Friday, February 20, 2009

Selectively Deaf?

OK, hissy fit of self-pity over. Back to business.

I watched the NBC Evening News on the web last night and saw the performance put in on the floor of the Chicago Stock Exchange by Rick Santelli, the CNBC reporter.

Pardon me, I know that the MSM has a particular slant these days, depending on the network news you watch. Fox purports to be fair and balanced, when it's actually a fair and balanced look at things from the right wingnut direction. The BBC certainly has a particular slant, backed by the 'tax' imposed upon anyone owning a television in the UK, even though its charter requires it to be absolutely impartial.

I actually thought that reporters, be they working for a newspaper or in the television/radio media, are there merely to 'report' the factual news and not offer opinionated comment. Leave the latter to the domain of op-edders and social commentators.

But last night I witnessed this CNBC bod giving the performance of a lifetime, on the eve of the Oscars, in radging Chicago's finest, when it comes to making money, into a frenzy of consternation at the President's proposal that taxpayers should - shock, horror - use their taxes to help bail their 'neighbours' out of titchy mortgage predicaments. Santelli's outburst rivalled the sublime hissy fit Lindsey Graham threw on the Senate floor last week, stamping his foot against the Recovery Package. Santelli made Obama's mortgage rescue sound like the ultimate last bastion of forced philanthropic socialism.

It's not.

There followed various and sundry man-in-the-street interviews with concerned citizens who railed against their tax dollars being used to bail out some poor Joe who was remiss with his mortgage payments, some deadbeat.

But ... the plan's not like that.

The night BEFORE this diatribe, I actually listened to the President unveil this plan in Arizona, John McCain's home state, no less (and they say the Americans don't understand irony). I listened to his words. Maybe, in the confusion of diverse and various vocabulary milling about in my brain, I didn't hear or comprehend him correctly. Maybe in a rush of surplus estrogen, I played the adolescent and heard what I wanted to hear, but I honestly don't think so.

I heard the President say that this plan wouldn't help everyone. That it was designed to help those people who'd brought their homes in good faith, who'd paid religiously every month their mortgage payments, who'd lost a job or had a downsize in employment, who'd used their savings et al to help with the payments, who'd opened the 401K ... in short, people who'd paid regularly, despite their personal circumstances, until their funds etc had been depleted and they were now staring foreclosure in the face. I also heard him say it would not benefit the property speculator who sought to buy a house and sell within a few months at a profit, only to buy another. And I heard him say that it wouldn't benefit those people who'd bought houses they couldn't afford, with no intent to pay. And on the selfsame Nightly News last night, I heard another reporter say that 92% of Americans with mortgages, pay these on time.

So Santelli whips the public into a frenzy about 8% of the mortgage-holding public. First, you have to ask yourself how many Americans HAVE mortgages; then, you have to take 8% of that figure. Finally, you have to spread that figure over the United States as a whole.

Hardly a neighbourhood, is it?

I suppose we can congratulate ourselves on finally reaching the theta-clear of Thatcherism: the 'I'm All Right, Jack' philosophy of, as long as I'm doing ok, fuck the rest of you people. The ordinary Joes interviewed had better stop and think of the repercussions of having even one foreclosed house located down the street from their own. (Pssst! There goes the neighbourhood. It doesn't look good. It devalues your home, in the event that you want to sell or that you - dare I say it - die). So it's actually moot that a bit of good old fashioned socialism is using your involuntary tax contribution to help your fellow citizen stay in his home and pay his mortgage on time.

You have to look at it this way. In these most uncertain of times, it could actually happen to you; then you'd be singing from a different hymnal.

After all, what is socialism but 'to each according to his ability, for each according to his means'? It's sort of compassionate government, and we're totally unfamiliar with that concept.

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