Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A long, long time ago...

...when I was but a lil' phoenix, I learned something from my big sister's first boyfriend that seems to apply to our national malaise.

I refer here to the trend toward homeowners who have no equity and a painful house payment choosing to walk away from the house. Sending 'jingle mail' (an envelope with the keys) instead of a check.

This came to me in the form of a joke I heard about the mindset of borrowers whose houses have lost value, told by a mortgage broker:
Bank: Mr. Borrower, we're calling because we haven't received your last mortgage payment.
(Soon to be Former) Homeowner: Oh yes you have!

I was also fascinated by an interview with the CEO of Wachovia, whose bank holds or sold about 7% of 'the housing bubble' in form of various types of lending. He was shocked, shocked I tell you, to find that his bank had lent money to the sort of people that would pay a car payment or a credit card bill while allowing their homes to be foreclosed.

This reminded me of Adrian, the first boyfriend. He was big, tough, motorcycle-riding and (as we said back in the day) black. I recall a conversation we had when I was about twelve, sitting on my parents' front porch. He was spinning a tale about his cousin's new ride, which was a gold (gold!) Lincoln, dropped, on 17 inch rims. He referred to this cousin as 'East Side trash' and laughed at how nice the car was considering that the young man's mama was living in squalor.

I asked him what he was talking about and he leaned over and said very quietly: Well, you gotta understand that my people know how to be broke. You can live in your car, but you can't drive your house.

I love this country, but it scares me that we've become a nation living by the values of a 17 year old being raised by his grandparents in the worst neighborhood in town.

We can live in our cars, but as it turns out, we can't drive our McMansions.

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