We can’t afford to live here anymore….

My roommate, a foreign national, told me his impression of Americans is that we are …”loud, rude, fat, and you spit when you speak.”  We spit when we speak because we have ‘p’ & ‘b’ sounds in our words, and we enunciate.  This really has nothing to do with  the rest of what I have to say, except his  view of us is that we are dimwitted and thoughtless.

I have to add to that description that we are innumerate, impulsive, and naively trusting. We trust the government (more than people in other countries trust their governments), and we trust  people in power to act with honesty and integrity.  & we just don’t do anything about it when they don’t act with honesty & integrity.

We are in a financial crisis of a magnitude that I would never have imagined.

About 10 years ago, looking for a better way to make money without spending years in school, I looked in to brokering cash flows:  payment streams. They are traded among investors.  It works like this:  Say you agree to  payments—like a mortgage.  A 20 year mortgage  is 240 monthly payments.  It was—& still is— legal to by certain payments in that stream. You could buy payments 15 through 125, or  payment numbers 128, 146, 238, etc.  It didn’t matter.

My question was….what if the mortgage got paid off early?  Or was defaulted on?  Would you get the principal and  no interest?  How would you ensure this if the mortgage was sold several times?  Ah…this was the rub.  I realized that I didn’t have the back up capital to be involved in this industry.  I chalked up what I spent on learning this to ….education.

Years passed, and the  mortgage/cash flow industry (as it was known) continued to develop  creative financing, and it was legal because it was not illegal.  The  real estate appraisers were in collusion with this, and the term for this slice and dice was ultimately called the credit default swap.

The only ones who made money on this were the investors who  hedged bets against this—like Michael Burry (who was profiled by Michael Lewis in his recent book).  Because we are innumerate, and can get high school…& then get college degrees without being able to balance a checkbook, our neighbors were tricked into buying houses they could not afford because  the mortgage brokering foxes running the henhouses told them all they COULD afford those houses when common sense said they could not.

Never mind that if they added up what they paid for utilities, groceries, clothing, insurance, CABLE TV, gym membership, eating  out, vacations, GETTING THEIR HAIR & NAILS DONE,  saving for retirement—and my very favorite:  getting the dog’s hair cut—- they’d see  that all this cost more than they brought into their households as income.  They could not afford the house (tho the dog’s haircut was the first casualty of real life in their faces…)

Nobody ever brought up:  what if the prices of gas, insurance, food, PROPERTY TAXES. or a repair to their homes—were more than they could handle.  What if they lost their jobs?

Nobody counseled them.  It’s a free country.  It was their business to figure all this out.

When I started making mortgage payments over 30 years ago, I was not living so close to the edge…and since the  economic crash of 2008, I am living precariously close.  I’ve had to do some fancy footwork.  I can see right now, though, that  I can’t afford to  live in the house I live in now when I retire unless I win the lottery.

My biggest concerns are energy costs and property taxes.  Our governments are too bloated, and our elected officials are really too clueless.  Otherwise, how can you explain that , despite a federal deficit, we have money for wars, foreign aid, and to bail out banks & large industries?

Thanks to the internet, we can now see h0w other countries fare in terms of budgets…especially  when they are not fighting wars.

Let’s get a grip.  For decades, due to the concept of credit, we had the largest/strongest economy.  That is no longer true.

It is just incomprehensible to me that the Republican Party, and the tea partiers are so concerned about the deficit, and want to whittle away at social security, medicare, & medicaid (hey—it they  reconfigured the system & cut fraud—& allowed all of us to have the same type of health insurance they have, we’d all be ok…), but  money for wars, the military,  and foreign aid can’t be touched.

Thanks to the internet, we can now see how other countries fare in terms of their budgets—especially when they are not fighting wars.

My grandparents  were first generation Americans, and raised my parents to believe that the USA is the greatest country.  For decades, we has the strongest and most diverse economy, but that is no longer true.  Granted, our constitution allows freedoms that all humans should have—-no doubt…but the Supreme Court (Clarence Thomas wrote the opinion)  says it’s legal for prosecutors to withhold evidence that might free someone convicted of a crime. How can that be in the greatest country?

There are a lot of people who have a vested interest in keeping you and your children misinformed.

It makes no sense that our prisons are filled with drug addicts, the stupid, and homosexuals (really), but there is no room for the truly dangerous.  It makes no  sense that the politicians can decide what to pay themselves and how many people to have on their payrolls, yet allow major industries (banking, health insurance, law) to influence what laws we have.

You might wonder how I started thinking about how all this works.  It started by  having to deal with people who impulsively bought pets they weren’t prepared to care for.  It’s just too easy!

It goes like this:  If you go to an  ethical hobby breeder,or a shelter, they will ask you a bunch of questions, like:  Have you ever owned a pet?  What happened to that pet?  Who do you live with? Can I meet them?  Do you own or rent where you live?  Do you work outside of your home? When will you have time to train your pet? Do you know what  grooming (food, shots) cost?  What if you have to move?  What if the pet has a major health issue?  Where will you go for obedience training (in the case of a dog)?

The shelter or hobby breeder will have you sign a contract take the pet back—but not commercial sellers  or backyard breeders, breeding animals as livestock. They don’t have to be responsible.  It is up to the rest of us to deal with the misery these  livestock breeders produce.    You walk into a pet shop (or answer an ad in the paper), pay your money, and nobody asks you a damn thing.

When  these buyers realize they were not prepared to  care for a live animal. some just abandon them. Some try to sell them or dump them in shelters, but they never think to return it to the seller, who—by law—doesn’t have to be responsible for it.  It’s legal because it’s not illegal.

If we made the pet stores and unethical sellers liable for the animals they breed, there would be fewer pet sales. There would be fewer pets in shelters.  The municipalities that fund  animal pounds & shelters  would have  more money for education or health care.

A corollary would be that if we told everyone signing up for military service what they might actually be fighting for…and that the government health care they would receive (to deal with their injuries) would probably not be adequate, and they would not be assured of accessible housing (and they might want to visit a V.A, hospital before signing on the dotted line), we might have fewer people signing up to  essentially be  mercenaries fighting rich peoples’ wars.

Think about this:  if everyone who graduated 8th grade  had to demonstrate numeracy:  understanding a profit and loss sheet, or a budget, or how to balance a check book, and what diapers cost and how many a child under 2 years old goes through…we might have fewer people losing their homes.   I guess we’d have fewer people graduating  from high school, too…& college—with thousands of dollars in debt & no job.

But, I guess I am out of step with the rest of America.


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