July 22, 2014

New policies make playing by the rules for losers

Danedri Thompson
columnist
A lifetime of playing by the rules just looks dumber and dumber every day.
The way to get ahead in America these days is to make terrible choices. That’s how you get your very own government bailout.
Instead of working hard, going to school, waiting to be married before I had children, paying my mortgage even when it meant putting other wants aside, I should’ve dropped out of high school, gotten pregnant by several different baby daddies, bought a house I couldn’t afford and quit paying for it.
Had I done those things: the government, through taxpayers, would be paying for my healthcare and food for me and my children; my baby daddies, through child support, would likely be paying for my life style. And had I made those choices and just held on long enough, the government might force banks to forgive student loans and to lower the principle on my home mortgage.
Just the other day, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said federal officials are pressuring banks to reduce the principle balances on their mortgages.
“Instead of saying, ‘We can assess billions of dollars of fines,’ (we’re saying,) ‘We want you to start reducing the principal balances well beyond what you would be willing to do otherwise, because it’s good for the country,’” Donovan said. “Our hope is, we could reach millions of borrowers with this settlement.”
Never mind the millions of Americans too stupid to quit paying their mortgages when the going got tough or the people who never sought home loans they couldn’t afford in the first place. Those dolts, and I’m one of them, get to pay twice – first for our own mortgages and then for everyone else’s in the form of taxes.
And down on Wall Street, a common occupier demand is that the banks forgive student loans. An online petition at signon.org has more than 300,000 signatures asking for student loan forgiveness. And at least one Congressman, Rep. Hansen Clark, R-Mich., is quoted as supporting such a plan.
The message is: those who worked hard to pay off their student loans are idiots. They should’ve waited around for a government handout. And the kids who were smart enough to work their tails off in high school for scholarships so they didn’t need loans in the first place?  Their youth was wasted. They should’ve spent their formative years having fun and smoking dope in the high school parking lot, because their hard work is no longer to be lauded or rewarded by certain economic advantages.
Don’t even get me started on the baby boomers who struggled to get ahead by saving money, as they were encouraged to do in a 401k, only to have the bottom fall out of their investments. Or those who drank the housing koolaid and put their retirement funds in real estate.
There’s a quiet bailout afoot for the baby boomers who never saved a dime as well.
Last January, BusinessWeek reported that the Obama Administration was weighing the idea of “converting” 401ks into annuities. Essentially, the government would take your retirement savings and promise to pay monthly benefits to you later. In the end game, the plan would “convert” your savings to the government to spend.
That almost always means doling it out to people who didn’t play by the rules in the first place. Neat-o.
In high school, I was the geek who followed the rules. I didn’t drink. I kept my legs crossed. I studied (just) enough to make As and Bs. When I graduated, I went to college knowing a better job awaited me if I did. I paid off my student loan. My husband and I continue to pay the mortgage on a home that we do not live in. That home is worth 10 percent less than what he originally paid for it years ago.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes, and suffering the consequences forced me to examine all of the decisions I’ve made and make better ones the next time.
Now government is telling people there’s no need to make good decisions, and I’m starting to get the message.
If government officials continue to punish wise choices and reward failure, they can expect less responsibility and a lot more failures in the future. Following the rules looks dumber and dumber every day.

Comments

  1. Didn’t we see this same article a few days ago? Why keep reposting the same stories and opinions to fill space?

  2. doesn't matter says:

    again another article ran again…..this is getting old.

