America: Land of the Free, Home of Incurable Terminal Imbecility
Posted by Euroranger on October 16, 2012
So, as you can see, I’ve successfully held off posting a political rant for pretty much the entire year. I didn’t mention the Republican primaries (I liked Newt), I haven’t mentioned the conventions (while I like Clint, if anyone needs a teleprompter more than Barry, it’s him) and I didn’t chime in on the debates (I thought Obama looked smug and Biden is nothing less than a national disgrace). That all said, the pressure has been building for some time and while I haven’t been busy posting here of late, I have dropped opinions on several sites scattered about the intarwebz tubez and generally pissing people off through the power of, you know, actually being informed. It’s this late discovered superpower that I’m here to discuss today. A few minutes ago I had occasion to decide to end a running debate I found myself engaged in on a friend’s Facebook status. I was happily rebutting ignorance with facts when one of my debating opponents snapped and suggested her point “was to[o] simple for some to grasp”. I sat and ruminated on her comment for a time before I posted a response assuring her I got her point, that it was based on faulty information and that if being informed was now viewed as some kind of fault or flaw that I’ll simply have to find a way to live with it. Naturally, she assumed that she had somehow won some kind of internet debating contest and couldn’t resist the urge to post even more ignorant blather which I’ve decided to simply let lie. After departing the field with the opponent figuratively chanting “nana booboo” to my retreating back, I had a moment to reflect on the general state of affairs these days and have stumbled across a monumental glaring truth:
Many Americans these days are fucking idiots.
Now, now…I know, that seems like a rather shocking revelation but I assure you: my recent experiences reveals this as unmistakable, fundamental, universal, indisputable truth. It was only this most recent episode that acted like the philosophical catalyst, finally delivering me over the unpalatable hump of my desperate hope that the mass ignorance I encounter everyday was just a freakish concentration localized to the places I occasionally stray online. Alas and alack, this is sadly untrue. No, instead, it’s been demonstrated to me so repeatedly that most people are dumber than a crate of anvils that I am now forced to regard such as a Law of Nature (much like gravity, the speed of light and cats always landing on their feet). However, as this is my blog and I am a patriotic American, I feel a compelling need to expose this rampant idiocy. To that end, I’m going to recap the subjects of just the last two debate events that I engaged in which covers merely yesterday afternoon and earlier this morning.
Subject 1: Banks are bad
Now, allow me to state at the outset: I dislike banks. The reasons for my dislike are myriad. I cannot fathom that a business that is engaged in the holding, lending and management of other peoples’ money can be as haphazard, careless and error prone as banks are. We’re talking about institutions who make astronomical profits (BoA, for example made $2.1B in profits…just in three months this year, April, May and June) but who will tell you to your apparently assumed ignorant face that the computer system their teller uses cannot draw the same information their ATM draws and neither again can draw the same info you see when banking online. It’s data for crying out loud. It’s not fucking magic. These same banks will do things deliberately to squeeze every last penny out of their customers (which seems like kind of a counter intuitive thing to do) via shady and inexplicable practices such as processing all debit transactions at the end of the day as a single value before they process any pending credit transactions…and then if your debits exceed your balance (because they haven’t credited your deposits yet) they assess NSF or overdraft fees against each single debit transaction. Aside from bending you, their customer, over to roger your bunghole, there is no reason to operate like this. Yet they do. Anyway, with all that out of the way, there are a ton of people who believe, because it’s the standard party line of Democrats and the Occupy crowd, that the recent housing bubble collapse is all due to banks writing loans to people who shouldn’t have gotten them. And that’s where the story ends. Bad loans = blame banks. It was voiced like this the other day in a comment thread by some anonymous poster:
So how about when a bank gives a $500,000 high interest mortgage loan to an uneducated, low income father of four with no credit check or verification of income. The bank then sells off the remaining mortgage payments to various hedge funds to ensure their profits avoid liability when the man defaults on his payments. 2 years later the man loses his job and can no longer make his mortgage payments and he and his family are fucked.
I chose to engage this particular comment because…well…I’d seen it echoed literally hundreds of times the past few years and I’m fed up that such uninformed ignorance drives opinion in this country. My initial response:
Eh, you lost me when you said “…and the uneducated, low income father of four APPLIED FOR A FREAKIN’ HALF MILLION DOLLAR LOAN because his personal responsibility and self control had been kidnapped by a bank”. It’s stunning how many people completely skip the part dealing with personal responsibility in even asking for a loan they know they’ll never repay in the first place for things they can’t afford.
