Exclusive: Why should I pay somebody else’s mortgage? by The Other Katherine Harris

The Other Katherine Harris

by The Other Katherine Harris
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
Feb. 21, 2009

It’s a question I’ve heard frequently during the past few days – and I know that my friend who keeps asking it is far from alone in feeling greater outrage about public aid to homeowners than about the far larger sums we’re handing to financial elites who already grabbed trillions of dollars while wrecking the global economy.

Probably you’ve also appealed to friends to direct their wrath more appropriately at the banksters; their affiliated hedge-hogs and buyout vultures; and the governments which have been and continue to be their puppets. My friend theoretically grasps the wisdom of that, but still he seethes more furiously over any little break given to ordinary folks. He’s especially upset by the idea that an owner might receive $5,000 for keeping the adjusted payments current over a period of years.

That must be partly because we understand $5,000. Few can get their heads around millions and billions, let alone trillions, but we all know what $5,000 will buy. Its value to us varies with circumstances, of course. The privileged set drop that much on a handbag, while it would solve or significantly lessen many people’s urgent problems and, for many more, it would provide a welcome emergency fund or a special treat. Spent wisely, it could supply a life-changing chance for education or to launch a business.

For my friend, as for most of us, it’s not a princely sum but worth having. So it’s understandable that someone who’s always been able to pay his bills would resent its being given to somebody else, simply for paying up. This just doesn’t seem fair to him.

Neither does spending $275 billion to subsidize mortgages — which is how my friend views the program, never mind that homeowners won’t see a penny of the funds paid to incentivize lower interest rates from banks and to expand Fannie and Freddie. Nor will homeowners see any reduction in their mortgage principal. In fact, the plan does lots more for lenders and speculators in mortgage securities than for homeowners, but my friend isn’t fretting about that part of the deal (the part that galls me). What we know so far about how it will actually work is explained excellently HERE.

When my friend – who bought his house for a pittance 30 years ago and is now very comfortably retired — fumes with “where’s mine?” indignation, it isn’t becoming, but it’s certainly natural. Something in us cries out against obvious inequity. Even animals are profoundly distressed when rewarded differently from others performing the same task, as studies of dogs and monkeys have shown.

It’s a pity we have such trouble transferring our inherent sense of justice to inequities that aren’t precisely in our faces. Because they don’t move in our circles, we’ve allowed the rich and powerful to operate as if they’re a separate species not subject to normal standards — and, while they’ve been busily robbing us blind for a generation, we’ve taken their bait as they set us covetously against one another.

For instance, my friend bought their anti-union line and is a hard-core champion of free trade, so he opposes “Buy American” rules and the Employee Free Choice Act, wailing, “Pretty soon it would cost $100 to buy a shirt!” And yet he sees the decline of opportunity in America clearly enough to say, “I don’t know what I’d do, if I were young now, maybe emigrate or raise an army.” Despite being kind and generous in his personal life, he doesn’t think twice about patronizing big box stores that routinely exploit workers and states, “I vote my pocketbook,” without an ounce of shame. There are further ways in which he’s conflicted — such as:

  • decrying “socialized medicine” while lauding the quality of VA care (which he continues to enjoy free, courtesy of his first career);
  • endorsing rampant privatization of government functions, although most of his benefits in retirement derive from holding good federal jobs;
  • expressing scorn for liberals, while being appalled by the religious right and eager to bring back all our troops and habeas corpus;
  • supporting both the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association; and
  • having a life-long distrust of Wall Street and a degree in economics, among other fields, but not bothering to dig beneath corporate media’s blame-the-victim accounts of the present crisis.

Of course, we’re all masses of contradictions, riddled with blind spots. And, even as we strive to discard old habits of thought, learn more and fit the pieces into a coherent picture, we’ll find it distorted at times by fits of selfishness and stubbornness that reduce us to toddlers refusing to share. This grasping, egocentric attitude has, unfortunately, been encouraged since the rise of Reagan, with the result that behavior we wouldn’t permit for long in a two-year-old we often tolerate in ourselves — at least in our civic selves.

Perhaps, by the same means that banished ethnic slurs and sexist remarks from polite discourse, we could make it just as unacceptable to speak for avarice. I’m going to give it a whirl. The next time I hear that whine about paying somebody else’s mortgage, I’ll skip the usual recital of contradictory facts and even the moral arguments – and, instead, try a horrified stare, then an earnest, “I’m sure you didn’t MEAN to sound so greedy.”

I’ll let you know how it goes.


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17 thoughts on “Exclusive: Why should I pay somebody else’s mortgage? by The Other Katherine Harris

  1. Hi Erin,
    I don’t know if you have heard or seen the film “Freedom to Fascism” by Aaron Russo but I highly recommend it.
    It is a very well made documentary in its own right but there is a specific reason why I would suggest you watch it.
    As the film astoundingly and shockingly illustrates – there appears to be no actual law on the statute book that obliges the American citizen to pay Federal Income Taxes!
    And part of the reason for that is the fact that to impose such a tax would be in breech of the 14th (I think) amendment .
    So it would appear that the American people may very well have been the victims of an all embracing long standing fraud perpetrated by Congress & the Federal Reserve that came into being at the time Fed Income tax was introduced.
    This might be worth taking into consideration at this particular time when the government is now throwing trillions in the banks direction.

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  7. We have to understand this kind of thing has been going on for quite some time. The kind of thinking that resents the pitiful amounts that are given the poor or hurting is propagated by the mass (note corporate owned media) media. When it would be a humane act to help folks in need, we are given passionate speeches by paid talking heads and made to feel foolish and stupid for honoring our natural human responses. This keeps the poor (slaves) at each other’s throats and keeps their eyes off the rich who have been stealing from the poor for millennia. When we are told about the huge sums of money given to the rich, we are told it’s necessary to keep the economy going.

    “The politician keeps the white man’s mind filled with hate so he never thinks straight about the shape he’s in. He’s only a pawn in the game.” _Bob Dylan

    Please wake up people and recognize who’s stolen from you, your parents, your grandparents and before. Then point your scorn at those who deserve it.

  8. This country was uniquely endowed, having been virgin territory, suffused with resources, and built by slaves at the expense of the natives.

    Had we not bought into the reagan era of trickle-up economics and 55% revenue squandered on an irrational, killer-cultist empirical military (net of social security), there would have been no reason why we should not be the progressive, comfortable economy our theft of this continent promised with basic resources for the whole cultist greed/god-based disease of the industrial amerigoon population.

    It was the greed, god and guns, born of the reagan era, that destroyed the progressive ideals of the new left, which left us in the state we’re now in. There is no excuse, given the resources we had, why there are any oppressed poor people, and why the robber-barons got away with all the cash, unless we all bough into a gambling-addicted ideology of now utterly disproved forever capitalist, militaristic greed.

    The populace bought into this greed-based religious, militaristic world-dominating ideology, so let Deliverance die and lat Kansas capitulate at their peril.

    We denuded a virgin nation for the worst cultist culture of gun-mongering greed imaginable, excised our brains for consumerist anti-intellectualist obesity.

    Let the USA Die. America the beautiful will be better off.

    • Hi again, Natureboy, and thanks. Yep, “greed, god and guns” have done inculculable mischief, but our country used to do a lot of good in the world, too, and most Americans are good people at heart. I’m not ready to give up on us.

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