Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake

In the early 1980’s I lived in a small community in rural Oregon. There were no services, for the most basic of social needs I, and my neighbors, traveled thirty miles. The nearest town was another sleepy Oregon town whose claim to recognition was a state university. I was happy to discover there a small local bank to service my humble financial needs. As a property owner without a mortgage or credit needs of any kind, I felt secure in my choice of investment business.

A few years went by and much to my surprise, my small hometown bank was taken over by Washington Mutual. The tenor of my financial life immediately changed. Suddenly the services I enjoyed as a trouble free member of the local banking community were complicated by red tape and hidden fees. What were these fees attached to my “free” checking? Look at the small print, small town boy! It didn’t take long before I switched to more congenial business climates, but low, and behold! Mortgages obtained in later years through independent sources were purchased by (guess who?) Washington Mutual!

Oh the temptations – “interest only” lines of credit to replace my mortgage. And what interest! Payments on my property were 1/3 the going rate for rent! Never mind that the principle never receded, the appreciating equity of my property would carry the day. Always suspicious of the motives of the faceless corporation, my anxiety finally got the best of me (Washington Mutual had never been a friend of mine!) I decided to sell the property with the Golden Egg. No surprise, then, that the property would not sell at the golden egg price. Save me, I cried! I never asked for this!
My mortgage was sold within three weeks of purchasing my property. Before my first mortgage payment was due, the payment coupons were obsolete. If I’d had any choice, I would have never chosen to do business with Washington Mutual. But did anyone ask me? No.

Now we see that the business scruples of this megalithic financial giant were perpetrated on a chimera. Clients such as I were taken for a joy ride and the meager savings of hard working wage slaves were gambled and spent by an intoxicated Wall Street, aided, indeed funded, by financial apparitions such as Washington Mutual. Were are they today? Who owns my life savings now? Believing that the government will save us is a fantasy. Were will the money come from to bail me out? Am I to pay taxes to be spent to retrieve money I already “own”? How, exactly, does that work? I give the government a dollar and get fifty cents in return (hidden fees, indeed!) Welcome to your retirement years, Doryman! My savings were no entitlement or handout. And I gave permission to no one to gamble with my hard-earned funds.

We have known for a long time that if and when the strangle hold the rich and powerful have over our lives were to be broken, the pain would be felt most by those in need. If anything good is to come of the melt down of our economic system, we must be ready to endure the hardship of transition. Of course, there is no precedent for a more fair and equitable system, we must work for progress and hope for justice.

Next installment: Were did my Social Security go?

No comments: