Wow...we really ARE all socialists now
The Bush and Obama administrations have compensated foolishness and irresponsibility. The financial bailouts reward bankers who took insane risks. The auto bailouts subsidize companies and unions that made self-indulgent decisions a few decades ago that drove their industry into the ground.
The stimulus package handed tens of billions of dollars to states that spent profligately during the prosperity years. The Obama housing plan will force people who bought sensible homes to subsidize the mortgages of people who bought houses they could not afford. It will almost certainly force people who were honest on their loan forms to subsidize people who were dishonest on theirs.
These injustices are stoking anger across the country, lustily expressed by Rick Santelli on CNBC Thursday morning. “The government is promoting bad behavior!” Santelli cried as Chicago traders cheered him on. “The president ... should put up a Web site ... to have people vote ... to see if they want to subsidize losers’ mortgages!”
Well, in some cases we probably do. That’s because government isn’t fundamentally in the Last Judgment business, making sure everybody serves penance for their sins. In times like these, government is fundamentally in the business of stabilizing the economic system as a whole.
Let me put it this way: Psychologists have a saying that when a couple comes in for marriage therapy, there are three patients in the room — the husband, the wife and the marriage itself. The marriage is the living history of all the things that have happened between husband and wife. Once the patterns are set, the marriage itself begins to shape their individual behavior. Though it exists in the space between them, it has an influence all its own.
In the same way, an economy has an economic culture. Out of billions of individual decisions, a common economic landscape emerges, which frames and influences the decisions everybody makes.
The nation’s economy is not just the sum of its individuals. It is an interwoven context that we all share. To stabilize that communal landscape, sometimes you have to shower money upon those who have been foolish or self-indulgent. The greedy idiots may be greedy idiots, but they are our countrymen. And at some level, we’re all in this together. If their lives don’t stabilize, then our lives don’t stabilize.
Regarding Santelli: Dday had some things to say yesterday
about Santelli out there painting Wall Street traders as the new Joe the Plumbers. But the real issue is how conservatives and Wall Streeters, having failed at painting immigrants as the sole cause of our economic problems (a strategy that resulted in incidents like this one in New York
, with a bunch of thugs taking it upon themselves to deal with what they decided was 'the immigrant problem'), have now decided that "losers" who took out mortgages they couldn't afford are the reason we're going to have 10% documented unemployment.
I'm not trying to defend people making $40,000/year who allowed themselves to be snookered by sharpie loan officers into thinking they could afford a $750,000 house. It's hard to have sympathy for someone who's now $200,000 in debt over the current value of their house because they took illusory equity out to build a multilevel deck, a master bathroom the size of a gymnasium, and a "gourmet" kitchen with high-end cabinets, top-of-the-line appliances, and granite everywhere -- not when I'm still sitting in my own kitchen with its half-refaced cabinets waiting for me to finish the job, ugly 1970's vinyl floor and old yellow laminate countertops with the fronts peeling off.
If I want to wallow in bitterness, I too can say, "Why should they be able to stay in their houses and drink coffee in their gourmet kitchens while I sit here wondering whether to put money into the bank for a rainy day or have $500-$6000 worth of work done in here this year?" But what's the point? Do I really want to trade places with that person? Would I really rather be sitting awake at night in a cold sweat wondering if a) I'll be helped by this foreclosure help; b) is it really going to help me in the long term; and c) what if I lose the job I have and can't afford to pay even a reduced payment? Of course not. Reward isn't always about granite countertops and Jenn-Air ranges. Sometimes reward is having bought at the bottom of the market, refinancing three times to a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage at under five percent, and being able to weather a couple of periods of only one income. We live in a neighborhood of 1950's capes and ranches, and miraculously, they're still selling, if priced right. And the ones that don't have all the updates that drive up the price seem to move better because the price is lower.
The fact of the matter is, I don't NEED a bailout. Yes, much of the reason I don't need a bailout is because I spent night after night after night crunching numbers before we bought a house, figuring out exactly what we could comfortably afford, then when we couldn't find anything but money pits in our price range, we waited a year. Yes, we were practical, but I wanted a house the way most women want babies. So it's hard for me to judge those who similar just wanted a place where they didn't have to be like a four year old begging "Please Mr. Landlord, may I PLEEEEZZZ have a kitty? I promise I'll take care of it!"
But still -- would I rather be among the ranks of the uncertain, or be in my position? I hate to say that sometimes practicality is its own reward, but it's true.
The larger picture is not "Where's my government handout?", but what the consequences are of letting millions of people be foreclosed out of their houses. What happens to a neighborhood when a third, or half, of your neighbors are forced out of their houses, which then fall into disrepair? What good is your gourmet kitchen going to do you when the house next door is boarded up after vandals come in and strip it of all the copper piping? The reality is that the age of "I got mine and fuck you" is over. The days of looking over one's shoulder to make sure that scapegoat-of-choice doesn't get a piece of the action are over. Like it or not, we are all in this mess together.
Labels: economic death watch