  3. Jeff Barber says:

    I love how this columnist drank the corporate media Kool-aid! Let’s rank & rave and point the fingers at those who were preyed upon by the banks who said “you can get your piece of the American dream and own your own home at no money down and a nice “teaser” interest rate. These people were sold on the idea that they could invest in real-estate like the rich and that their investment would some day pay-off (like it does for the rich). In the mean time, the banks have been able to buy their politicians for years and in turn, change or make policy that benefits themselves and only themselves. A corporation or bank can spend very little for a politician and once that politician votes in their favor, the return-on-investment can be limitless. The bottom 99 percent of us still has a W-2, day-to-day job as their main source of income. This is unlike the top 1% of the rich who control 42% of the total financial wealth and get every advantage of tax breaks. Their main source of income is derived by capital gains. How many of us who do the right things have the same advantages of the super rich? How many of us get to work, save money, spend it wisely and still afford our own politician? Who fights for us, the “people”? Our preamble to the Constitution needs to now begin with “We the Corporations”. How about we stop pointing fingers at those who are less fortunate? Why did we bail out the companies who did the wrong things? Why didn’t we allow them to fail as our columnist suggests we should do for the poor? Those who spend much more of their total wealth on food, gas, shelter, and yes, Taxes! How many of the top 1% have any idea how much a gallon of gas costs? How much of a percentage of their wealth is spent on taxes? How much is spent on heat for John McCain’s 13 homes across the country? I may have gotten the count wrong but then again, John couldn’t remember either. Unless you make over a ½ million dollars per year, why would anyone vote Republican? Yes, I know the Dems are just as bought but the Repubs are but the Repubs are right up front about it! They tell you they are for the banks. Even Mitt Romney says “corporations are people too”! What’s wrong peoples view who think if they make less than $100k per year that the Repubs are actually going to help them? As a Combat Vet, don’t even get me started on the treatment of our Military when they come home. Of sure, “support the troops” when they are off fighting for our Industrial Military Complex and Oil companies. Just don’t spend a dime on them when they get home! Health-care for them? Jobs? Isn’t that the battle-cry of the Repubs? “Pull yourself up by your boot-straps”! What if you’re legs are gone and you don’t have any boots left to pull up? You want to blame Government, that’s fine. I blame the bought corporate government, too. There is no more American Dream when “We the People” are no longer on the same playing field.

  4. You go, Jeff! says:

    Tell it like it is.

  5. Judith Rogers says:

    Jeff: Welcome to the world of the thieves and the corrupt, worthless politicians/bureaucrats who do NOT work for you…………..and it is all wrapped up in a pretty package right here in your own backyard – Gardner, Ks. and the state of Kansas. And it has been around for quite awhile and not looking like it will get better considering who is in office here and at Topeka.

  6. ThePatriot says:

    Ok, I get to recycle my comment:

    Ms. Thompson is continuing her line of propaganda for the conservative cause. She keeps repeating “government is bad” mantra because that is what she and her narrow minded minions want the American people to think. She will grasp at any straw to advance this lie. Notice the only people she blamed for mortgage fraud are the borrowers and government. The banks who thought up and executed the scheme to bundle fraudulent mortgages, paid rating agencies to fake their ratings, and hide all this in derivatives they sold to investors (which include Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac) are not even mentioned.

    These banks did this with premeditation and total disregard of the consequences to their victims and to our country. Yet Ms. Thompson has nothing to say against these thugs. I guess it is politically incorrect in her world to ever admit some businesses are bad.

  7. Ms Thompson gives conservative thinkers a bad name. Her writing is divisive and inflammatory and has a place only in the entertainment industry alongside Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, and other blowhards who are in it for the money. She is not a respectable journalist, in my opinion.

    That doesn’t mean she’s completely wrong though. If I look past her rhetoric, I see somebody simply upset that there are so many people out there in our society that feel they are entitled to government handouts without having to give anything in return, or even give it a good try in the first place.

    And Mr Barber. I agree with a lot of what you say, too. Banks made it sound so simple to buy into the American Dream with with no money down and confused people with complex mortgages. However – housing prices had been historically increasing since the 1930s and if they had continued to do so, none of this would have happened. I don’t believe banks and lenders did something they knew would drive their borrowers into foreclosure (really – how stupid would that be?). Of course they pushed the limits and now we see the consequences, so I am not saying they are without fault. But all of the victims you mention had a role in this, too. Most of them had to know on some level they were over-extending their financial reach with their purchases. They wanted the nicer homes, so they bought the lines coming from the lenders. But people need to be smart enough to realize that banks are businesses. And businesses advertise in order to make money. And of course good advertising will pull you into believing something good while hoping you ignore the bad. Just like the pills that promise you will lose weight, or the beer that promises you will be popular, or the book that promises it can teach you to become a millionaire in the real estate industry – it’s all just advertising by a business that is trying to make money. And people have to be smart enough to know what’s too good to be true.

