Who knew everything wrong with America could be succinctly explained in a single segment of a morning news program? That's precisely what occurred on April 20th edition of NBC's "Today." It was a story about companies who help people default on their mortgagespeople who can afford those mortgages, but decide to default anyway. Before America's moral meltdown, such a decision would be called something like "welshing on one's obligations." Now, aided and abetted by ethically corrupt companieswhose entire reason for existing is to promote ethical corruptionsuch decisions are referred to as "strategic defaults."
Welcome to the brave new world where clever vocabulary confers absolution on rotten behavior. "We weren't in any financial distress, but the value of the house had declined so precipitously that continuing to stay in this house and paying this inflated mortgage made no sense," said Chris Schreur of California, who contacted a company called You Walk Away, which helped him literally walk away from a freely-signed contractual obligation. "My degree is economics, so I understand that you don't keep putting money into a losing proposition just because you already put money in," he added.
Apparently they don't teach ethics along with economics, which might explain a lot about the current state of the country. Mr Schreur continues: "Objectively the hardest part was the hit to the credit rating. Defaulting on a debt is the hardest thing to accept."
Not hard enough to do the right thing, evidently.
Unfortunately, Mr. Schreur and so many other Americans like him have their enablers. "The nature of the act of walking away has always been associated with being a deadbeat, a failure, etc," said Jon Maddux, CEO of You Walk Away . "But it is now seen as a business decision."
Pardon me for noticing, but Mr. Maddox sounds remarkably like the contract killers in "The Godfather" who reminded their victims just before murdering them that it too was "strictly business." Not to be outdone, NBC's George Lewis ambled even further down Enablement Alley: "One bit of advice? Don't feel guilty," he said.
Doing the right thing is only possible if two conditions exist: one, the right thing has to be knowable; and two, doing the wrong thing has to induce some sort of shame or guilt. With regard to both, the progressive/secularist movement in this country has had remarkable success in obscuring the formerand virtually eliminating the latter. Never before have we had so many Americans so thoroughly convinced that nothing is their own fault.
And never before have we had so many other Americans willing to cover for them.
Back to NBC's George Lewis: "While owning one's own home is still a large part of the American dream, many people who've walked away from their mortgages and are now renting say they found a certain peace of mind. The Schreur's say their strategic default left them feeling a lot better … A feeling now shared by many in this country."
That's a lot of "feelings," Mr. Lewis. Feelings are what people like to talk about when thinking becomes uncomfortable. My Baby Boomer generation was the first one mass-fed the idea that "if it feels good, do it." It is a testament to the utter vacuousness of the so-called "revolution of the '60s" that no one bothered to mention the stunningly obvious corollary to that slogan: "if it feels good do it and live with the consequences."
Thus, fifty years later, peace of mind is what you get for a guilt-free default on your obligationsand even if that little voice in the back of your head is inclined to speak up, it will be drowned out by "a feeling now shared by many in this country," according to Mr. Lewis.
Host Matt Lauer also interviewed "Today" financial editor Jean Chatzky. "There are people who say you made a deal, you have a commitment, you have a mortgage, it hurts your neighbors. Is that a fair argument?" Lauer asked.
"It's an understandable argument, but I think when you look at the business case, it is just as understandable to walk away from a bank that lent you more than you could afford on a property that was not as valuable as both of you thought," said Chatzky.
I suspect that if NBC decided to "walk away" from Ms. Chatzky's contract, based on the idea that she was "not as valuable as they originally thought," she'd be a tad less magnanimous.
The entire cast of characters in this sordid tale can sugar-coat it anyway they want, but they should understand this: decent Americans aren't buying into moral delinquency served up as a sob story. Anyone who wants to walk away from a mortgage he can afford is free to do so. But this is one American who'll be be damned before I pat him on the head and tell him it's OK. People who blow off obligations, are deadbeatsperiod.
I suspect that many of my regular readers may notice that I bang the morality drum quite a bit. There's a good reason for this: it is my contention that no society can survive a prolonged infatuation with moral ambiguity . That is not to say we must become a nation of Bible-thumping Puritans. But if we've gotten to the point where people can not only break contracts, but break them without remorse , where does it stop? How long before a critical number of Americans decide that a couple of other "contracts"the Constitution and the Declaration of Independenceare as easy to toss aside as any other? The only thing that separates us from the hell-holes of totalitarian oppression on this planet is the idea that we are a nation of laws, not men.
Memo Number One to You Walk Away CEO Jon Maddux and others like him: kid yourself all you want, but you're selling moral corruption to people willing to be morally corrupted. Fyi, that's what pimps do.
Memo Number Two to Mr. Schreur and others like him: whether you know it or not, you've gone through two bankruptciesone financial, the other moral.
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