Thursday, May 22, 2008

Warning: This is a rant

For those readers who enjoy my normally positive entries, I'm warning you that this one isn't as fuzzy. If you want to quit reading now, you won't hurt my feelings. Because this entry definitely falls into the rant category...

So, tonight I was watching the TV show Inside Edition simply because it comes on after the local news. One of the headline stories led to this rant. The title of the segment was "Living in an SUV" and was a story about a lady named Barbara - a "victim" of the mortgage crisis. Barbara Harvey is a woman who is living in her SUV in Santa Barbara, California because she was forced from the 3-bedroom home she lived in. She could no longer afford the $2,500 a month mortgage in the beachside community. In a strange twist of irony, here's what the segment said about her former job:

"Before she was forced to live in her car, Harvey was a notary, verifying home loans. However, work dried up because of the mortgage crisis. Now she earns just $8 an hour at a senior center and can't afford rent in the beachside resort community."

Now, it seems, Barbara can only be described as a "victim" of the crisis.

Here are my issues with this story:
1. Barbara is living in an S - U - V. I wonder if she ever considered she should perhaps give up her new SUV (sure looked new to me) and buy a used Honda in order to save the money she might have needed to make her mortgage payments.

2. Do you know what the median home price is in Santa Barbara, California? According to Money Magazine, it is $979,500. Compare this to $150,000 in Des Moines or $136,000 in Fort Worth. Or even $550,000 in Los Angeles. I wonder if Barbara ever considered that she could maybe no longer afford Santa Barbara? Yes, I know it stinks to think about the fact that you might have to move in order to afford to be a homeowner. Especially if it's the only place you've ever lived...and, let's be honest, Santa Barbara is a great place to live. But, it seems like if I could no longer afford to live somewhere and/or was unwilling to change my life style to something I could afford, I would move. Barbara, if you can't afford rent in the beachside community you prefer to live's time to seek out another community where you can afford the rent.

3. At the end of the segment, there is mention that Barbara is now on the waiting list for government housing. I wonder if government housing in Santa Barbara is better than owning a home you can afford in some other community. I guess it beats the $2,500 house payment!

The media is very good at labeling these people as victims. This makes me so frustrated! Call them "un-wise users of money" or "perhaps living beyond their means" or "people who didn't logically think through how they could make their mortgage payments for the long haul"...but please, don't call them VICTIMS! Perhaps they are just people who wanted more than they could afford and weren't willing to make the sacrifices it might require to pull themselves out of debt once they discovered they were in over their heads.

I often naturally think of ways these people could have avoided their situations before they got so desperate...My ideas?
- Downsize your car(s)
- Eat at home instead of eating out
- Ride a bike instead of drive
- Stop spending your free time at the mall - you don't need any more stuff
- Give up your gym membership and walk around the neighborhood instead
- Give up nights at the movie theater
- Maybe get a part time job
- (Gasp! - I know this is controversial) Maybe even move to a smaller, more affordable home

In the political arena, the House recently passed a massive homeowner rescue plan to provide cheaper, government-backed mortgages to a half million debt-ridden borrowers. President Bush has vowed to veto it - Kudos to him!! Here's the basis for his opposition to a taxpayer-supported bailout quoted from an article on ...

"Republicans argued the package reward lenders and irresponsible borrowers at the expense of homeowners and renters who made more prudent choices and are straining to cover their costs in a punishing economic climate.

"The vast majority of Americans who find themselves struggling with mortgage payments, struggling with high gas prices, struggling with high food prices are now going to assume responsibility for ill-advised financial decisions and misjudgments of other people," said Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala." (read the full article here)

You're probably picking up on my political bias here, but I do NOT think the government has a role in bailing out people who did not make wise decisions about sub-prime mortgages. That would do nothing to help them learn the serious consequences of financial irresponsibility. Besides, why should people who are financially responsible Americans be left to deal with the mess made by irresponsible lenders and unwise investors - many of whom where blinded by their own greed and the gleaming opportunity to live beyond their means?

I realize this is a difficult time financially in our country. Times are tough. But, honestly, I don't have much sympathy for the type of victim featured on Inside Edition tonight.

There are plenty of other victims in the world I'd rather see news stories on. Like people who just lost their home because of a massive earthquake or cyclone. They would probably be really excited to join Barbara in her SUV Santa Barbara.

1 comment:

malita said...

Girl I have been ranting about things like this for year - do you know that majority of the "poor" in america own a tv with cable, dvd/vcr, stero of some sort, still eat out etc. Pretty sure when my grandparents were going through the depression they were just glad to get bread on the table - can you imagine being "poor" but making sure you pay your cable and cell phone bill!!!!!???