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Congress Can Take the Blame for Foreclosures

More than two million American homeowners received foreclosure notices last year, according to RealtyTrac. It's an epidemic that's rapidly spreading through all neighborhoods, from those in the inner city to the wealthy suburbs.

Some of those foreclosure notices went to house "flippers" left holding unsold condos or subdivision houses. But most were sent to young families, middle-aged couples and first-time homebuyers, reeling from the shock of losing their piece of the American dream.

Some point the finger at "greedy speculators" who hoped to make a quick profit in the housing boom. Others blame mortgage brokers, who made big bucks by offering quirky, adjustable-rate mortgages. Some say banks are the problem. They were eager to lend, but can't be reached by phone now that borrowers are falling behind.

It's time to stop blaming and act sensibly. If we don't, the foreclosure crisis will eventually touch all Americans.

I spent the past week with three families who lost their homes to foreclosure. None of them were real estate speculators. All three desperately wanted to keep their homes, and were willing to sacrifice to do so. But they were trapped in a system that doesn't consider each family's circumstances.

One family avoided its lender, out of fear. Another took on the system, and won. The third tried to make sense of a policy that encourages borrowers to fall behind on payments to get ahead.

All were caught in an unfeeling and irrational bureaucracy that belies this tsunami of tragedy. Here's what's really wrong:

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