  8. Judith Rogers says:

    Big money is running your country and has been for years. Just yesterday I watched the movie “Inside Job” that I got from the library. ALL CITIZENS should watch this movie and recognize the big boys are continuing to operate as they have for the past 30 to 40 years with the support and enablement of worthless, corrupt politicians. These criminals who brought about the financial meltdown of 2008 are still doing business as usual. Just recently I saw or heard an ad on Bank of Blue Valley who got bailed out (don’t know if they have repaid all funds yet or not) stating they would like to refinance entities on their mortgages who had a credit score of the high 400′s – that credit score is POOR but hey they and other banks are continuing to take risks which could cost the citizens at large millions, if not billions, of dollars all over again.

    Huge changes need to be made, most of all the campaign finance system, and regulation and oversight cannot be strong enough for these thieves and yet how many times have I heard the Republicans say they want NO regulation or oversight. Bunch of bull hockey and the Republicans can go take a jump in the lake on that one and on several other things that hurt the people so. Watched the Madoff family on 60 Minutes last night tell about the slime and crime Bernie was involved in for years. There was a man back east who for years had been telling the authorities about the ponzi scheme Madoff was running but did anybody in authority listen to him? No, they sure didn’t and I can certainly identify with that man because I have been doing the same thing here in Gardner for years and the worthless politicians and thieves continue to operate as they always do.

  9. One huge problem in this country is all the media talking heads and blowhards that spew inflammatory rhetoric and paint everything as “we’re good, they’re evil.” This preys on the weak minded and uninformed. What everyone needs to realize is that both sides are the “good” side. Conservatives believe in personal responsibility and the promotion of economic policies that encourage entrepreneurship. Left unchecked, however, the result is rampant abuse of the labor force and a consolidation of power among the wealthy. Liberals believe in protecting the labor force from abuse and ensuring everyone has a voice and that those in need have access to services and safety nets to maintain some minimum quality of life. Left unchecked, however, the result is a society and an economy both dragged down by a socialistic entitlement mentality. So both sides here really are “good” sides working to keep the balance between the two. And after 250 years of existence, the US has done a better job than any country in the world of creating and maintaining that balance. The talking heads and blowhards on TV and in the media would do good to remember that.

  10. Judith Rogers says:

    Here is an article out of California that all should read and learn from. Shows you what can happen when the people are not doing their jobs – the worthless politcians and thieves loooooove apathy of the people. I have been asking questions about the School Dist. and the city refinancing bonds but I sure don’t get answers from them. All I ever hear from the city of Gardner and the School Dist. is about their marvelous ratings and I say those “ratings” encourage the wrongdoers to put the people further in debt which they cannot afford and puts them further at risk. Our local so-called leaders don’t hesitate to put the people in higher and higher debt and when the people allow this to occur, they are signing themselves up for even bigger problems – that is my opinion. Wonder how and when the cycle will end.

    **************************************************************************************

    Adelanto hires lawyers to recoup $48M in bond losses
    October 30, 2011 3:00 PM
    Natasha Lindstrom
    Staff Writer
    ADELANTO • The City Council has hired a team of lawyers in an attempt to recoup $48 million in bond losses its public utilities authority suffered after the bond insurer’s rating plummeted a few years ago.

    In 2007, the Adelanto Public Utilities Authority converted a series of outstanding water and sewer project bonds totaling $70.64 million to auction rate securities, insured by Ambac. When Ambac’s rating was downgraded amid turmoil in the financial market, the APUA — along with Ambac’s many municipal clients — saw its bond interest rate soar.

    For part of 2008 and all of 2009 the interest rate spiked from some 4 to 12 percent, and city officials said the water district was on the verge of going insolvent. The APUA was then able to lower the rate to 6 percent through refinancing, but it had already racked up the estimated $48 million in interest, penalties and issuance costs.

    “We got together to figure out how to get out of the swap deal, what to do, and that’s when we ended up refinancing,” City Manager Jim Hart said. “It took us about a year to get the refinancing done.”

    As a condition of the refinancing, the city was required to raise rates on residents for the first time since 2001. The hikes took effect in July 2010, in some case doubling and tripling bills and drawing several hundred outraged citizens to typically nearly empty council meetings.

