11
Jan
11

capitalism, foreclosures, and greed

A real-estate “agent for investors” was apparently a little disgruntled at a recent foreclosed-housing auction at the fact that prices are creeping up, making his clients’ buy-’em-cheap-and-sell-’em-for-more venture a little less profitable.

I think this is shameful.

Never mind the fact that he’s/they’re in the business of throwing people out of their homes; never mind that some banks would rather sell houses at fire-sale prices and lose more money than they would if they helped borrowers restructure their mortgages; never mind that regulations (a term we should all use loosely at this point) relaxed to the point that people who probably could barely pay their car payments were given mortgages for homes way beyond their means, and then allowed to refinance, repeatedly, based on the imaginary increased value of their already-overvalued homes; never mind that the tanking housing market brought the rest of the economy down with it, and one of the things that might turn this economy around once and for all is if people aren’t losing everything they have.

No, we’re supposed to feel sympathy that this man, and the people he represents, who make their living not really doing anything productive for society, just moving “money” around, aren’t able to make as quick or as easy or as big a buck as they did last month.

And what is this: “agent for investors” anyway? I hate to sound like dear-ol’-dad and hearken back to the “good ol’ days,” but weren’t mortgages created to help hard-working people own homes while they still had need for them? I’m reminded of Mr. Potter (the banker, not the wizard) in It’s a Wonderful Life grumbling about how people, (referring to a particular demographic, I believe he called them “garlic eaters”), shouldn’t be allowed to own a home unless they could pay cash for it. The idea that you could invest your money in your home, and have some value out of that investment at the end of your life was a good and noble one; a little appreciation couldn’t hurt either, and it sure beat throwing your your money down the proverbial drain paying rent. But maybe we’ve gone a little too far from the original intent of the home mortgage when people think it’s a good idea to package them up and trade them like baseball cards. It’s MY house, my appreciation, not yours, and I really hate the idea that the interest I’m paying isn’t actually reflecting the cost of the loan, but merely a means of lining other people’s pockets.

As I think about this further, I begin to wonder how many of the difficulties our country faces are, if not created, at least impacted by the fact that most people seem to confuse capitalism with democracy. Obama tries to make sure that we all have the right to one of the fundamental needs of our society, decent, affordable health care, and people hiss “Socialist,” which number one, it’s not, and number two, is it necessarily such a bad thing? Isn’t the Christian moral ethic (you know, the one that so many people seem to be shouting from the rooftops, ramming down people’s throats, and/or using as justification to villify anyone and everyone who doesn’t agree with them), built around the idea that we take care of each other? The widow, the orphan, the poor, the disadvantaged. . .  And what about the statement on the statue of liberty: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the golden door. We presume “she” doesn’t mean give them to me so I can ignore their basic needs and discriminate based on their income.

People also tend to confuse Socialism — a system of economics that acknowledges that all have a duty and responsibility to themselves, their families, and their society, to do their best, and that everyone’s contribution is not only important, but necessary, while at the same time providing basic needs like health care, education, and support for the disadvantaged or the needy; with Communism — a system of economics that believes that people are not capable of the above beliefs and behaviors and therefore such must be regimented and controlled by the government. (It’s ironic, in a way, that early organized religion probably came about for much the same reason. People won’t behave honorably if left to themselves, so let’s create a system of fear, judgment, retribution and reward to control encourage them. Too bad so many atrocious acts are committed in the name of religion, from the genocide of the Old Testament, to the Crusades, the killing of doctors who perform abortions, and the people who feel they have a right to picket funerals declaring that God is happy about their deaths as He punishes this country for its tolerance of homosexuality.)

Hmmmm. I seem to have gone off on a tangent. What was I saying?

Ah, yes, the role of capitalism in society.

Capitalism can be a wonderful thing, especially when it’s a part of society which respects the rights and needs of others and includes recognition that we ARE all family; that what we do, or don’t do, impacts everyone; that what’s best for everyone might not seem, at any particular moment, to be best for one particular person, but ultimately probably is. Until that’s the case (my own personal version of Utopia), regulations are important, as are prudence, fairness, justice, equality of opportunity, and the awareness that the tyranny, pursuit, ethic of the mighty dollar might not be the one on which we want to build humanity.

I’d like to propose that we find a way to get money out of politics, but that’s probably a topic for another day. . .

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4 Responses to “capitalism, foreclosures, and greed”


  1. 1 guardo
    January 11, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    You haven’t heard!? A meeting of top republican thinkers was convened at which it was decided that “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed, I lift my lamp beside the golden door” rather strikes the wrong chord, and is entirely too wordy. They have put forward the following for our collective consideration: “I’ve got mine; fuck the rest of you.” It has a nice ring, don’t you think?

  2. 2 prayn4peace
    January 11, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    Great post! I don’t think there are any “ethics” involved in the mighty dollar – we were reminded most viciously of that when “corporations” were deemed “people”. We, the actual human people, don’t stand much of a chance!

  3. January 15, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    How did you get inside my head long enough to write this? I agree with a lot of people on the Internet (and disagree with many, many more), but it’s not often I find stuff I wish I’d written myself.

    I can’t think of anything clever to add to this, because you’ve already said everything I would have. And, thanks for that. 🙂

  4. 4 lmarkum
    March 11, 2011 at 5:46 pm

    I agree that the Christian moral ethic is to help the poor, widow and orphaned. I would also propose that while it is true that many horrible things have been done in the name of Christianity, there have been many good things done as well.

    Also, when we read the Gospels we see Jesus hanging out mostly with the poor, downtrodden and disadvantaged, along with the people who knew they were broken inside. I would propose that Jesus didn’t hang out with the rich and powerful or the religious leaders of His time (the Pharisees) much because they were not really open to His message. It is the rich and powerful who were largely responsible for stirring up passion for the Crusades. It is the Pharasaic nature of the people at Westboro Baptist that compels people to despise them so much. I am suggesting that the tendency of the rich and powerful to trust their money and power as well as the tendency of the Pharisee-like person to trust her rules, doesn’t leave much room for God to really be present and direct the actions of those persons.

    I agree that it is sad that people are making money off the demise of others. That’s an injustice and it needs to be pointed out. So thank you for doing so.


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