Progressive Revival

Yesterday morning CNBC anchor Rick Santelli exploded in a
rant on the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange against President Obama’s
housing proposal.  He attacked the “losers”
who got suckered into bad mortgages, shouted that the proposal rewarded “bad
behavior,” urged the banks and the President to foreclose on those mortgages,
and force the myriad of newly homeless citizens onto the streets.  Santelli’s rage was bad enough, but the
traders behind him started to cheer him on–becoming more verbally abusive as
his vitriol increased.   The
video immediately went viral resulting in more than 140,000 emails to his
Blackberry (he claims they were 99% supportive) and instant television and
internet fame–the rant that went around the world.

Mr. Santelli may believe that the mortgage crisis is the
result of greed on the part of “losers” who bought $800,000 houses, but he
hasn’t met my friend, Mary.

Mary (not her real name) is a widow who lives in Arizona,
where the housing crisis is acute. 
She is a member of the much-extolled white working class, those folks
whose values and virtues form the basis of American values.  She has worked her whole life in
pink-collar jobs, raised three children, is active in her church, helps
neighbors in need, and lives in a modest townhouse in Arizona that she and her
husband purchased in 1980.  

When her husband died, she faced a number of unexpected
bills for medical and funeral costs. 
At the top of the market, an unscrupulous lender offered her a new
mortgage–on the house she nearly owned–to pay off the unpaid expenses and
relieve the pressure from debt-collectors.  Too embarrassed to trouble her children, and full of that
noble sense of middle-class pride, she listened to him, signed the papers, got
a check, and cleared the old bills. 

Now, just a few years later, she is too ill to work and
lives off of Social Security and help from her children.  Because the housing market in Arizona
collapsed, her mortgage is worth more than her house and she is
“underwater.”  Her own medical
bills are difficult (due to the thoughtless prescription drug “benefit”
left-over from the last administration). 
Every month, she sits at her kitchen table and cries over the bills while struggling to pay the mortgage
to keep a roof over her head.

Mary is not a loser. 
Mary is a victim of the greed of members of Mr. Santelli’s business
class–people who made money off the plight of a grieving widow and, as I can
only imagine, thousands and thousands of good people like her.  People who believed that if they worked
hard, one day their neighbors might take care of them if they were in
need–people who both made and believed in the American dream. 

Mr. Santelli, where was your outrage when your
brother-banker took advantage of Mary?

Shame on you, Mr. Santelli.  Shame on you.  For calling widows greedy losers–for
stirring up other rich people to believe that they are guiltless and only the
poor are guilty.   Shame on
you for kicking people who are down. 
You are a schoolyard bully. 
And shame on CNBC for keeping you on the air. 

As for your rant, I could care less.  I don’t hear the whirlwind you have
stirred.  I hear only Mary quietly
choking back tears.  And, in the
still of her kitchen, I hear the words of Jesus, “Truly I tell you, just as you
did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.”  

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