Friday, October 7, 2011

The 99ers Score

While the idea of the 99ers is somewhat cheesy (a selection of disgruntled citizens [read: hippies] representing 99% of the US population who own 10% of the wealth in this country), they are certainly being heard, albeit in a strange way. Their goal is to be noticed and to enact change, mainly on the front of being ousted from their homes because of too-few opportunities which are erroneously advertised as being available yet underutilized. So have they succeeded in these efforts? Well...they're on local news networks as "peace disturbers" who occasionally become violent; are on MSNBC as proletariats; and are on Fox News as "domestic terrorists." So how do YOU view them? (Half-rhetorical question...)

My wife works for one of the larger banks and takes the train into the city, and she passes by some of these people camped out and her word for them is: hippies. "They're not," she says, "at all like you and I; we would go out and do something if our lives were in this position." And while I'm sure she's right, I wonder if we ever could be in that same position and what we would do if we found ourselves in that position? Would I be able to finagle a way to keep a house if I was buried underwater, in a mortgage I couldn't ever possibly pay off, facing bleak job prospects, and feeling stymied by the same banks which encouraged me to take out said loan on a house I KNEW I couldn't afford? Well, I don't know...but I am pretty sure that I would try to find a first or a second job instead of camping out to protest employees who had nothing to do with the decisions that were made years ago (my wife didn't even work there until the housing market had already crashed). I also know that there are more effective methods for having your voice heard.

You can walk up to an executive and demand that they let you keep your home, but ultimately they don't control that. They don't have a magic phone number they can call which will go directly to the desk of the man whose finger is poised directly over the alluring red button which will oust you from your house. Your mortgage and your issues are tied up in a technological world, bound to generated computer sequences, algorithms determining your interest, payments and likelihood of foreclosure, and are controlled by staffers who look at these computer models and, based on sheer numbers, determine whether they should foreclose on you.

It's hard to blame a single person beyond yourself. So should these people look in the mirror to find where they should aim their blame? No. Well, maybe. Yes?

If you took out an excessive mortgage on a house you didn't need and couldn't afford and just assumed that everything would keep increasing exponentially until the end of time, then you are to blame. If you and your spouse had jobs making comfortable money and you purchased a home you could afford or was a little out of your price range and you both lost your jobs and you have been actively trying to find a new job or have a new job and are earning money that pales in comparison to what you once had, then I think you should have no blame. This, I think, is where the line should be drawn.

Perhaps to end the protests and employ some people, these large banks and lenders should hire, train and implement these mortgage reviewers to determine on a case-by-case basis (much like how most people used to get bank loans before our internet age) whether someone deserves a mortgage refinance even if they are underwater or deserves a break on their penalties. I know several families who have fallen on hard times as a result of this recession/depression, but I also know a few who have taken advantage of superfluous unemployment benefits ("finding" a job only as the final benefit check rolled in). I know people who bought a house they couldn't afford and are somehow still in it, and others who have been kicked out. And I know some who are stuck somewhere in the middle: a semi-affordable home, a new or lower-paying job, or different circumstances (children, new office location, etc.).

To these 99ers I say I hear and understand you, but I say end the protests. Want to be noticed and enact change? Want to be effective? You're becoming more spectacle than effective. Occupy Wall Street all you want, but if you want to be noticed, occupy your homes. Refuse to leave when the foreclosers arrive, and have a movement at that house. If the government will arrest one, they'll have to arrest all. And THAT will make an impact. 1,000 arrested to protect a home is much different than 1,000 standing in the streets with posters saying "let us keep our houses." One person who presents proof they have looked for a job, can afford their home again and won't saddle the taxpayers with misfortune but genuinely wants to try to afford something they almost could before deserves the opportunity. We are America; a land of opportunity, not a land of those who take advantage of opportunity and then expect to be given breaks. Like a big bank for instance. Oh, wait.

Alaska's New Airport

Alaska's newest airport, situated on a deserted island off the coast of the largest seafood manufacturing plant in the US, costs taxpayers $77 million. Again, $77 million, which is roughly the amount that the state of North Dakota is trying to cut out of their budget for the upcoming year.

The airport takes at least 1/2 hour to reach, and that's from the main island of 1,000 residents off its coast. From the mainland of Alaska, it would take a person at least a full day and at least two modes of transportation to reach the airport. Feel somehow cheated or that something isn't right? Well, what if I told you that the airport will mostly be used by Trident seafood company employees? But that's something you need to keep hush-hush about, especially since the mayor doesn't want to talk about it...

Watch for yourself...