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Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

Aurora evolved from a small town east of Denver to a bedroom suburb, and now in the words of the Aurora Association of Realtors in their 2004 Newsletter (on their site: "It's the 3rd most populous city in Colorado and the 62nd largest in the country." Lyn (a native Auroran) and I (a native Cozad, Nebraskan) like to road trip, get out of the burb, and she's had to listen to me ask a hundred times as we're motoring through a new housing development sprawled across what used to be peaceful pastureland, "Who the $%&@!'s buying all of these ticky-tacky (credit Malvina Reynolds) pieces of @##&*%!@%?"

Back then middle-class suburban houses were more box-like in the sense of what normal people considered to be "an affordable box." These days, houses are akin to "shipping crates" delivered to eager homeowner wannabes who placed their order using the COD plan ("credit on demand"). (Recently, there are lots of "For Sale" signs in front of those crates).

Bill Richey

Aurora, CO

Aug 24 2007 - 1:53pm

Web Letter

A few more smashing victories like this one, and the "low, strangled, cry of pain" of the poor will rise to howls of indignation at a system that makes them wait in line for basic necessities (when they are available), offers loans only to those who don't need them or those who are politically well-connected, gives consumers their choice of empty shelves, but does all this with a nice color scheme, most likely red.

Ben Rast

Columbia, SC

Aug 23 2007 - 6:33pm

Web Letter

The people here who are complaining about "personal responsibility" are missing the point. We are in a situation where many, many people fell for these mortgage scams. You can call them irresponsible, stupid or whatever you want, but so many people made the mistake that clearly there's a systemic problem. If any of us were in their shoes, we might have made the same mistake. Anyway, if we believe (as most of us do) that even so-called "irresponsible" people deserve a home and a decent standard of living, then we educated elite who read The Nation should not blame those who don't have our advantages.

Overall, I think this article is thought-provoking. But as for Ehrenreich's comments about social democracy and socialism, they're superfluous. We don't need to endorse a previously established system to be effective protesters.

Greg Pinsky

New York, NY

Aug 23 2007 - 2:03pm

Web Letter

Anyone who was paying attention could have predicted this train wreck coming for years. These lenders are called "predatory" for a very good reason: They prey on the the working poor who want nothing more than the American Dream of homeownership and a better life for their families. These folks, the hardest working amoung us arguably, were targeting by print, television, mailings, infomercials, internet popups, ad nauseam offering them what they thought they could never achieve. A home of their own. Most of us, when buying our first homes, felt like we may have bit off a little too much, but with fixed rate mortgages things (thankfully) got easier with time and a few pay raises. OK, so much for mortgages. Then we have the home equity industry, which has been throwing these come-ons in our faces everywhere we look (that poor sad man who "lost another loan to Ditech"). Does anyone not yet realize that the billions in equity that people have taken out of their homes in these last few years have been what has fueled this so-called "great" economy. Helloooooo? Salaries across the board have fallen for the fifth straight year. And so here we are and lest the poor investors participate in any suffering the fed is bailing out Wall Street once more. It's all been a house of cards, and the article gets it exactly right.

Joanne Kelley

Gales Ferry,, CT

Aug 23 2007 - 1:56pm

Web Letter

How ironic that Ms. Ehrenreich laments systematic capitalist exploitation the poor, while at the same time fantasizing of a financial revolution where the burden would be borne by... The Poor!

Why should she have to take the lead? Let the poor default on their mortgages, lose their homes, and destroy what is left of their credit ratings. We can't honestly expect the author to sacrifice her luxuries in the quest for economic equality, can we? Funny thing is, the poor are the least well-equipped to incite financial chaos because they are, well, poor. Those more well-off among us would inflict far more damage by stopping their mortgage payments and other spending. But we all know that would require sacrifices the author, and others pining for a new financial order, are unwilling to make.

The most amusing part of the whole fantasy is the inherent contradiction. On one hand, we have the poor who apparently lack the mental processing ability to recognize a loan they can't afford and the associated consequences of borrowing on such terms. On the other hand, we have the poor organizing a complex scheme of mortgage defaults and limited spending in order smash capitalism. Then again, it is only slightly more believable that a small percentage of subprime defaults and lower than expected big-box profits are evidence that capitalism's long term survival prospects are bleak.

