Monday, September 29, 2008

The Financial Blame Game

Unless you have been on another planet for the last month, you know about the credit crisis in America. If you have been paying attention to the coverage, you have heard several reasons for the crisis… big firms on wall street, the Bush administration, Fat Cats in New York, and even the guy who offered a loan with an adjustable rate. But there is one person noticeably unmentioned in this game of blame… YOU. That’s right… Y.O.U.

But I must admit I am not surprised YOU haven’t been mentioned as at least an accomplice to the financial mess. Who would tell you? The media… no way… they need you as a customer to drive their ratings. They would never insult you (their customers) by saying that this current mess is YOUR fault. It’s not in their selfish interest. That is media-business suicide. How about the politicians? Will they tell you it is your fault? Of course not… especially in an election year. You are their constituents, and they need your vote. You can do no wrong in their eyes. So if the media won’t tell you that you screwed up, and the politicians won’t tell you that YOU have been living beyond your means, who will? I consider myself part of "Y.O.U.", and I take it upon myself to give us all a good dose of reality.

For years, YOU have been living beyond YOUR means. YOU drive a car you can’t afford. YOU bought a house that is way too big just hoping the market would go up and YOU would get rich quick (like those horrible “fat cats” on Wall Street). YOU made short-term decisions that will have long-term consequences. YOU bet it all on the real estate market. YOU spend more than YOU make. YOU were greedy, and YOU lost.

I would like to mention three groups of people YOU can’t blame for this mess… First, Fat Cats on Wall Street: Their firms bought into YOUR decisions. YOU decided to buy a house YOU couldn’t afford, and they were dumb enough to lend YOU the money. They were greedy just like YOU, not more, not less…. Just like YOU. If YOU are honest, YOU will realize that YOU are no different than those Fat Cats on Wall Street… except they were smart enough to negotiate severance packages and YOU didn’t.

Second, the George Bush administration: I know it’s popular to blame them for everything, but I’m sorry… W. wasn’t there when YOU signed the loan on YOUR house. He didn’t buy YOUR car(s). He didn’t make the short-sighted decision to take a sub-prime finance gamble on shelter for YOUR family. He didn’t bet the farm on one real estate deal. YOU did.

Finally, the Lenders: They made it possible for YOU to start making payments on YOUR home. They qualified YOU for way too much borrowed money… but ultimately, YOU took it. YOU didn’t have to. They didn’t hold a gun to YOUR head, and in spite of what YOU are currently saying in your lawsuit against your lender, they did not trick YOU. YOU knew the risk, and YOU thought YOU were invincible. YOUR gamble and their gamble drove them out of business.

I know it’s hard to hear. The truth often is… which is why so few people actually tell it. Let’s be honest about how we got here. We did it ourselves through poor decisions based on trying to get something for nothing in the housing market. Let’s turn off 24 hour news that panders to its customers and get back to the accountability, responsibility and self-discipline that made the United States of America the greatest and most prosperous country in the history of the world. Let’s all quit blaming others and take an occasional look in the mirror to ask the really difficult questions… “What did I do to contribute to this mess?”, and “What can I do to help us get out?”

8 comments:

MwH said...

Amen!

Beck said...

Wow! YOU go girl!!! I would hate to run into YOU in a dark alley threatening to take YOUR money! YOU rock and I miss YOU tons! YOU are the reason that girls night out isn't the same. YOU need to look in the mirror and find out what YOU can do to fix it?

lol!!! That was fun! So I see Kent leaving YOU for the YOU.S.A. has caused a little estrogen to fly? NNIIIICCCCEEEEEE!

jamie said...

love it! it's so true, the blame is being thrown around but it's not hitting those that really deserve...me, you, every consumer out there. Thanks for being honest and sharing your feelings. You're not alone. It will be interesting to see what will happen in the next little bit. I'm just praying that this bailout package never gets passed! there are better ways to deal with this crisis and adding more credit to the game is NOT the answer. Again, thanks for being bold and saying it like it is.

