In an idiotic stunt on her Fox News television program on September 6, right wing commentator Laura Ingraham thought it would be good fun to upset liberals by sticking plastic straws and incandescent light bulbs into a slab of cooked meat and then sucking on one of the straws. The stunt revealed more about her emotional immaturity and that of her viewers who might have enjoyed the bizarre demonstration than it did about the ultimate worth of the causes she was mocking. That wasn’t her point, of course; the point for people like Ms. Ingraham and her fans is provoking liberals merely for the dubious enjoyment of provoking liberals, an attitude that displays all the maturity of a seventh grader shooting spitballs from the back of a classroom.
An Optimist and a Pessimist, an 1893 painting by Vladimir Makovsky (1846-1920).
The unwillingness of bad faith media figures like Laura Ingraham to honestly and substantively discuss issues such as the environment generally, and the Green New Deal in particular, reveals their worries about how environmental initiatives like the Global Climate Strike may disrupt their lives and worldviews, and how because of their fears they resent the people backing the initiatives. They see it all as an infringement on their liberty rather than as a concession to sharing limited resources and playing nice with those unlike themselves. To them, it is not a matter of viewing the relative fullness or emptiness of a glass as it is a matter of resenting the people telling them that for the health of the planet and all its inhabitants, flora as well as fauna, all of us had better accept the situation of a glass not entirely full because constant demands by a relative few for an always full glass are causing environmental degradation and eventually, perhaps sooner rather then later, the glass will be empty for everyone.
But that’s what environmental science is telling us. Getting upset about it or denying it and hiding one’s head in the sand is not going to change it, any more than immature and unhelpful behaviors have ever changed other scientific realities. Worse yet is attacking the messengers in a bad faith attempt to disregard the messages. Why disregard clear, coherent messages? Because they disrupt the status quo for powerful people with vested interests in keeping things as they are, in continuing the business as usual of corporate profiteering at the expense of the long term habitability of the commons. Right wing pundits may not always consciously carry water for corporate exploiters of the environment and of workers, but since their interests often align with them the result is the same. The pundits know their audience is uniquely susceptible to fear and hate mongering, and they peddle those wares regularly to enrich themselves.
In this talk Noam Chomsky gave in April 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts, he looked back at the original New Deal to examine how the Green New Deal promises to change economic relationships while enacting energy and environmental initiatives.
The Green New Deal is felt as a threat by right wingers and by entrenched corporate interests because its environmental initiatives will reach into and change the entire economy, and that’s something they cannot help but see any other way than as a negative, a glass half empty. The privileges of white people generally, and of rich people in particular, will be eroded during these economic changes, and that’s a good thing for everyone else and for the planet, because the over extension and abuse of those privileges has been largely responsible for getting all of us into this mess in the first place. No matter how the over privileged feel about the changes, they will have to accept them and get used to them, because the alternative for them is grimmer still, as well as for everyone on our lifeboat Earth as it continues moving around the Sun.
Paying off a mortgage is a wonderful thing, and something that is more remarkable now than it was forty or fifty years ago. Tighter lending standards since the burst of the housing bubble in 2008, and the Great Recession that followed, mean fewer people are qualifying for mortgages now, but the people who currently have mortgages are less likely to ever pay them off because low interest rates mean they will refinance at least once, resetting the clock.
Until the 1930s, mortgages were an uncommon way to purchase a house, and mortgages with 15 or 30 year terms were unheard of. House buyers put as much as 50% down, and the mortgage was for three to five years, all of it interest. At the end of the term, a balloon payment for the remaining principal was due, and it’s not surprising there was a high default rate. The federal government changed the mortgage market in the 1930s by stepping in and insuring lenders against the risk of default on certain approved loans, and later by buying those loans to sell as securities in financial markets.
Mortgage burning party of the Antelope Club of Indianapolis, Indiana, in June 1977; photo by Sheariner.
The modern mortgage market followed from those New Deal policies and the establishment of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). After World War II, the Veterans Administration (VA) gave another boost to home ownership rates by insuring mortgage loans to veterans with no down payment. The demand for new housing was so great that mass production methods came to house construction and the firm of Levitt & Sons built what would be called Levittown on Long Island, New York, a planned community of over 17,000 houses they built between 1947 and 1951.
The window sign of a mortgage lender in July 2008, offering subprime mortgages; photo by The Truth About.
Housing and mortgage markets stayed healthy through the 1970s, but by the 1980s they turned down when interest rates spiked past 10% nearly to 20%, and wages for middle and working class people started stagnating, as measured against inflation. As home ownership rates slipped, the federal government in the 1980s and 1990s deregulated the financial sector of the economy, loosening restrictions on lending, and especially on the financial instruments related to mortgages. For Wall Street, the doors to the candy store had been flung open.
Home ownership rates hit an all time high by 2005, when the bubble was inflated to its biggest extent. That’s not surprising considering all the shady wheeling and dealing going on at the time. What’s also not surprising was what happened next, when the bubble burst – millions of new homeowners defaulting on their mortgages and the housing market tanking; while the Wall Street financiers, and the federal legislators and regulators who were supposed to keep a watchful eye on them, all walked away with hardly a scratch.
The Wall Street people and their media mouthpieces tried to blame the homeowners for taking on more debt than they could afford. Meanwhile, the taxpayer bailout of Wall Street in 2008 and 2009 did almost nothing to help those homeowners. They weren’t bailed out. No trickle down economics for them. Through all that, the wages of middle and working class people that started stagnating in the 1980s have stayed flat. People who acquired a 30 year mortgage in the 1990s, when the market was turning up, still have to make their payments each month.
From the Monty Python’s Flying Circus television show on the BBC in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Meanwhile, their other costs of living have gone up, such as the student debt for their children who may now be, in the 2010s, graduating from college. That’s assuming they can help their children pay for college; if not, the children will be saddled with such an onerous debt upon graduation they may not feel ready for a mortgage of their own until they are in their 40s. Who can blame current homeowners (in name only, and not in deed), these indentured servants, these wage slaves, for continually turning to their homes as a source of funds by refinancing again and again, to the point they will never have a mortgage burning party? The only economic positives they see are the low interest rates that make refinancing an attractive, and maybe a sole, option for clinging to the American Dream.