Kevin McCabe

Mentor, OH

Aug 23 2007 - 10:42am

Web Letter

Jonathan [Sager], I'm glad you cleared up my confusion. I thought the 20 million people who were murdered in the USSR died at the hand of a communist government. Now I learn that they died at the hand of an authoritarian government.

Too bad we couldn't have made that distinction clear to them before they were snuffed. I’m sure it would have made death a little easier to understand as just one more example of social injustice.

But I guess I'm still afflicted with 1950s US propaganda. What's the difference between communism and authoritarianism? As F.A. Hayek made incontestably clear in The Road to Serfdom, the lofty intentions of one system inevitably lead to the horrors of the other.

Ben Rast

Columbia, SC

Aug 23 2007 - 9:00am

Web Letter

I can't believe this author's poor reasoning. She crows about the potential fall of capitalism so that it may be replaced by Latin American-style socialism? What--to be lorded over by some supreme leader à la Castro or Chávez? I'll take my chances with a creep like Bush any time.

As for all those homeowners in trouble. Too bad. What they did wasn't much different than gambling. And they lost. I sure don't want the government to bail them out with my money. As for the greedy lenders and brokers, the market is taking care of them through massive layoffs and big stock losses.

The author's pithy view of these homeowners is typical of the paternalistic attitute of many liberals who view the working poor as children who can't possibly know what they are doing.

Vincent Hamon

Los Angeles, CA

Aug 23 2007 - 2:41am

Web Letter

I'm glad to see an article containing critiques of global capitalism in this magazine. It seems hard to believe that humans will ever reach a perfect politcal or economic practice, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't progress as much as we can. The outcomes of capitalism are apparent. Wealth becomes dispropotionately allocated (by a system that does not allocate wealth according to anything tangible--few rich work, many poor do) and monarchies of capital are created. Some of the criticism of this article in other web letters are narrowly focused in their view of the "poor." Global capitalism affects the global economy. The majority of the "poor" population exists outside of the US. Should citizens hide behind the boundaries of nationalism when it comes to the social injusticies their "nation's" economy is inflicting upon others? I would hope the answer is no, but it seems too many people with adequate wealth are too comfortable to want to change how they live. However, I sincerely doubt mankind has reached its ultimate achievement with capitalism; politics and economics will always be changing.

P.S. I wish people would realize that a true communist government has ever been established. Pointing at Russia and China is pointing to authoritarian governments, which is diametrically opposed to communist theory. People need to forget 1950s US propoganda.

Jonathan Sager

Pittsburgh, PA

Aug 22 2007 - 11:53pm

Web Letter

Individuals make decisions. Sometimes bad sometimes good. If you screw up, learn from your mistakes and move on. In some cases you cannot help. In the immortal words of Ron White, "you can't fix stupid."

J. J. Gahr

Charles Town, WV

Aug 22 2007 - 1:45pm

Web Letter

Wal-Mart is a big part of the problem here. Look at where most of their merchandise is produced. It isn't in the USA. No, most of it is imported from China. They pay their workers cheap, then those workers have to scrimp on what they buy. I could afford Wal-Mart, except I refuse to waste my money on their cheap imported stuff anymore! Why waste hard earned money buying poorly made stuff when it isn't a necessity?

Whoever came up with this "global economy" also caused this problem. There need to be more than Wal-Mart or "service" jobs available to get this economy rolling! Bring manufacturing jobs back so anybody who wants a job can get one the first attempt! People shouldn't have to walk the soles off their shoes trying to get employed! Nobody should have to get "educated" to get a basic job that they can do. Another thing is housing being built. Do builders think there is going to be a market for all those huge homes they've sprouted all over the country? How many fancy "homes" do they expect billionaires to be buying? Maybe if they built smaller-sized houses then priced them to where people wouldn't have to max out their credit to buy them, they'd be able to sell more of them.

The government should raise tariffs on imported cheap stuff to match what Wal-Mart would have to pay if they bought the same American-made stuff for stocking their shelves! Maybe then we could have more production jobs brought back to this country. Make capitalism work as good for poor people as it does for the rich people and maybe we can get the economy back to what it should be.

Lisa A. Cate

Ava, MO

Aug 22 2007 - 11:34am