Tia said...

Nicely said!

Mike Reeve said...

I am going to send this into to Bill O'Reilly or Glenn Beck - Wow! Thanks for so eloquently telling the truth. We always knew there were political aspirations in the Cook family.... just thought they were always Kent's! I will vote for you!

Ellis said...

If I'm to understand you correctly, you're suggesting that every-day good-hearted Americans (including me) have played a role in creating the mess we're in. HOW DARE YOU!!!

Okay, I agree, but this is exactly the kind of talk that we'll never hear from the people most able to deliver it: especially so close to an election. It's funny to listen to political debates and hear everybody but consumers blamed for this consumption-driven debacle. That’s the sort of “Straight Talk™” that could never be delivered straightly without serious repercussions. Politicians would certainly lose votes by telling voters their poor decisions led to this disaster, and corporations would lose brand loyalty in consumers.

The saddest thing about the blame game and the absolute absence of blame being placed on consumers (us) is the reason why no blame is so directed. No blame is apportioned to consumers/individuals, because consumers aren’t trusted to make responsible decisions. Regulations are placed on free-market activities in an effort to keep honest people honest. If everyone was as honest as we say we are then there would be no need for any regulations. If consumers are wise and prudent citizens then the lifting of a regulation won’t change their behavior. However, if consumers are opportunists (idiots with cash/credit) ready to take all they can get, then a failing in regulation could cause a disaster (see Dow Jones). Unfortunately, if there is a lifting of a regulation, or if there is a gap in regulations that can be exploited to increase gain, then foul play, seemingly inevitably, follows.

Of course the biggest reason no blame is cast at consumers is the fear of the blowback that that blame would engender, but I think no blame is given to consumers because it’s considered that consumers will take whatever they can get. If that assumption is correct then no blame should be cast at consumers; No matter how dumb they are, they are filling their role. [Kind of like when your dog chews up your beautiful tulips, you can only get so mad at him. If you really want to keep you dog out of the garden then you have to put up a fence (a regulation).]

What would be great is if consumers, average people like me and you and everyone else, started acting responsibly. When consumers stop being the lowest-common-denominator in the economics equation, then consumers can blame (if they wish) government and corporations when economic disasters arise. Until that time we will be considered unworthy of responsibility and given no blame.

JP said...

That's great to hear. I've been wondering when this was going to come back to bite us for years. I used to work for Wells Fargo Financial doing mostly re-fis. We would help our clients wrap all their debt together in a nice little package and called it a mortgage. Then a year or two down the road, when they racked up another 20G on their CC, we'd do another appraisal (hoping it would come back even higher than last time), stuff as much of that debt in as possible, and refigure the terms. Employees made money, company made money, and customers were happy they could get "rid" of their debt. It's about time the finger was pointed in the right direction. I'll have to show this to Tally.

The Spin-ster said...

my goodness. Well I would never have attributed this post to anyone other than Kent - it's definitely got his voice, and...er.. strength of "opinion." :)

I completely agree. Let's get the individual to think about their poor decisions and their desire to live beyond their means, and let's also wonder why Utah is leading the country in re-pos on homes, cars, etc.. With such a large Mormon base and the prophet telling us for years to not live on credit it's a bit baffling, no?

I digress - accountability is a long forgotten word in our society. I would love to see us take hard looks at ourselves and our choices with regard to the economy and much, much more.

I would also love to focus more on the individual when looking at the fat cat banks and the auto industry, MEANING - why does the leadership never pay the price for the position of the company? Why are they still allowed to run the company and why are they allowed to still fly private jets, etc.. I want the unions managed or ended, but why are they the only ones taking a pay cut? Let's ensure that the people who actually made the decisions at the top feel the pinch a bit too and understand the consequences of their decisions.

The whole situation is really maddening and the one thing I really like about your post is it gets at the heart of what I think the issue is for everyone - from YOU and ME to the Banks, Businesses and goverment...TAKE ACCOUNTABILITY and accept consequences for actions.

Amen.