Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Where's My Bailout?!?

Bus driver Minta Garcia admits that she and her husband bought more house than they could afford, but she said "the lender made the purchase all too easy." Now the home that she purchased for $800K is worth $675K and she wants Obama to "Stop the foreclosures". (Reported on CNN February 17th, 2009)
Like many Americans, 2001 was not a good year for me. I was working as an IT consultant when the 911 attacks happened and in the subsequent months, many companies stopped their outsourced IT projects as a hedge against "uncertain economic times" (sounds familiar). By December of that year, I was out of work. Since I had been making good money as a consultant, my wife had been able to stay home with our girls (in high school at that time). So, not only were jobs in short supply for my skill set, but she had difficulty finding work back in her field since she had been on the sidelines for so long. By February, our savings were dried up (I know, poor planning) and we were not able to make our mortgage payment. In March the mortgage company initiated foreclosure on our house.

Now, I do not pretend that we were in dire straights. My wife started working at church and I was receiving unemployment. We had enough to pay bills and such, but not quite enough to make that mortgage payment. We began discussing our options and what would happen if we lost the house: namely, move back into a 2 bedroom apartment and start rebuilding. All the time, I was actively looking for work but unemployment was going to run out in a couple more months and then I knew I would have to take any job. It was not a rosy picture, but then again, we started out marriage as lower income earners and we knew if necessary, we could do it over again.

With 2 weeks left on unemployment, I got an email from a friend about a job at a company I used to work at. I looked at the job description and it was so tailored to my skills and experience it was almost as if it had been written specifically for me. I knew I would be competing against 20 or 30 others but I felt something special about this opportunity. I went in with confidence (which had not been the case on other interviews through this whole time) and landed that job. It is the job I still hold today and it is still a perfect fit.

Once I had a permanent job nailed down, the bank was willing to work with us on a repayment plan and over the next year we made up all the payments that we had missed and brought our mortgage current. Although our credit was pretty much demolished for the following 7+ years, we were able to return to the life style we had worked so hard to attain over 20 years of marriage.

This brings us to today and the reason I tell this story. No, it is not because history is about to repeat itself. My wife and I are both in secure jobs with stable companies and see no evidence that this is 2001 all over again, at least for us. The reason I tell this story is to demonstrate that the dismay I experience over people like Minta Garcia does not stem from an inability to relate to their situation. On the contrary, I have walked in Minta's shoes and understand completely the sense of frustration, and apprehension she and her family feel. What baffles me, though, is where her and other's sense of entitlement comes from.

More and more as we go through these tumultuous times it is becoming crystal clear to me what the real difference is between conservatives and liberals. It isn't our positions per se, but our attitudes that differentiate us. As I reflected on my situation 7 years ago and compared it to Minta Garcia's situation, I came to several conclusions about the differences between us.

1. Accountability vs. Victim Hood

I knew that, if anyone was to blame for my situation, it was me. Not that I recklessly brought it on - I was in fact a victim of circumstance - but my financial situation was one of my own doing. I was responsible for the job I took, the mortgage I contracted for, the budget my family kept, and the savings (or lack thereof) that we accumulated for emergencies. It wasn't my employer's fault or the mortgage company's or banks or Wall Street or Congress or the President.

The Minta Garcia’s of the world seek out someone else to blame for their situation in life. Instead of having a "stuff happens; suck it up" attitude, they have a "everyone is out to get me" attitude. They have no accountability for their decisions and take no responsibility for the results. Instead, they only want to know who they can point the finger at.

2. Self Reliance vs. Entitlement

I determined that the only person that was going to "bail me out" of my situation was me. I say that as a matter of pride and honor, not resignation. I believe in the American Dream and the proposition that, in good times or bad, we are in control of our destiny. I also knew that, no matter what, we would have some type of roof over our heads, food in our mouths, and that we would be happy in whatever our circumstance.

Minta Garcia believes that she is entitled to be rescued from her circumstances. It is sad that she feels powerless to do anything for herself, but it is pathetic that she would stoop to allowing others to have their hard earned money forcibly stripped from them to fixed her problem.

3. Liberty vs. Dependence.

The concept of liberty as envisioned by the founders of our country was often intertwined with the concept of property rights. But "property" included many things including your thoughts and actions. The founders believed that a person was only truly free if they were left alone to either succeed or fail on their own merits. Moreover, no person's prosperity should come on the backs of other unwilling citizens. The first amendment to the constitution promotes many of these ideas in its treatment of speech, assembly, religious establishment and practice, and association. Other sections in the constitution, like the Takings Clause and the 3rd Amendment, also hit upon this theme. America was established on the idea that certain things, including liberty and the pursuit of happiness, were "inalienable" rights which the government could neither provide nor suppress.

Unfortunately, many people in these times believe that government is responsible for guaranteeing prosperity and happiness. They don't realize that by putting government in that position, they are stripped of their liberty by making them dependent on that government. They also don't realize that by depending on government to grant them benefits, they also strip others of their liberty because the government has to have a Peter to rob in order to pay Paul. The result of dependence on government is slavery to both the receiver of government largess and the payer for it. Such slavery was at the heart of the American Revolution and breaking free from it was the promise of the new American experiment in liberty.


  1. "Many people in these times believe that government is responsible for guaranteeing prosperity and happiness. They don't realize that by putting government in that position, they are stripped of their liberty by making them dependent on that government."

    What a great quote. I hope you don't mind me using it...

  2. No problem - I would be honored

  3. Here's the thing. I'm willing to help Minta Garcia -- PROVIDED she's also willing to help out this country and do what's right. So let's assume that the mansion (and I consider a 800,000 house a mansion) is 6,000 square feet. Most people would agree that a family of four only needs 1,000 square feet. So I think the government should allow her to designate 5,000 square feet of her home as "Section Eight Property" so that she could accept government vouchers and allow homeless and unemployed people receiving housing assistance to live with her. That would cover her mortgage (800 dollars per family times five families) and allow her to experience the feeling of giving back to her community -- just as We would do if we paid her mortgage. Why should we have all the joy of paying into the system? Minta could do her part, and it would really broaden her children's horizons (they're probably pretty pampered, living in a mansion and all) to be exposed to homeless men and women, those recovering from drug abuse and alcoholism and so forth. Her American dream could include being a helping, contributing member of American society -- and it could provide assistance with getting the homeless off the street. On a cold day in the Washington suburbs, I'm sure Minta must lie awake at night worrying about these people -- and now she'll have an opportunity to help. It warms my heart just thinking of it. Go, Minta!@