I'm trying to get my math-anxious mind around what is happening with the financial crisis on Wall Street. Breaking it down to the lowest common denominator.
I can still hear Sr. Joan Patricia yelling at me from my third row first seat at St. Greg's. It was only later in life that someone told me the "special" math students were in the front row. Well, it didn't help me much; there was nothing wrong with my hearing. But I was great at cleaning the erasers. Chalk it up to genetics, I guess.
Okay, so the fraction would look something like this: mortgages over regulators, or is it the other way around?
When I got my first mortgage not that long ago, it went like this: I saved and saved for a down payment. Okay, I saved a little and got help from my mother, it's my story. Then I knew what price point I could look at. I could go below but never above my budget. I looked for what seemed like a long time. I found the perfect house, the perfect seller, and made the perfect deal at my perfect price point. Then the regulators, the ones not related to me, stepped in and the nightmare began; the actual mortgage application process. I thought a Bloomingdale's charge account was tough.
As a product of Notre Dame nuns - for 13 years - I still believe in that great ledger book in the sky. The one with the permanent record; what I didn't know was there was a version of it here on earth, called the credit check.
So my mortgage broker - now akin to a priest in a confessional - lets me know there is a black mark on my earthly ledger book. I needed to clear that up before any self respecting bank would take a risk on me.
Feigning shock, I asked "What is it?"
"Well, a matter from the eighties" he replied.
"Does anyone remember the eighties?" I asked indignantly. I'm now talking to this mortgage guy so much I'm asking how his family is.
"You took out a video in the eighties you never took back," He told me.
So I paid $89 for "Mike's Murder." The worst movie Debra Winger ever starred in and I now own a copy. I just don't know where it is. I didn't lend it to you, did I?
So as I understand it, several years after my experience, it suddenly didn't matter if you had a 20 percent down payment, and it didn't matter what your credit check was like, and it didn't matter what the house was really worth, and it didn't matter if you had a consistent employment history. There were people who would appraise a home for way more than its real value. Everything was just on paper and no money exchanged hands and the sub prime market was jumping and people were taking the equity of their house and buying new cars and taking trips and living large and dancing on borrowed money and the regulator was not over the mortgage line. Or is it the other way around?
And then the music stopped. And the only chairs left were for the big people in places far, far away from our neighbors on Hendry Street, where folks couldn't pay the vig and boarded up their homes and walked away.
So the music started again, and stopped just as quickly and a couple of the big guys now are left without chairs and suddenly that's important.
Why wasn't it important when the music stopped for the folks on Hendry Street? And now we have to bail out the big people? The people who didn't care that there were places in our city where people were boarding up their dreams?
Dreams are only worth saving on Wall Street?
But the big people have political friends. They never forget to make contributions to the folks we continually send back to office without question. Most politicians know once they are elected the first time in our city they can sit in that office until they die; until something better comes along; or until they get caught. Thirteen percent of us voted in the last election. I bet a lot of that 13 percent had skins in the game. They think our silence is consent. We are wearing some of this, too.
The lowest common denominator is sad, isn't it? I think I'll stick to clapping the erasers.