It wasn't that long ago (was it?) that President-elect Barack Obama and every pol in either party was flapping his gums about "a new ethic of responsibility."
Part of the reason this crisis occurred is that everyone was living beyond their means-from Wall Street to Washington to even some on Main Street. CEOs got greedy. Politicians spent money they didn't have. Lenders tricked people into buying homes they couldn't afford and some folks knew they couldn't afford them and bought them anyway.
We've lived through an era of easy money, in which we were allowed and even encouraged to spend without limits.
Yeah, yeah, it was easy credit ripoffs at every level that gave us the bubble, the bust, the bailout, whatever. When I hear the word art responsibility, I reach for my wallet (too late!).
So we all know the solution to this problem, right? Giving people more easy money! Especially to buy houses! New houses! Bigger houses! From a Reuters account of a recent Congressional grilling:
Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who had supported the $700 billion program, pressed [Treasury official Neel] Kashkari for actions that would throw troubled homeowners a lifeline.
"Please don't come here and ask for another penny because if you do, I'm going to work 24 hours a day with the same people I worked with to support you to make sure that they do not support giving you another dime," she said.
Kashkari defended the Treasury's strategy of first trying to stabilize the financial sector by injecting capital into banks, saying confidence had to return to the system before lending would pick up.
He said the department was looking "very seriously" at a plan that would issue 30-year fixed rate mortgages at 4.5 percent, about a full percentage point below their current level.
"Reducing interest rates to get borrowers off the sidelines so they can afford to buy a home for the first time or afford a bigger home is the only thing that's going to help home prices, so we think it has some merit," Kashkari said.
Everybody who has a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage at 4.5 percent, raise your hand! All one of you!
Do you get that? This bailout is truly sickening for reasons that are virtually beyond calculation. But here's a starting point: Why should any of us who rent or own pay our rent or mortgage in a world where by defaulting or being late you can get the best damn deal in town? Or maybe even a "bigger home." Flip this house, Congress, President Bush, President-elect Obama.