Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Obama and the Trailer Woman

Obama's appearance at McEachern High School this morning got this piece in the NY Times.

A Trailer Woman Beseeches Obama
By Michael Powell

POWDER SPRINGS, Ga.– Sometimes policy takes flesh before your eyes.

So Jeana Brown raises her arm in a forest of outstretched hands in the bleachers at the local high school and the presidential candidate picks her – “Me?!” “Yes, you” – and voice quaking, she rises and informs him:

“I am one of your small contributors — five dollars actually,” she says.

Senator Barack Obama smiles and thanks her, but this isn’t what Ms. Brown wants to talk about.

She wants to tell the candidate, who has been talking about household debt and the 30-percent rise in the number of Americans who filed for bankruptcy in the past six months, about her trailer.

She is 50 and her husband James is 48, and they worked three and four jobs and snipped coupons and saved for five years to afford their mobile home. Their credit report had the usual working class dents and patches and so they took a 9.25 percent interest rate on their mortgage. They relied on their broker’s promise “that if we were good and made our payments, we could refinance at a better rate after a year.”

A year to the day after she signed the papers on her trailer, Ms. Brown walked back into the mortgage office. The broker congratulated her, but she said he told her that without a concrete foundation — which costs several thousand dollars and so was several thousand more dollars than they possessed in savings — she and her husband could not refinance at a lower rate.

Then a job disappeared and they fell behind on their payments and soon enough they faced foreclosure. The couple agreed to double up on their interest payments, which jumped from $670 to $1,378 per month. They cut off their Internet and cable service, sold one car and held three yard sales — Everything must go!They saved that home of theirs.

But James, her husband, now drives a truck six, seven weeks at a stretch and she works two jobs to keep up on the mortgage payments. Ms. Brown’s chest heaves, her voice a quivering reed.

“I tell you, I’m not sure how we keep doing this,” she tells the candidate. “I’m not sure how we keep the payments up.”
Mr. Obama nods. The gymnasium went silent as she spoke. He offers thanks for “your testimony.”

“Look,” he says, “Jeana is an example of America. Someone who is working hard, who saved, doing all the right things and then gets put into a financial bind primarily because people were taking advantage of her situation.”

Afterward, you thread your way through the crowd and find Ms. Brown standing high in the bleachers, watching Mr. Obama work the rope line. She has long brown hair and piercing eyes and she hails from coal country; she’s proud to describe herself as a white “redneck.” When asked whether she supports Mr. Obama, she nods. (She was not pre-selected and decided to come only at the last minute, over the objection of her employer.)

Her husband James is black, she says. When she heard Mr. Obama give his speech on race in Philadelphia, she wrote a $5 check to him. “I researched him,” she says. “I haven’t voted in 32 years but he’s got mine.”

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