|By Micah Russell|
I had only been asleep for two hours before I was awakened by the ringing
phone. As a veteran of eight years on night shift, I was used to these
interruptions. Blearily, I rolled over and glanced at the caller ID. The
digital readout showed "Fannie Mae," my mortgage holder. Uh oh. I snatched
"Hello," I croaked.
"Hello, may I speak to Mr. O'Doyle, please?"
"Mr. O'Doyle, I'm calling on behalf of Fannie Mae to let you know that we
have yet to receive your mortgage payment for this month. As I'm sure you're
aware, this payment is due on the fifth of every month, and your payment is
currently two weeks late."
"Sorry about that," I said. "I made a few bad investments down at the
grocery store. I thought sure that those four boxes of macaroni and cheese
would last us all week, but there I was on Friday, buying Ramen noodles."
"Excuses aside, when can we expect to receive payment, Mr. O'Doyle?" he
"Just be patient," I said, "help is on the way. I saw on television last
night that Uncle Sam has realized that folks like me are having trouble
paying our mortgages, and he's stepping in to assist us. I believe the
number I heard was $700 billion, so that ought to square us for a while,
right? I know that this will increase our tax bill down the road, but Uncle
Sam understands that these are tough times, and he's willing to work things
"Mr. O'Doyle, you seem to have misunderstood," he said. "The $700 billion
in government relief is to rescue Fannie Mae from our bad debts, not you
"What? That can't be right! They're the same debts, aren't they?" I asked.
"I mean, you guys are struggling because you made idiotic decisions on
mortgages like mine. There's no way I should have been approved for a home
loan worth six times my annual salary to begin with. But here I am, stuck
with it, and a flexible mortgage rate that keeps going up. Luckily, Uncle
Sam knows that we make bad decisions from time to time. He's willing to
step in so we aren't forced to suffer from our bad decisions. Despite the
fact that you never should have issued the mortgages, you still get your
money. Are you telling me that when I, as a taxpayer, am giving you the
money to cover your losses on my bad mortgage, you still expect me to make
good on that same debt?"
"Ummm, yes, well the government is bailing us out, not you," he explained
"So even though the blame lies primarily with your policies, we're expected
to pay not once, but twice? And even though we're saving you from your own
folly with our tax dollars, you figure you deserve to be paid not only the
money owed to you, but $700 billion tax dollars on top of it?" I demanded,
my voice rising.
"Well, sir, you have to realize that not everyone who owes us money will, in
fact, be able to pay it," he reasoned. "The bailout is designed to cover
our losses in those instances."
"I bet they'd be able to pay it if the government gave them the money," I
said. "And furthermore, if the debt has been covered, shouldn't they be off
the hook for it? You guys foreclosed on my neighbor, Lou, two months ago,
and his family has been living in a camper behind his mother's house ever
since. Now that his debt has been covered, where can he pick up his house
"I'm afraid the bailout doesn't apply to individual cases," he said.
"Rather, it applies to our institutional debt. The government has decided
that we're 'too big to fail.' You aren't."
"I'm willing to bet that come tax time, this bailout will be individualized
plenty," I said. "Nobody's too little to qualify on April 15."
© Micah Russell, 2008