I recently read an article on usatoday.com talking about a new strategy to fight homelessness: helping families find foreclosed homes to squat in.
It's a great article. I highly recommend you read it. I never thought there could be a moral dilemma with helping the homeless.
The thing that struck me the most, however, was a part near the end. The Miami activist helping to place families in the vacant homes had previously reached out to banks, trying to legally acquire the houses. His original plan was to rent the homes to the displaced families. At first, there was interest. However, once the banks learned about the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Fund, also known as the "bailout"), they stopped taking his calls.
These banks didn't care about the people. They cared about the bottom line. Here stood a man trying to help. Here stood an opportunity for people to come together, work together, find a way for all parties involved to help each other. Instead of rising to the occasion, being truly magnanimous, the banks chose to wait it out. They wanted their money, no matter what the cost to the families forced out onto the streets.
This article highlights another reason why our country is in such financial peril. When creating mortgages they knew the perspective home owners could not afford, the bankers didn't think about the welfare of their customers. Instead, they went for the quick profit, the easy money maker, brushing their hands of the situation. When given a chance to help their customers, they chose to help themselves.
And what consequences did they have? Only $350 billion dollars to keep their doors open. I understand that everyone needs the bank to stay afloat. But why didn't the government act more forcefully, asking more questions, finding out the root problem, and require the banks to give a report on how they would become profitable again? Why didn't the government appoint a bank czar, who could force the institutions to work with each other, lend to each other, strengthening the financial market? Why were they given basically a blank check, while the auto industry has been grilled before our eyes recently?
I am sickened by the banks' greed, but I am made nauseous by the government's obvious classicism. White collar gets a check. Blue collar gets cheated. Paulson takes care of his buddies. Detroit is kicked while it's down.
My feelings, by no means, excuse what auto companies have done. Save Ford, who at least thought ahead, planned for the worse, and, it is not said enough, HAS NOT ASKED for money, America's auto companies are in trouble because of their own failings. Having said that, why wasn't the same treatment given to the CEO's of AIG, Merrill Lynch, Countrywide, CitiGroup, and the many others who have received piles of money these last few months?
I encourage questioning. I encourage grilling. If you've fucked up, you have to come clean. But punching Peter while you hug Paul doesn't work for me. Our country is in trouble. Our government must do better to make our lives better, lest we all loose what little "wealth" we still have.
If you punish a child for an act, they are less likely to repeat it. By giving the banks a pass, the government has doomed them to make the same mistakes again. Require just as stringent guidelines and reform for the banking sector as you have for the auto sector. That's where the trouble started. It must be where it is treated, vigorously. Maybe then we have a chance of this recession not repeating itself.
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