I was actually somewhat rude in an additional sentence that followed and regretted posting it so I’m not going to repeat my mistake here. That said, the initial poster responded:
Ok, maybe a half million dollar loan was a bit dramatic. But to an uneducated man with poor financial management skills even a $100,000 loan may seem payable when realistically he doesn’t stand a chance of paying it off.
Believe me I’m a huge proponent of personal responsibility but when you get a poorly educated man in a room and tell him he can move his kids out of a shitty studio apartment and into an actual house, and that he can have the money now, you bet his judgment is clouded and those mortgage payments seem possible.
I don’t blame banks for wanting their money, I just think they should earn it ethically.
Earning things ethically is something I think everyone can agree on. However, it was apparent that I was debating someone who lacked any real knowledge of how the housing crisis came to be and this is a very common blind spot with lots of Americans. So, because he didn’t take offense at my omitted rudeness, I decided to try the oft failing educational route:
Fair enough…but if we’re being fair, let’s be fair all around. Banks made those loans because in 1993 and further in 1999 the federal government told Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loosen their underwriting standards for the loans they guaranteed low and middle income applicants (and especially those in inner cities) to banks so that those banks would write those notes and, presumably, get such folks into mortgages and out of leases.
This was done after a fairly racially charged campaign alleging banks wouldn’t write mortgages for minority applicants despite there not being a place asking for race or ethnicity on the application form (such being banned by the Fair Housing Law of 1968). In essence, banks were encouraged to write loans whose applicants would not normally qualify for such per their underwriting rules because of the increased risk of default. The federal government, in a move to pander to those voters, essentially overruled sound business sense and ordered the FMs to guarantee those loans so the banks wouldn’t be left holding the bag and would be encouraged to issue such loans.
There were no additional responses by the guy I was exchanging with so I don’t even know if he saw it. However, in this campaign season we’ve all heard the oft trotted out mantra by Obama that Republicans are all for the rich at the expense of the middle and lower class and that Obama believes the failure of the banking industry and the subprime loan crisis is entirely the responsibility of the banks and thus requires more federal oversight. Very few people appear to know that prior to the mid to late 1990’s, the home mortgage industry was on ridiculously solid ground. They had long tested and proven actuarial data that informed their loan underwriting practices. Then along comes Bill Clinton and, in the interest of pandering to minority voters, ends up having Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adjust their underwriting policies for FHA backed loans (banks wrote the loans, the FMs insured them) so that banks would increase their lending to minorities. Essentially abandon sound business lending practices in favor of politically based practices, make the federal corporations (the FMs) assume all the risk and reap the electoral benefits. However, as was expected and predicted by many at the time, all the new underwriting policies did was allow banks to write loans to people they normally would not have offered them to and, ironically, enough even though the entire scheme was designed to see more minority home ownership in low income neighborhoods, a study by the federal reserve concluded that it didn’t end up affecting those ownership rates at all. All we got out of it was a glut of bad loans whose collapse was only staved off due to ever increasing property values. Once those values stopped accelerating, people found themselves unable to pay and so, rather than have a housing foundation built on sound and proven business principles, it was built on speculation and consumer confidence. It was destined to self destruct and it did.
So, monkey with sound business practices for short term political minority favor = people getting loans they couldn’t afford, shouldn’t apply for and when housing prices eventually imploded, the wealth accumulation vehicle of the middle class (home equity) gets virtually annihilated. And rather than fess up that it was their idiotic pandering for minority votes that started the entire debacle, the Left in this country conveniently blames the banks…forgetting the government’s urging and complicity.
Subject 2: Republicans hate minorities/are racists
This is one that’s entirely foisted upon the right by the left. It’s a lot like the first Obama/Romney debate: all the negative political ads define the other guy and so some people (most people?) regard the targeted candidate as being as he/she was described in the negative ad and then when they’re actually exposed to the candidate some say “wow, that’s not at all what I expected”…and then those who were predisposed to dislike him anyway claim he’s flip-flopped on issues and/or he’s a liar. I’m never at a loss to be disappointed in the total inability of many supposedly capable adults to discern their own inability to think critically and just simply swallow whatever the latest slogan du jour is from their particular party. Much like how Democrats are portrayed by some as Godless atheists (although mainstream media never lets that out over the airwaves), Republicans are always anti-minority no matter what. This was the crux of the exchange I enjoyed this morning on Facebook. The original topic was that campaign signs for Romney were disappearing from lawns and one friend had had their mailbox vandalized the same evening they planted a Romney sign in their yard:
And for your friend Doug, threats to shoot and shooting candidates has been going on for a very long time. In my lifetime we had George Wallace shot while running for president. Martin Luther King assassinated and Bobby Kennedy assassinated while running for president. I might add they were all Democrats but NO ONE EVER accused the the Republicans of conspiring to do these dastardly deeds. These things are done and committed by lone loose cannons just as in the case of Gabby Giffords. They are nut cases or irrespponsible people just playing pranks. They usually do not represent the candidates on either side. I have worked on enough campaigns than I can even count and it has happened since time immemoriam. It is a sad and dark side of campaigns and believe me it happens on both sides. Neither side is a sainted and neither side is full of that kind of scoundrel. There is enough guilt to go all around.
