Friday, December 07, 2007

Subprime Debacle: No Morality but the Economy

I was trying to make reservations for Kathleen’s flight to NY for her mother’s birthday through NWA, where she has a “world perks” card for discounts and mileage. An hour-and-a-half later of laboring on the computer boiled down to this: Without her pin number (which she had forgotten or not been assigned) I could not reset her secret question; without her answer to her secret question I could not re-set the pin number. The secret question concerns the hospital where she was born; I assume our answer is wrong because there must be one letter out of place. Computers do not make allowances for general substance, only precise ciphers. So I chatted with an online rep, who dismissed me with an e-mail on how to re-set the pin. Phone assistance was no better. I accomplished nothing except the confirmation of the Catch-22 nature of living more and more with hired mechanical information processors.

Here’s a business idea I think would make millions: Form a company that specializes in outsourcing information support for larger corporations, information support given only by real humans in real time, flexible enough to obviate the Catch-22 nature of modern living. When was the last time you called a large business and got a real human instead of a cascade of automatic menus? Wouldn’t you pay a little extra for that service? And it might pay for itself in efficiency. The chief efficiency of phone menus and intractable computer demands for a transaction may actually be the discouragement of customers seeking help, thus lowering the overall support burden of an enterprise.


How about the bail out of subprime mortgage holders? It’s not a great solution as it only affects a small percentage of loan holders who must be up to date on their payments. Nevertheless it raises an interesting philosophical question.

Some economists aver that lack of support for homeowners and their outrageous loans will contribute to a recession, and that property values will fall. They say, “Why worry about morality when the economy is at stake?” Others, like myself, wonder why the government doesn’t deliver me from credit card debt or finance a new home for me with the golden calf of other people’s taxes. The consensus I sense from various sources seems to indicate that most politicians favor the bailout because it is good for the economy. The economy, in other words, trumps morality. Ah, the abortion mills must love this.

The obvious question is, then, why don’t we apply this same principle to the war in Iraq? Does the war benefit our economy? No. From Bush’s perspective it is a moral battle for democracy. So it’s OK to waste money in a moral crusade, but wrong to make moral judgments about greedy banks and debtors because it’s bad for the economy?

“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. –Emerson

I beg to differ with Ralph Waldo when the foolish consistency of morality costs us a projected trillion dollars in Iraq. A wise consistency would bail out the loans and leave Iraq for economic reasons, or not bail out the loans and continue in Iraq for moral reasons (granting Bush the high ground on Iraq is only for purposes of argument).

I think it was foolish to invade Iraq but immoral to occupy it. It was immoral because it violated the sovereignty of another nation in order to impose alien values we had no right to impose.

The corporate profits from the war in no way compensate for the economic losses of men and materiel. Morality doesn’t either. God bless my demand for foolish consistency.


I’ve learned again from my recent near death that “almost” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. After I nearly choked to death I tried to get out of washing the dishes but Derek and Kathleen said, “No way!”

Obviously if I had died I would have gotten out of it.


Finished my mushroom identification course today. Now I’ve been charged to identify all the undocumented immigrant mushrooms that may be lurking between here and the border. Dirty fungus bastards! I’ll show you where you can stuff the free benefits of our forest decay!

Did you know that there are poachers here in the State Forest who work at night with large trucks to haul out trees, like Douglas fir and young redwoods? I had a ranger ask me to keep an eye out for fresh cuts of healthy trees. The poachers use chains saws and pulleys to haul the logs to the road. Reminds me of people tearing off the aluminum guard rails for resale. And a penny is worth more than a penny! Man is a scavenging mammal. Is this immoral? Who cares? The real question is, “Does it benefit the economy?”

The economy as the supreme value, btw, is bullshit. The government specializes in fear-mongering and robbing Peter to pay Paul. Oh, my, the subprime mortgages’ failing may lower the value of your home! Meaning some others could then afford a house? Say those new purchases are government supported. The government can’t support everything or there will be no economy to steal from anymore, and good intentions will have killed the golden goose of capitalism. Ah, well, I’m much more worried about my mood and my waistline, truth be told (and I’m not much worried about the latter).

We’ve seen the housing bubble twice before in California, and no one stepped in to change things—why should it change now? Because of the election cycle? Because socialism has triumphed in America? Remember that the speculators will be hurt first. And they accepted the risk. If Joe Blow could afford a house on a penny a month provided the payment would balloon to a thousand a month in three years, why should he be rewarded for buying the magic beans? It’s all about whose ox is gored; everyone believes in personal responsibility until a hurricane comes their way; then they beseech the government for deliverance. If you build your house on the Florida coast, well, tough, eat your losses. And if your home slides down the Malibu hills, sorry, Mel and Johnny, I can’t feel sorry for you. But the government surely will. Ah, the government for the people and for the people and guaranteeing more for the people shall not vanish from the earth while one tax dime goes unclaimed.

1 Kilobunny,



  1. I have lived on or near two major in Saint Louis, the other here...with no expectation of being bailed out for my decision. The first was with little, it was a take our chances in order to enjoy the beauty.

    I posted below, too...but want you to know we have lots of wild mushrooms...wouldn't dare touch them without knowledge, but the UPS man is a broker, he likes it when I order online. : ) You are welcome to look here anytime if you'd like.


  2. PS

    My pet peeve, living here where I have to order many things online, is the new "handling charges" in addition to outrageous shipping charges. Shouldn't I expect their handling of the merchandise purchased to be a given after I hand them my credit card number?

  3. Anonymous5:47 AM PST

    As for the economy, there's moral hazard up until the time they're can't be.

    I remember the Houston real estate mess in the 80's S&L aftermath. The RTC wanted to release a bunch of empty houses to the homeless, however the working-middle class folks humping to pay their mortgages were up in arms about it. You can see both sides' points. These are tough public policy debates.



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