You will hear this argument on television, read it in the newspapers, even get an earful of it from friends and coworkers:
Why should the 90 percent of homeowners who aren’t facing foreclosure bail out the ten percent who are? After all, the 90 percent resisted the temptation to buy a fancy home beyond their means or take out equity loans to go on fancy vacations, buy a fancy car … or whatever.
Why indeed! It does not sound fair. But, as one of the more responsible homeowners, my answer is yes we should.
To accept my argument, you have to subscribe to the view that we are our brothers’ keepers, that society is a mutual-aid arrangement, which provides a safety net for all its members. As is often the case, Jesus said it best. In the parable of the Prodigal Son, He noted that the brother who had stayed home and acted responsibly complained:
Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.
The stay-at-home son had a good case. But that wasn’t the way Jesus saw it. He taught that the responsible son had a duty to accept his straying brother and to care for him.
This theme is present in other major religions. It is a staple of civilized thought.
I don’t notice that kind of thought in the Republican Party these days. Sadly, the party of Lincoln, the party that fought to free the slaves, the once Grand Old Party has become a temple of selfishness and greed. Congressman Eric Cantor of Virginia (photo at left) is an example of one of the new Republicans. You may have seen him on television denouncing any attempt by President Obama to save homeowners from foreclosure. (He does not reveal he owns a mortgage company and his wife works for a bank that received bailout funds. A real estate lawyer, Cantor is known as a “champion of the overdog.” His legislative achievements include a bill to give fuel tax refunds for pleasure boats.)
Cantor refuses to see any merit in helping the prodigal sons of the mortgage crisis. Even so, you would think he might recognize the economic realities of the situation. Unless the government steps in to stem the flood of foreclosures, the housing market cannot recover and the rest of the economy will continue its downward spiral. Arianna Huffington (in Tuesday’s “Huffington Post”) notes that 10,000 Americans go into foreclosure every day and 2.3 million homeowners faced foreclosure proceedings in 2008. And she argues:
“The banks are too big to fail” has been the mantra we’ve been hearing since September. But when you consider the millions of honeowners facing foreclosure, aren’t they also too big to be allowed to fail?
You would think that even Snidely Whiplash-type mortgage lawyers like Cantor would see the self-interest involved in supporting the President’s plan to salvage the housing industry. But apparently, some people want their pound of flesh regardless of the consequences.