Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Blame at the intersection of Wall and Main

I'm no financial adviser but seems to me that George Will and Joel Stein - quite an interesting alliance, eh? - have a point here: the responsiblity for our nation's financial crisis falls on the shoulders of irresponsible borrowers as much as greedy Wall Street bankers.


Do you have credit card debt? Did you buy a house with less than 20% down, or with an adjustable-rate mortgage, assuming that skyrocketing equity would let you refinance or flip it? Of course you didn't, because you're a super-intelligent reader of my column. ... Americans have been living beyond our means, and we should have recognized that fact the moment we saw those glass Voss water bottles. But we can recover from our misbehavior through a little austerity, like having only one house -- perhaps one NBA players couldn't play chicken in.

Good point. Next ...


Democratization of everything is supposedly an unquestionable good, but a blizzard of credit cards (1.5 billion of them, nine per cardholder), subsidized loans and cheap money has separated the pleasure of purchasing from the pain of paying.
I would never resort to the idiocy - or the not-so-latent racism - of blaming the Community Reinvestment Act or ordinary Americans who simply fell behind on their payments as the housing market bottomed out.

But it's hard to dispute that the so-called Main Street bears some of the fault for our economic collapse. Some, not all. And it's something to remember when considering taking out a loan for a home we can't afford or piling on thousands of dollars in credit-card debt. (Don't even get me started on the fallacy of the benefits of home ownership. The First Lady really doesn't like to get started on that one, given that she'd someday like to stop living in apartments).

Yes, the burden for this massive failure runs down a couple streets - Wall and Main. Pointing fingers doesn't solve problems. We could all use some work curing ourselves of irresponsibility and greed.

No comments: