The knock on the door

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. 

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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 ...

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6 years 1 month ago
When we signed our contract to get the loan to buy our home, the deal was that we would pay X per month for 30 years in exchange for money up front to buy the home.

Now the contract we agreed to stipulated that if we failed to make a certain number of payments on the loan, the bank who loaned us the money could foreclose on our home because as a financialized property, it doesn't 'belong' to us until we pay off our debt.

Ergo, unless you pay no mortgage, you can't honestly say you are a 'home owner'. You are a home dweller but a debt payer....

Thus the moral thing would be to default on the loan (stop paying) and then move in with friends or family or rent somewhere cheaper. Not stay and fight to keep yourself in a property you voluntarily signed a contract on in exchange for future payments.

It is not immoral to strategically default IF you leave the home once ordered to. Nor is it immoral to declare bankruptcy and start over. What would be immoral is to act as though you have no debt obligations while enjoying what debt (other peoples' money) bought for you.

It's not immoral to down-size both materially and mentally so as to live on much less in order to grow from a debt-free position.... but it IS immoral to run up credit cards to keep up appearances and then refuse to pay. But that is what half the political world is demanding we do with deficit spending or making pension promises for state workers which are mathematically impossible for current or future tax payers to honor.

It's not immoral for individuals to reach out from their surplus to help their poor neighbors or family members.... but it is immoral to do nothing other than insist that these poor fellow citizens stay locked on economic "lifesupport" utterly dependent on local, state, and federal 'wealth transfers' that WILL be cut because more trillions have been promised than exist on earth.

The entire USA is "worth" about 55 Trillion dollars. Our annual GDP (wealth creation) is $13 trillion. But our private and public debt (how much we individually and government wise) owe to banks and other institutions is well over $13 trillion. Our local, state, and federal pension, social security and medical liabilities or promises far exceed 70 trillion.... so no amount of taxing the rich today (and tomorrow) will save us from a certain cut in expenses.... what cannot be funded, won't be.

So what's more ethical? To continue promising the poor perpetual wealth transfers from someone ELSE....or warn them of the inevitable cut in such transfers and encourage them (and everyone else) to reduce the cost of our lifestyle?
Marie Rehbein
6 years 1 month ago
This is in response to John Lyons's comment.

Being a leach is far different from taking out a home loan, but if one thinks about it, one is buying something with money one is expecting and expected to earn, which is deficit spending.  If people were only able to buy their homes with money they have managed to save, very few people would own homes.  They would live in rental housing where the landlords would keep raising rents and preventing them from saving enough to become home owners.  What is not fair is for people to own, say, 40% of their home and then lose the whole thing because they have fallen behind by, say, $4,000.00.  That is truly an odd deal.
Marie Rehbein
6 years 1 month ago
I couldn't agree more that the response to the wealthy gamblers on Wall Street stands in outrageous contrast to the response to the ordinary citizen.  Shame on Paulson, Bernake, Geithner, and President Obama.
Bob Fajardo
6 years 1 month ago
6 years 1 month ago
The latest blob we are supposed to internalize is that we all are guilty. Dave Brooks has it down so pat he must believe it. Here it comes again from David Smith (#1) identifying as ''poor judgment'' such matters as following the advice of real estate professionals when they bought a house or taking a job with a company that was going to go belly-up when its customers no longer had money. We can't do anything about their bad judgment...

...but we can, and have, rescued the bankers who made money from other people's bad judgment, and lost money on their own.They recouped their losses through the efforts of a Secretary of Treasury fonnr whom the president was willing to go to the mat to get confirmed despite his suspect tax status. So the policy, bipartisanly, holds that all are guilty but the ones who made the most money from the assorted crimes, stupidities and greed shall not suffer.

We are not, dear friends, all guilty. And among the guilty, not all are equally guilty. And pardon is offered, in Catholic teaching, to those who repentn, not to those who have the best lobbyists.

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