Getting hit by the Wall

Let’s get one thing straight. This whole funny business about “housing bubbles” and “financial market bubbles” and “economic bubbles” is a bunch of hooey.

From my knowledge of bubbles (mostly relegated to gum and dish soap) they are beautiful, iridescent, perfect, playful little marvels of the world. They elicit happiness, giggles and wonder. There is perhaps nothing more innocent and clean than the bubble.

OK, so all bubbles eventually pop. But even that is satisfyingly fascinating in itself, innocuous at worst.

Which is why I have taken to referring to this whole disgusting mess we’ve gotten ourselves into for what it really is: a zit. OK, so it may not be the most appealing approach to the subject – but nonetheless appropriate, wouldn’t you agree? Think about it. There’s nothing innocent or clean about Wall Street greed and corruption, and nothing playful or fun about watching your family fortune disintegrate before your very eyes.

The current crisis did not effortlessly float into our lives, dance around and suddenly burst like a delicate, harmless wisp of air. It festered and grew and swelled and became so rotten and painful that it could no longer sustain itself and blew its lid like a high-pressure pestilence-cooker.

Sorry – I know it’s not pretty, but global financial ruin never is.

Furthermore, consider this: when bubbles pop, they tend to just quietly disappear into thin air. When the latter blow, they leave a wake of embarrassment and humiliation that no amount of concealer, cream, comb-over or cosmetic “bail out” can cover up. You just gotta ride it out and hope it goes away without permanent disfigurement.

Dermatological parallels aside, it’s safe to say the American dream has become a bit of a nightmare. Or at least a ravenous, multi-headed monster.

Here’s the best part – apparently it is now up to you and me, Mr. and Mrs. Honest Taxpayer, to reel in the beast and send him to manners school where he will learn to eat, talk, contribute to society and behave civil like the rest of us. A tall order to be sure. One estimate put the tab at $3,000 for every man, woman and child in the United States – roughly the equivalent of another year and a half in Iraq.

And all this comes with no guarantee that the new Frankenbank we cobble together won’t be as equally onerous or destructive.

Perhaps the biggest sticker of all, aside from the fact I can think of a million ways this country could spend that $700 billion, is that all this hard-earned money will go to people like Dick Fuld. During his 15-year tenure as CEO at Lehman Brothers he made more than the last 10 Powerball jackpots combined ($500 million, not including his golden parachute, which we can only hope will land him squarely in debtor’s prison.)

And it’s funny I should bring up gambling, seeing as how the whole thing reeks of a reckless Las Vegas bender. The only difference is, instead of using one’s own money for those fake plastic chips, these honchos were handed cart blanche to someone else’s savings account.

Of course, all this isn’t to say that the Main Street part of the equation isn’t also partially to blame. Let’s face it, while Wall Street was pissing away our money, we were bellied up at the bar, mesmerized by enticing financial figures and downing free, top-shelf cocktails without a care for the crippling hangover that was sure to follow.

I myself will admit to being “over-served” at the all-night credit buffet, playing a dicey game of balance-transfer roulette and frequent flier mile cash-out. In fact, I once had a two-year ARM loan and lived to tell. Something tells me I wasn’t the only one in these parts. See, like a lot of Durango’s working class, I was on the cusp of that nasty protuberance known as the real estate market. For years, I watched in horror as it grew, sometimes doubling in size seemingly overnight, knowing the longer I waited the harder it would be to scale the monstrous heights of homeownership. So, seeing as how I had sold my soul to the devil years before, and my first-born was still a figment of my wildest dreams, I caved to the siren call of low rates and no income verification. Within a few short weeks, I, too, was happily saddled with an impressive six-figure debt.

But to my credit, if you’ll excuse the pun, the floating interest rate made me more than a little nervous – as did the fact that I had grown attached to my firstborn in those two years. As such, approximately 730 days after I had signed my life away on that dodgy bottom line, I went in and refinanced to a more respectable 30-year fixed.

Call it a smart move or beginner’s luck, but I escaped getting burned. Unfortunately, as I shell out 12 grand for the Man, and kiss that dream vacation in Hawaii or better yet, the kids’ braces fund, good-bye, it’s obvious neither me, nor anybody else with an American zip code, is going to dodge the ensuing financial firestorm. And there’s no doubt this latest breakout will forever change the face of American capitalism. We can only hope it’s for the better.

– Missy Votel



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows