Tuesday, February 15, 2011


In weightlifting, you don't get stronger lifting the lightest weights.  You don't get faster by walking or jogging.  In education, you don't continue to get smarter by reading below your level.  In other words, in order to improve, to grow, to excel, you have to challenge yourself.  The easy path will only take you downhill.

One of my favorite sayings as a kid was "If at first you don't succeed, try try again."  Have we forgotten this wisdom as a society?  I still see it in places.  Usually it's among the elite.  The best athletes become the best because they strive against the best.  The best in business have picked themselves or their companies out of the ground a time or two.  I hate to lose.  I'd hate not trying even more.

In all walks of life, people are taking the easy path.  This is true for individuals, corporations, and governments.  Where there is risk, there is a feeling that people have to be insulated from it.  Where there is failure, there is no fault. 

"What ARE you talking about?"

Ok, take the "Mortgage Crisis" enveloping our country.  1000's upon 1000's of people bought homes that they simply could not afford.  Yes, there were people encouraging this behavior so they could make money on these bad deals.  Yes, the government and press were also encouraging this behavior.  Yes, there were bankers making a ton of money selling, re-packaging, re-selling, then again selling insurance on the loans they'd already sold 3 times.  For the homebuyer who lied (yes, many were encouraged to lie) on loan applications, for the homebuyer who knew or should have known that they could not afford a $500,000 mortgage payment on $40,000/year in income, and the homebuyer who made the decision to make an investment in real estate that went south...what about them?  Government and Press are labeling these the "innocent victims" of the crisis.  The vastly manipulated populace, the poor suckers who fell for it.  The American Dream is just not attainable for these deserving masses. 

To be blunt:  That's crap.  Home ownership was and is a fantastic goal and absolutely attainable.  Purchasing the Biggest McMansion in the best gated McNeighborhood?  Well, maybe that much is out of your reach.  (Right now.  Work at it.  If you want it, you can make it happen.)  Don't get me wrong.  I feel bad for the people who made these bad deals.  I really do.  But let's not kid ourselves.  They MADE A BAD DEAL.  Yes, many were encouraged by friends, experts, THE GOVERNMENT, and sleazy, slimey salespeople to make these bad deals.  They were encouraged to spend well beyond their means.  And now, the government is here, with programs to "encourage" companies to try to keep these people in their homes.  Despite it's best efforts, all the king's horses, all the king's men...Well, sometimes Humpty Dumpty needs to fall down. 

Let's talk a little more about these "Programs".  Talk about bad deals.  Essentially, here's how it works.  The government pays money to Big Bad Bank to ATTEMPT to workout a "loan modification" with borrowers.  Usually these involve lowered interest rates and even interest only payments for a period of time to keep borrowers in their homes.  Most of the "experts" point out that this does nothing in the long run.  It just delays the inevitable foreclosure.  The cynic in me says, yes, it delays foreclosure until after the next election by which time the politician who established the program no longer cares.  These experts contend that the only thing that will really help our innocent victim homeowner is a reduction in the principal down to the new value of the home.  Big Bad Bank is a public company.  It's executives have what we lawyers like to  call an affirmative duty to their shareholders to maintain and increase the value of its assets.  So, Big Bad Banks hands are tied.  They can't go around reducing the value of their assets in some grand PR gesture. 

There ARE innocent victims.  (I'm not really sure that victim is the right word.  Innocent people were hurt, but are they victims?)

Some people played it straight.  They bought homes they could afford and under normal economic conditions, those homes would be growing in value at a nice, steady rate.  Instead, there was a bubble.  The bubble popped.  Now, people own homes with values less than what is owed on them. 

Purchasing real estate is an investment.  Investments involve risk. 

Moving on. 

Other examples come to mind:  gym class "competitions" where no score is allowed to be kept, (this is one of my favorites) blaming the toys in happy meals for our children being fat, students being passed up in grade level.  All of these represent failures, the failure of the losing side, the failure of the parent to make good choices for their children, and the failure of schools, teachers, and parents to educate our children.  These failures are being scrubbed from our national conscience.  They are someone else's fault, someone else's problem or no one's problem at all.  What's really happening?  Kid's aren't learning to strive, to push themselves.  Parent's can continue to neglect the health of their children, because it's always someone else's fault (oh, and the kids are still fat).  Schools and teachers get to move a problem child out of the system (no matter that they can't read the words on the diploma).  Without the freedom to fail, do we really have the freedom to succeed? 

Every year the OED adds words to the "Official" record of the English language.  Some words fade over time as well.  Personally I'm hoping for the demise of such words as "OMG" and (please God let this one die) "Chillax".  Unfortuantely, however, it seems that Consequence may go first.

All errors or omissions in this piece are my fault.  I'll try again tomorrow.

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