    On Wednesday, the City Council approved an agreement with Fish Haygood Phelps Walmsly Willis & Swanson, LLP and other teams of lawyers to seek to recoup the $48 million in losses. The city is not paying the attorneys any money up front, but the attorneys will collect a fee not to exceed 30 percent of the APUA’s award if they’re successful.

    Getting the money back wouldn’t enable the city to lower water rates, City Manager Jim Hart said. The APUA must still fulfill its requirement with the new refinancing deal, and it couldn’t rely on the one-time award to lower its ongoing revenue source. Using one-time funds to stave off raising rates incrementally between 2001 and 2010 was part of the reason the APUA teetered on the brink of going broke.

    However, the windfall could provide the city with more capital to spend on utility projects, thereby lowering the magnitude of potential rate increases several years from now, Hart said.

    Meanwhile, the APUA is embattled in a legal suit against Ambac.

    In a report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 10, Ambac Financial Group Inc. stated it took action to recover payment from the APUA in June 2009 in a New York federal court. The APUA filed a counterclaim alleging breach of contract, violations of California insurance statutes and more, accusing Ambac Assurance of misrepresenting the stability of its rating and underwriting “risky structured obligations that ultimately led” to its downgrade.

    “We countersued them because it was their rating that caused the problem,” Hart said. “If Ambac hadn’t gone belly up this would have never been an issue.”

    Ambac has moved to dismiss all of the APUA’s claims.

    Some similar suits have resulted in the insurer’s favor.

    Last year an Alabama judge dismissed a case against Ambac by the Water Works Board of the city of Birmingham. A Massachusetts court also sided with Ambac in a suit filed by an affiliate of the New England Patriots, with Ambac-insured bonds used to finance the construction of Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

  11. Talking head? says:

    You’re perfectly right, Resident. Too bad that our own talking head out here keeps missing that point, eh?

  12. Judith Rogers says:

    The “weak minded and uninformed” will always be preyed upon…………way past time for the people not to fall into these categories. Always goes back to the choices you make.

  13. Brian Phillips says:

    Sure there are irresponsible people who “don’t play by the rules.” They’ll always exist but they won’t have much effect on the rest of us. Nor are they living “high on the hog,” as you portray.

    The blame should be placed on those who “don’t play by the rules” and caused a financial collapse. Neither poor people or our government chopped up home mortgages turned them into stocks and sold them on the premise that home prices never decline. The demand for these mortgage securities went up. Banks kept loosening restrictions to meet the demand. And we can blame the “idiots” that took out the loans but when somebody’s handing out money, there’s always going to be a hand to put it in. Why should we expect poor people to go against the “home prices always go up” premise when the supposed smart people investing in the securities don’t?

    And then if we want to talk about not playing by the rules…. there’s the unregulated and hidden world of Credit Default swaps. And if you want a 7min simple audio explanation here it is: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=96395271

    I don’t expect everyone to have the time to learn about the collapse. It’s easy to blame it on this and that because it’s complicated and people forget. We have other things on our mind.

    Here are some good sources of info without all of the opinion and speculation….it’s called investigative journalism. It’s very rare.

    Frontline episodes:

    “The meltdown”: about the backroom stuff and the bank agreements.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/meltdown/view/?utm_campaign=viewpage&utm_medium=grid&utm_source=grid

    “The warning”: on laissez-faire financial philosophy and the one heretic, who saw the possible problem.
    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/warning/view/?utm_campaign=viewpage&utm_medium=grid&utm_source=grid

    This American Life episode: “Return to the giant pool of money”
    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/390/return-to-the-giant-pool-of-money

    Or you if you have just a little time… I think Stephen Colbert’s comical summary is pretty accurate:

    “Yeah unemployed you should be out in front of the White House blaming yourself for not having a job. Wall street hasn’t cratered our economy in like two years! That’s ancient history. At this point who can even remember who took worthless sub-prime mortgages and knowingly bundled them as mortgage derivatives so they could be sold, re-bundled and resold to pension funds and banks around the world until because this entire scheme was a castle made of sand and sh*t, it inevitably collapsed, annihilating 17 trillion dollars of the national economy, centuries old financial institutions and the life savings of untold millions of Americans?? I can’t remember. And neither can Herman Cain.”

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