Sunday, October 10, 2010

TV School

I've been attending Astronomy 320 on a fairly regular basis. It's really neat, with cool computer graphics to illustrate sun spots, orbits and the like. Oh, except that Channel 16 frequently cuts off the last couple of minutes of lecture. It's not so bad for me, but what if a real student then misses something important--like an assignment. Usually they go to some filler for the ten minutes between my class and the next one, so it's not for some important message.

And generally I don't mind editorial comments, but one irritated me to near distraction. I frankly don't believe that millions of people got up one morning and decided to lie on their mortgage applications. Just so unlikely. Millions of people went to mortgage brokers and banks, and were then encouraged to lie on their mortgage applications, because the banks and mortgage brokers made huge fees--and the largest fees were for the worst mortgages. It's part of the "we all contributed to the crisis" mantra. Hooey.

And now we find
out that the largest number of foreclosures are in lower-income neighborhoods. What a surprise! Uh, poorer people have fewer options and less money, and have to take what's offered to them. Only a few things distinguish me from those of my fellows who took the bait:

1. I'm white, which gives me more options in the rental market.

2. I don't have any children. Studies have shown for a long time that 40-60% of the rental market is closed to families with children. And a landlord is unlikely to get caught discriminating unless (a) he's dumb enough to say that the doesn't want children in the property or (b) he tries to evict a family once they have a child. (In fact, the major case on fair housing for children involved just such a family. The landlord decided to evict when the child was five; by the time the case was decided, he was in high school.)

3. We have good credit. (See 2 above.)

4. We come from the Bay Area, where most people rent and no one thinks anything of it. You're welcomed at the City Council, expected to participate in most neighborhood clean-up days, asked to sign petitions, and can get assistance from politicians and city workers when needed. Here, and in many places outside Coastal California, tenants seem to be the equivalent of child molesters.

So it's not surprising that poorer, nonwhite families with children would decide to leap into the abyss. And it isn't because they're deadbeats or stupid or whatever--it's because they took the best of bad options. And that means that to prevent future debacles we have to look at the real causes of the crisis, and provide real solutions.

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