Forgiving Foreclosures

President Barack Obama’s pseudo-State of the Union address Tuesday tried and failed to placate taxpayers angry their funds are being used to rescue those they consider irresponsible, according to an Associated Press story.kij

Certainly such sentiment – or lack thereof – has been an underlying current since the economy tanked and government started looking around for places to throw money. Oh, we were a little miffed that top executives still received their million-dollar bonuses that went towards the purchase of new executive jets or for weekend junkets to the Super Bowl or Las Vegas – all examples of how siphoning bailout money was used, since lawmakers stupidly forgot to attach any legal caveats to the jackpot.

Financial experts claim such misuse of funds wouldn’t affect how the bailout money helps the economy and, after our initial disgust, we accepted that it’s all part of dealing with a bureaucracy. But for some reason, the fact that Wall Street and Detroit executives benefited from a bailout doesn’t bother taxpayers as much as the fact that their neighbor might get some help with their mortgage.

President Obama has assured the nation that only the worthy will receive federal aid – the process which he has yet to reveal. But apparently taxpayers aren’t buying it, painting foreclosure victims as lazy parasites, leeching stability from the hardworking responsible people. They don’t want “their tax money” going to subsidize the bad judgment of what they see as a bunch of spoiled brats.

This smugness in the face of other’s adversity is an ugly side of the American persona and usually the result of some judicious editing of the individual’s past; because very few people have achieved their level of comfort without the help of someone else.

There should be a rule that you can’t begrudge your neighbor some help with his mortgage if:
* You can work because your parent babysits your kids for free;
* You received or inherited your home or land from a family member for free;
* You lived in your parents’ basement rent-free while stashing away cash for a down-payment on a home;
* You inherited your back-up funds from a rich relative who kicked off before you got a chance to tick him off;
* Your parents (or anyone else) gave you your down-payment for your home;
* You are in a stable, well-paying job because your parents or the government paid for your college education;
* You have one of those civil service jobs you’ve been at so long that, even though your function was outsourced years ago, you’ve built up so much annual leave you’re never around long enough for anyone to remember to fire you;
* You are receiving federal grant money to conduct a study to write a paper that will be read by approximately – no one.
* You just popped out eight kids and are living off a dubious disability claim in your mother’s tiny house in a state that can’t afford to issue its citizens’ tax refunds.

Here in the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia local industry was hit hard, as is probably the case throughout the country. While the auto industry may have benefited from federal funds, those factories churning out products incendiary to the industry did not. While the large housing corporations employing thousands of workers went whining to Washington for help, they continued to pay their top-heavy executive pool. Meanwhile, they laid off workers and abandoned contractual agreements with local construction contractors, hiding behind fleets of lawyers that small business owners couldn’t hope to combat. Layoffs because of the housing crisis continue at plants producing cabinetry, decking and furniture.

Naturally, the more people that are unemployed, the less money they spend and local businesses are now feeling the pinch. If workers have not been laid off, their hours have been drastically reduced.

While we have a few abandoned McMansions around here, these are not the bulk of the houses abandoned by foreclosure. Lying empty are modest three-bedroom ranches, starter homes and old farmhouses whose former owners had every reason to believe the industries that supported his or her parents would also sustain them.

Perhaps they did make a credit commitment that would fall apart in the event of prolonged unemployment. Perhaps they should have prepared for the worst.

Of course, that would have required more foresight than was shown by even the CEOs of Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns; or by either Chairman of the Federal Reserve, both of whom should have seen this coming; or by any one of the thousands of financial experts, consultants and advisors employed by the government or on Wall Street.

Copyright (c) 2007, SteelWill, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Spot On is a trademark of SteelWill, Inc.


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