I stumbled upon this Washington Post series of photos of a Colorado family being evicted (H/T to Greg Kandra's The Deacon's Bench) and have not been able to stop thinking about this family and what they are going through, a tragedy being replicated at thousands of sites around the country. I don't know all the circumstances and I know there are many who would view this scene as a well-deserved comeuppance to a family which had not make a mortgage payment in 11 months, this is a phenom, I hasten to point out, that is becoming widespread as the jobless recovery persists, but I could not stop thinking about what the children must make of all of this and the effect it must have on them. These images would not be out of place in a W.P.A. exhibit.
There must be a better way to respond to this crisis than to simply throw people out of their homes. Some are just caught up in the nation's vast economic downturn, and yes, some probably overpaid for their houses during the go-go days of the market bubble and many signed foolish, detonating mortgages. But does it make any sense to make people homeless when whole neighborhoods of houses are left vacant, slowly deteriorating or being torn up by vandals and thieves? Does the short-term fiscal fix for a local or national bank justify the trauma on this family, on these children and thousands more like them? With some of the most imaginative political and economic minds in the world at our disposal, I cannot believe that resorting to the historic scourge of eviction and disgrace and public shame is still the best we can come up with. Criminy. There is a reason "eviction" became a word you would spit in the part of Ireland my family emigrated from.
Let's go to the catechism, shall we? My italics follows:
2408: The seventh commandment forbids theft, that is, usurping another's property against the reasonable will of the owner. There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one's disposal and use the property of others.
Now I am not calling for widespread anarchy and the abandonment of property rights, just for some new thinking on this crisis and what is truly sufficient for the common good. it's become a cliche to compare the Obama administration's plodding, ponderous response to the mortgage meltdown with the creative urgency shown over just a period of days as global financiers faced ruin, but, well, add me to the list of lazy pundits. The comparison is relevant if a little rhetorically worn by now: Who is making the anxious, emergency late night phone calls to save this family? Nobody. The line has probably already been disconnected ...