Toon: The brighter side of the mortgage crisis!
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Another from the recent archives. I have complex feelings on this one--on the one hand, it totally sucks that the government rushes to bail out Bear Stearns, but keeps dithering on whether to do anything real to help homeowners about to lose their homes.
And yes, I know many of those lenders were predatory and mispresented loan terms and targeted subprime loans with horrible rates to low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color. And that waves of foreclosed homes cause problems for everyone, not just the foreclosees themselves.
BUT. To be fair, I think Ted has a good point in his cartoon on the subject, too. The mortgage crisis isn't just a result of predatory lending, it's also partly a result of "buy now, pay later" consumerism gone wild--people buying over-sized houses they can't afford on tiny downpayments or taking out second mortgages to buy crap they don't need.
Why does America fetishize home-ownership and home owners so much? Why are home owners seen as superior to renters? Why is it the American Dream to take on a crazy pile of debt on a house with a room for every possible activity? Etc.
Update: I'm a little nervous that this post could be misconstrued as some Libertarian-esque personal responsibility rant about how "responsible" taxpayers shouldn't have to pay to bail out "irresponsible" homeowners. It's not.
I believe everyone deserves access to affordable housing and that homeownership or apartment-ownership (at reasonable interest rates) can be a great thing. I certainly hope to own an apartment someday. So let me be clear that my argument is not with the idea of giving homeowners relief from ridiculously high interest rates or helping people stay in their homes.
My argument is with the distorted, unsustainable sick consumerist idea of the "American Dream" that so much media coverage of housing-related issues is tied up in. The idea that every family should have a giant energy-sucking free-standing house with a giant watered lawn and a pool and 3,000 square feet to rattle around in and fill up with unnecessary overpriced (or even discount-priced) crap they don't have time to use or maintain. It's environmentally unsustainable and personally unsustainable and a disgusting waste of resources considering how many in this world have so little.
So yes, many people are losing their homes because of predatory lenders and disgustingly high interest rates. And I am 100% for building a safety net and setting up regulations to protect those borrowers and penalize those lenders. But there are also some upper-middle-class folks who took out second mortgages to buy fancy boats or a new car or otherwise keep up with some imaginary Joneses, and in cases like that, I can't say I'm too sympathetic.