We Are All Guilty
A few weeks ago, Rick Santelli, CNBC’s commentator from the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, went on a tirade against government assistance to people who find themselves facing mortgage foreclosure in these troubled times. Like a high school cheerleader, he lead a chorus of Board traders in a rousing chant against those whom he claimed had bought houses they couldn’t afford, or failed to read the mortgages that paid for those houses. Why, he asked, should responsible people like himself (who pay their mortgages on time) be asked to bail out these over-extended, ignorant ne’er-do-wells. To a thunderous applause, he turned and faced the camera and exclaimed, “Are you listening Mr. President?”
His ranting tirade got me thinking. Two summers ago, I sold a house I owned at considerable profit to myself. Looking back on it, I now realize that the handsome price I got for it was due to “housing bubble money”. Be that as it may, I used part of the profit to build a stunning brick wall around my home. The contractor who built the wall took his share of my bubble profits and went out and bought a shinny new truck, made I’m sure of steel, and copper wire, and big fat rubber tires.
My point is this: my bricks and cement, and my contractor’s steel and copper and rubber quite likely all passed through Mr. Santelli’s Board of Trade in one form or another. Mr. Santelli bought and sold those items, and countless millions of tons of other commodities that flourished on bubble money, from which he derived the paychecks that allowed him to pay his mortgage on time. It seems to me that we are all guilty of this mess, and that it is disingenuous for Mr. Santelli, or any of us, to point an accusing finger and self-righteously claim that it is all the other guy’s fault.
Are you listening, Mr. Santelli?
PS. And as for not having read the fine print of the mortgages that now ensnarl millions of our fellow Americans, I have to say that after buying and selling countless homes and rental properties, I, an attorney, admit that I never read a single page of any of those mortgages. And in all of this, I am comforted in the knowledge that apparently not a single congressman or senator ever read a single page of the stimulus bill that committed all of us to nearly a trillion dollars in future tax obligations.
I say again, “We are all guilty”.