11.30.07

Whose personal responsibility?

Posted in Accountability, Blogging, Economics, Hypocrisy, irrational thought, Modern life at 12:07 pm by angela

I have been trying to find a hook for this for quite some time. It began with the hearings where Yahoo executives “took responsibility” for handing over the identity of a Chinese dissident to the Chinese government, which promptly locked him up and threw away the key. First the execs apologized—a lot of good an apology does in a case where damage cannot be undone—and then they paid off the relatives of the incarcerated dissidents. But they’re still in jail, ya know?

It wasn’t exactly an overexposed story, but I wanted to weave it into a commentary on insincere apologies, where people “apologize” for something they knew they weren’t supposed to have done in the first place—something I have observed a lot lately. I feel like shaking them by the shirt collar. “You knew you weren’t supposed to do it in the first place, but you did it anyway, and for sure you’ll do it again next time. Saying you’re ‘sorry’ at this point is meaningless. Bogus.”

Anyway, then we moved on to the Scott McLelland book previews. Yet another Republican political insider has left the sinking ship we call the current administration and written a book claiming no responsibility whatever for collaborating with White House lies and crimes. No. It doesn’t work that way. If you had the ability to stand up for what is right and moral at the time—but chose not to—you have no right to assert innocence now.

Now we move on to a bizarre little blog I found called the Mordant Traditionalist. In a little post called “The end of the era of Personal Responsibilty and Accountabilty” the author ascribes to Democrats the end of personal responsiblilty as we know it, completely ignoring that Republicans seem to have been doing more than their share of corrupting and being corrupted during the current administration. Like dogs in a dumpster can full of rotting garbage, they can’t get enough, caught one after another. It boggles the mind.

But amazingly enough, the story linked to has nothing really to do with personal responsibility or Democrats except maybe peripherally. It’s a general story on Congress is considering giving judges the option of relieving oppressive home mortgage terms, in the same way they (apparently) already had the discretion to bail out investors and vacation home owners.

Hmm… We could revisit the subprime mortgage issue. Recall that originally the lending industry was regulated so that people who were not in a position to be able to understand complex financial documents could not be taken advantage of by unscrupulous lenders. It’s called “Lending Responsibility”. That’s where you don’t offer a loan to someone who can’t afford it. And you also don’t do things like offering them a loan that they can afford now, but they clearly won’t be able to afford later. You don’t offer them a crappy deal that you know they won’t be able to afford later instead of the standard fixed-rate mortgage that they actually were qualified for, and then lie about it and tell them it’s the best deal you could find them.

There was no such thing as a “subprime” mortgage until after the lending industry realized it would be a GREAT way to end up owning a lot of property without buying it themselves, and lobbied for regulatory changes that would allow them to use these.

The neocon take on this is, of course, that lenders are free to rip off borrowers however they please, and it’s up to the potential borrower to understand and realize that it’s not a good deal. They would have to hire an accounting firm to see if the paperwork is in order. And probably a private detection firm to see whether the operators are legitimate businessmen, shady characters, or Russian gangsters, I suppose.

It’s the lending industry that has dropped the ball on personal responsibility. It isn’t companies that write bad mortgages and pitch them to financially unsophisticated borrowers. It’s people. People who are hiding behind the names of internet lenders and fly-by-night companies that have crashed our housing market with their unbridled greed. To say that we should bail out corporations who were trying to make windfall profits from the housing markets and not homeowners who were outright lied to and robbed—and now face homelessness—is the nadir of personal morality. The bar is so much lower than it has ever been before, and dropping out of sight fast.

Put your money where your mouth is.

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