Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Compassion, Ltd.

Bob Herbert:

And let’s get some help, quickly, to the families who are suffering most from the housing crisis — the ones trembling and heartbroken in the dark shadow of foreclosure.

The naysayers will claim that all of this is too expensive, that we can’t afford it. Where were they when we invaded Iraq? And how do they feel about the staggering amounts being funneled, with nothing like the proper oversight, to the banks and Wall Street?

Let’s try investing in America and its people for a change, rather than just hurling our billions into the abyss.

"This whole notion that everybody's entitled to own a house — that's a bunch of crap," says Michael Bednark, who lives in Tigard, Ore., and works in sales of heavy truck equipment. He says he's upset about efforts to cut more deals for people who can't pay their loans, especially where taxpayer money is involved.

"People who bought more home than they are entitled to own are getting bailed out on my back," Bednark says.

Many people say they don't like the idea of bailing out a lot of homeowners. Bednark says he has compassion for, say, elderly people who were taken advantage of. But he says he and his family always lived within their means. They bought a modest house. All around him, though, he saw people borrowing money recklessly, taking cash out of their houses to buy ski boats, motorcycles.

"It's insane, what they were doing. So where is the personal responsibility?" he says.
It's all a matter of framing, isn't it? Responsibility depends on how you understand the situation. Are the Big Three in Detroit irresponsible because they sold big cars to people anxious to buy them, or because they had unionized factories and "legacy costs" for pensions and healthcare, costs borne either by the governments of Japan and Germany, or not even incurred in the foreign car factories in the American South (there's a reason the German and Japanese car factories are mostly in the South; the "right to work/open shop" tradition goes back practically to Reconstruction, if not to the days of slavery outright).

Of course, to Mr. Bednark's point, I should sympathize with him. After all, I'm the guy who thinks Texas should still have a solid homestead exemption, the one that allowed a lien on the homestead only for the mortgage and home improvements. No home equity loans in Texas until George W. was governor and got the law changed. But then Texas began as a debtors' paradise, and one thing debtors understand is that a home is a necessity, not an investment. If you're going to lose your home, it shouldn't be because you used it to go still deeper into debt for something else.

On the other hand: Was the Sabbath made for humankind, or humankind for the Sabbath? Is the system supposed to provide for us? Or are we supposed to provide for each other? And if God makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust alike, who are we to judge?

You know, the problem with being a Christian is that it's so dad-gummed hard!

No comments:

Post a Comment