To which I replied:
MLK was a candidate?
I did that because so many people who identify themselves as Democrats make a very common error. In truth, I was kind of baiting the one who commented seeing if she would bite. She did:
Just majoy [major] figures in the Dem. Party at the time that had a tremendous empact [impact] on the politics of the day.
And so, with the fish swallowing and the bait in the mouth, I set the hook:
Um…about MLK, Jr. being a Democrat. He was a registered Republican as were nearly all blacks in the south at that time. I hear that one trotted out a lot and the standard line of how Republicans don’t care about the black folk (which would come as a rather large surprise to both MLK, Jr. and Lincoln).
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 for instance…better than 80% voted in favor by Republicans in both houses of Congress but only 62% by Democrats. Voting Rights Act of 1965 was much the same: supported by a 94% vote by Republicans, only 73% by Democrats. It wasn’t until LBJ and the 1964 Democrat congress began passing out money via welfare, Medicaid and such through the War on Poverty that blacks switched whole-heartedly to being Democrats.
Now, was I a troll to maneuver this clueless woman into this conversation? Maybe. But the intent was to expose and possibly educate people about a fairly common misconception. The facts are that blacks were overwhelmingly Republican right through the mid-1960’s. Republicans, ever since their very founding, were about rights for the black man in America. That issue was literally their major founding principle. Equality for all. In addition to equality for all races, Republicans were the party of women’s suffrage as well. Susan B. Anthony, the very champion of women voting, was a staunch Republican and derived the vast amount of her political support from the Republican Party…so when you also hear about the Republican “War on Women”, well, this is another example of how taking a stand on one or two issues is conflated by a hostile and biased media into something much larger, more sinister and essentially entirely fraudulent. Anyway, having delivered the pertinent facts about who it was that was responsible for not only freeing the slaves but sponsoring and passing civil rights legislation, you’d think that those facts would have some impact on the fish. Well, you’d be wrong. I was presented with an entire non-sequitur (meaning, it wasn’t related whatsoever) and then, my failing to see the obvious connection of the two totally unrelated events was described as “Evidently to[o] simple for some to grasp“…implying that I lacked the requisite smarts to see the relationship where none existed prior to the moment I corrected her incorrect claims with actual facts. It was at this point that I pretty much shook my head and mourned that this woman, who likely doesn’t call a local sanitarium “home”, will undoubtedly take her ignorance to the polls and using that as her guiding principle, will cast a vote.
I’ve done this kind of thing on FB quite a bit. I see a reposted crock of shit political zinger by my friends and I correct them when the lie is so egregious and I see people posting the text equivalent of nodding in agreement. I’m like the Don Quixote of Facebook. And yes, I chide my friends on the right for their excessive, facts-bereft zeal when they indulge as well (although, in all truth, the things they take Obama to task for are fairly starkly established facts like the debt and deficit and such). And yeah, I DO need to find a better hobby.
But in the meantime, my point is this: we have an election coming up. We have two viable candidates and, in my personal opinion, neither is worthy of being the town dog catcher much less president of the United States. However, we need to choose one of them and, again in my opinion, we ought to be looking at established facts. Candidates will lie their everloving ass off to get that extra vote so I don’t hold to much of what a candidate claims he’ll do if elected/re-elected. Congress is where legislation is introduced, debated and passed. The president merely signs them into law…so much of what either Romney or Obama promises they’ll do is so much crap. There are lots of facts to be found regarding either candidate and yet despite those facts, the primary driver of who will win the election will be how well they perform in two more debates (and perhaps the September jobs numbers that are due to be released just 4 days before the election).
So, to all Americans who intend to vote (and by that I mean those who aren’t illegal aliens, convicted felons and so on), I say this: cast your vote as an American and not as a Democrat or Republican. Listen to what each candidate says, inform yourself of the facts and make an informed choice. Mass ignorance ought not to rule this nation…or influence the outcome in the choosing of its leaders.
My name is Euroranger and I approved this message.