunday sermon. I was barely more than any embryo, but Mom taught Sunday school every Sunday and I was her bodyguard, pretending I was Dad, and just knowing that what went on in that church was right, and everything that church represented was too.
Maybe it was because we dressed in our finest and the church had it’s own smell of purity and piety that made the whole family feel right. Maybe I did assimilate those loooooong sermons, even though I was too young to understand the words at the time. Maybe it was my parents interpreting the lessons taught there that were imbued in my pathology.
Victorian Puritanism is plentiful in a small world where complexities are overshadowed by principle and your neighbor is your conscience. When everyone in the city knows your parents and patronizes the family business, you don’t do bad things. It’s just not possible.
About 16 years later, around our second year of college, my circle of neighborhood friends in California were all in college, buried in heavy philosophy, defining the meaning of life, clawing the system for pearls of wisdom and mind-expansion, bathing in Jimi Hendrix and Ten Years After and Joan Baez, and creating new words to describe a deeper meaning. Words like “Heavy” and “Wow” and “Psychedelic”.
One of that circle of friends, didn’t go to college, but was rich before we were in our third year of it. Jamie had bought a home our parents dreamed of, had new cars and very little time for us. He had become a real estate agent and had every toy imaginable. While the rest of us were deep into the “Heavy Trip” that poverty is beautiful, Jamie had the first Datsun 240z in San Diego. We didn’t eschew him, we just didn’t identify with him any more. As time passed and our paths separated further, Jamie became a rare item, showing up only at parties, where he became increasingly arrogant, rude and obnoxious. He would come to our psychedelic parties alone and all he talked about was all the new toys he had bought since the last time we saw him. The he would try to pick up the girls by just blatantly asking them for sex right in front of their boyfriends or husbands. He eventually became such an open sore, that we finally started telling him the wrong location for the next party.
Donald Trump advised (in an interview on 60 minutes or something like it) that “if you want to get rich, do something you love. I love real estate”. And I said to Don through the TV, “No Donald, it’s not real estate you love, it’s money. Real estate is just the easiest way in the world to get your hands on unlimited wealth”. You see, it’s easy to get rich in real estate because the industry operates in total freedom from the law, and the barriers to entry are nil.
Shortly after I got my appraiser’s license in 2002, I realized how anarchic real estate was/is and the replies I got when I challenged orders to commit fraud were appalling. “No I won’t inflate the value of this property. That’s fraud”. “It’s all fraud, what do you think real estate is?”, replied one broker. To another who demanded I inflate a property value, I asked “How do you guys get away with this crap?”. The answer: “We own Washington”. Many other confrontations with mortgage brokers and realtors yielded the same, unbelievable results.
I threw that license in the trash and went straight to the local FBI office. I didn’t even call ahead for an appointment. I told the guard at the gate that I wanted to report mortgage fraud.
And they welcomed me!!!! An agent sat down with me immediately, took copious notes and asked me to come back in a few days and bring them names, dates and places. And I did. And the names I gave are no longer in the industry.
The real estate industry runs exclusively on fraud. From the top levels, huge politician campaign contributions, flooding the country with boxtop licences so nobody will complain, to brokers telling appraisers what value they need to make a deal work and appraisers happily complying, real estate is a dark world of piracy, fully sanctioned by the U.S. Government, which until now, has protected it from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.
The crisis we now face in the world financial markets was created by massive mortgage fraud by the real estate and banking industries, partners in crime. Not Greenspan or Wall St. or “Stupid, greedy borrowers”. Bait and switch tactics, utter disregard for fellow man, no concern for ethics, adding value or legal statutes by mortgage brokers, realtors, appraisers and their circles of accomplices has led to the destruction of millions of lives, demoralization of the country, huge losses to unrelated industries which earned every inch of their business stature and the entire world reeling in disbelief and lack of confidence in U.S. leadership.
Maybe my sense of right and wrong is too black and white. A biblical mentality can actually be a burden in the modern world where it seems the only way to make a living any more is to be a con-artist. But how a civilized person in one of the most advanced countries of the world can sit across the table from a person who has followed all the rules, lured in under false pretenses, can lie with a smile and put that person into total financial destruction is no test of anyone’s interpretation of right and wrong. But that’s what real estate “Professionals” do. Without batting an eye, laughing all the way to the bank.
I ended up permanently homeless, due to mortgage servicing fraud, as have millions of Americans of similar ilk. Caught unaware that mortgage lenders can do anything to you they want and there is nothing you can do about it, rendered me semi-conscious. But I am still perfectly clear about right and wrong. And what the real estate/mortgage industry has done to this country goes beyond wrong. It is downright evil. And they’re getting away with it again, just like the S&L scandal, while Congress socializes the losses and privatizes the ill-gotten gains.
I’ve made a promise to myself to go back to Hutchinson, Kansas and see if that church is still there, or at least to find the ground it once stood on, before I get too old to travel. There I hope to find reconciliation between what was once there and what is here now. And if I’m lucky enough to run into God there, where he was every Sunday 60 years ago, I’m going to ask him if he wouldn’t mind taking a minute to straighten this world out and take charge again. He’ll remember. I just know it.