Is it fair for those who have faithfully paid their mortgages to bail out those who haven’t? How could anyone answer this specific question “yes?” I say “specific” to point out that “is it fair,” and “is it for the good of the nation” are two different concepts. So, let’s answer the question that has been asked.
As children, most of us were used to saying things like, “that isn’t fair,” to our parents, when we didn’t get our way. More often than not, we would invoke this response when we saw deviation to special requests in our parents response from that of our friends. As adults, most of us have a finer tuned moral and ethical compass (emphasis on “most of us”) and a better understanding of what we, as Americans, deem as fair. Undoubtedly, our definition of fair would differ from that of a former Soviet or someone who grew up in oppressed circumstances. Yet, I am assuming that this question refers to what Americans think of the mortgage bailout of Americans.
Ultimately, everyone has control over the decisions they make. Period. End of story. Anyone who can’t grasp this dogma need not read any further because the rest of what I have to say will make little sense. We decide things as simple as what to feed our kids for breakfast to more abstract concepts like whether we believe in God. Essentially, we as Americans, enjoy the privilege of having free will. Thus, no one tells us we have to eat waffles in the morning, or we have to pursue a particular religion. As much of a gift as this freedom is, I believe it is unfortunate that some aren’t willing to accept accountability. For as much as having freedom to choose is a blessing, it also means that at the end of the day, we have to accept responsibility for our decisions. Sadly, many Americans want all the freedoms and luxuries to choose, but don’t want to incur any of the risks.
I am in a unique position to write about this topic because I, like so many other Americans, own a home that has been hit by the housing bust. My wife and I bought a house in the Seattle, WA area in 2005 during the boom. For two years, we saw the house rise in value as we pat ourselves on the back for the great investment we had made. Yet here in 2009, the house that we put $25,000 into renovating is worth less than we paid for it.
Further complicating the story is the fact that for personal reasons we had to relocate back to Texas where we now own another home. At the time that we left, we had no idea what was in store for the housing market. I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t suffer a wave of nausea every time I write a check for the mortgage of that home in Washington. You know what though? I pay it each month. I could choose to walk away, just like I chose to buy that house, but what would that say about my character? It would say I am not a person of my word and that I am only willing to accept obligations as long as they suit me. Thankfully, I am able to pay the mortgage each month, although it is a struggle.
I recognize that not everyone has this ability. However, as a society, we need to understand that we cannot place blame on others when our choices have led us to our current place. Whether or not people were misled by crafty and deceptive lenders, such is the case with many of the people in foreclosure, there is enough access to research and expertise in today’s world (Internet!) that could have facilitated good, sound, decision making. Given these unarguable circumstances I invite anyone to make a sound argument that it is fair to FORCE me, a responsible individual paying my debts, to bail out another individual, whose desires led them to a point where they couldn’t meet their obligations?
If someone feels they were deceived or misled about a particular agreement they made, they have the right to pursue restitution in America’s civil courts. The fact of the matter is that we as Americans, despite living in the greatest country in the world, still have to look out for ourselves. I fully believe lenders are in part responsible for the mess we all face today. However, the bailout penalizes the one group of people in our country that have met their obligations. Whereas the bailout may be vital to restore the health of our housing market, I can, without a doubt, assert it is unfair.