Friday, June 20, 2008

Once more into the Heart of Darkness

Let's take another excursion, boys and girls, into the calcified little place known at Davey Strom's heart. You may remember that Spot awarded a Spotty™ to a letter writer who criticized Davey's recent ode to Governor Pepsodent for vetoing a bill to provide some mortgage assistance to people in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

Through his tears of gratitude, Davey says:

Pawlenty's veto was the right thing to do and was done for the right reason -- to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

And when a Liberty Bell rings, it means a governor has earned his wings.

Impairment of contract! shouts Davey.

Now as Spot has mentioned before, Davey is apparently unaware of the United States Bankruptcy Code, which adjusts and rights and obligations of creditors and debtors hundreds of times a day. Its existence has apparently eluded Governor Pepsodent, too, which is regrettable when one considers that Pepsodent is a lawyer and the one who recently appointed one of his pals and former partners as the Chief Judge of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Oh well.

In the Northwest Airlines bankruptcy reorganization, to us a recent example, there were a lot of union workers (to mention just some of the rollees) who got steam rollered a helluva lot worse than any mortgagee might under the legislation that Pepsodent vetoed.

To described the vetoed legislation briefly, Spot turns to Senator Linda Higgins, writing in the Strib in the piece that caused Davey to rise up in righteous indignation in the first place:

[Sen. Ellen Anderson and Rep. Jim Davnie] shepherd the Minnesota Subprime Borrower Relief Act of 2008 through the Legislature. Their bill is intended to avert preventable foreclosure for as many as 12,000 Minnesota families. It simply facilitates foreclosure-prevention counseling, encourages negotiation between lenders and servicers, and provides for a limited foreclosure deferment if the lender refuses to talk to the borrower and the borrower regularly pays a significant portion of the monthly payment (there's no free lunch here).

Now, does that seem so bad, boys and girls? It is said that the United States Bankruptcy Code was adopted to "give an honest debtor a fresh start." The Subprime Borrower Relief Act doesn't even go that far; it would at most allow the borrower to take a little breather. No debt write-off, no interest rate changes, no payment changes (except in the short run).

It seems especially not so bad to Spot when you consider this bit of news in the Strib today:

The FBI has identified the Twin Cities as one of the 10 worst areas of the United States for mortgage fraud and said it has literally dozens of criminal investigations underway here as part of a national crackdown on the problem.

For a description of the fraud fiesta, we return to Senator Higgins' commentary:

Who are these people who have been left to drown? They are the ones who, during the subprime bacchanal, were being taken to the cleaners by predatory mortgage lenders and unscrupulous mortgage brokers, backed and spurred on by the avarice of investors looking for fast and excessive returns. Substitute Minnesota for Bedford Falls, and these citizens are the ones in foreclosure due to the irresponsible lending practices and widely acknowledged financial gluttony of Wall Street gone wild.

Well, let them sue! say Davey. While it is true that the law prohibits both the rich and the poor from sleeping under bridges, it is only a practical problem for one of these groups. Likewise, telling a defaulting borrower who looks to be homeless in a few months that he has a cause of action against a rapacious mortgage broker who was just looking for a fee is of no practical value. Have you priced lawyers lately, Davey? And the legal services for the poor that do exist are overstretched and are being allowed to atrophy from lack of funding.

Surely you jest, Davey. Not very funny, though.

In the final analysis, Davey is just one of the parade of pikers and scrubs who cloaks simple self-absorption into constitutional flim-flammery, just a link in the cretinous chain of empathy-gene defectives that that weighs us all down.

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