Let's Just Hope They Don't Blame Themselves
UPDATE: Welcome, fellow Michelle Malkin fans. Here's my Boston Herald column on the "Extreme Rake-Over: Taxpayer's Edition" story.
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Meet Patricia and Milton Harper, the latest "victims" of the evil Bush economy, greedy banks and (as yet to be confirmed) a controlled demolition set off by the Israeli secret service.
Their beautiful, 5,500 sq. ft. home in Georgia scheduled to be put on the auction block in early August. They owe $450,000 in mortgages that they are not paying. Poor dears. Then again, they're lucky to be alive.
Regular readers of the Boston Globe-Democrat know that some responsible borrowers are being driven to suicide due to their guilt over not paying their bills. The Globe-Democrat ran a huge story last week when "Taunton mother Carlene Balderrama killed herself an hour and a half before her home had been scheduled to go up for foreclosure auction," as the Globe reported.
In their story, "The Anguish of Foreclosure," the Globe-Democrat reported that Ms. Balderrama was so ashamed of her plight that she hadn't told her husband the bank was foreclosing. The price of call for personal responsibility, according to the Globe-Democrat, is death:
"Bruce Marks, chief executive of the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America, said it is not uncommon for homeowners to contemplate suicide when they cannot keep up their mortgage payments. 'What gets us so angry is that people blame themselves,' Marks said. 'They can't see past their sense of responsibility to see the responsibility and the predatory nature of these lenders. The fact of the matter is, unless something dramatic happens, there's going to be more and more people like her taking their lives.'" [emphasis added]
In other words, the subprime crisis is a crisis of hard-working, responsible Americans being driven to suicide by their over-inflated sense of responsibility. If only they'd let someone in government--oh, I dunno, maybe a very junior senator for Illinois, for example--give them billions of other people's money before these excessively-responsible folks to something rash.
The Boston-Globe Democrat followed up that story with an editorial making it clear who is at fault:
"After the 2001 terrorist attacks, the only thing President Bush asked of most Americans was to keep on shopping.
In this context, it's harder to attribute the financial troubles of a family in Taunton or a free-spending mother in Pennsylvania solely to bad decisions or bad luck. Consumers are learning the hard way. What's still needed is a change in the culture of the financial-services industry, and recognition from Congress that there's more to financial regulation than letting the borrower beware."
Got it? Good borrowers, but bad banks, bad Congress and--of course--bad ol' Bush.
One thing that the Globe-Democrat editorial doesn't mention even once (and that the original story dedicated a single sentence to) is that "Court filings show that John Balderrama had a history of financial problems. Three times since 2004, he sought protection from his creditors by filing for bankruptcy, according to court records. When the court dismissed his third bankruptcy filing in 2006, Balderrama was still $45,000 in debt." (thank you, Boston Herald).
Ms. Balderrama's decision to commit suicide is tragic. But to present her as part of a middle-class family who, having never faced financial troubles before the current "crisis," chose to kill herself in shame or desperation is simply not true. Every decent person feels great sympathy for the loved ones she left behind. But does anyone really believe the problem here--or in America in general--is that people feel TOO responsible for their own actions?
Which brings us back to Patricia and Milton Harper (pictured above). They're losing their home--and after working so hard to earn it, too. Well, not quite:
Things couldn't look better three years ago for Milton and Patricia Harper of Lake City, who giddily accepted the keys to a small castle, plus enough money to pay taxes on it for 25 years. Now, the Clayton County house that "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" built is a two-story, turreted example of how things can go wrong. It's in foreclosure.
The Harpers used the house at 5489 Ahyoka Drive as collateral for a $450,000 loan, Clayton County mortgage records show. Records at the law firm handling foreclosures for the lender, JPMorgan Chase Bank, say it is in foreclosure. The four-bedroom house with decorative rock walls and a three-car garage is scheduled for auction on the Clayton County Courthouse steps Aug. 5.
It gets worse (or better, if you share Bruce Mark's world view):
"Beazer Homes' employees and company partners raised a quarter-million dollars in contributions million dollars in contributions for the family. The sum included scholarships for the three Harper children and a home maintenance fund.
The Harpers, whom ABC chose from among 15,000 'Extreme Makeover' applicants, spent the week in Disneyland while 1,800 people swarmed about the site. The family returned to a new home, plus contributions worth about $200,000."
Then they borrowed $450,000 in even more money against the house and are telling their creditors to pound sand. You know--just like so many responsible Americans do.
Here's my question: Who victimized these fine folks? Who's responsible for this outrage?
And if you find out who did--could you try to get them to do the same to me, too?