Thursday, September 25, 2008

Beating the System?

When I was in college, AOL began offering $100 - $400 rebates if you signed up with their services. I had friends who would go to Circuit City, sign up for AOL, receive their voucher, buy DVD players and televisions, go home, and cancel AOL. Apparently in California, customers were not contractually obligated to maintain their AOL/Compuserve account. I watched them do it, all the while expecting it not to work. And yet it did...over and over again for some of them, until AOL recognized that they were being taken advantage of and removed the offer from stores in California.

Part of me regretted not taking advantage of the rebate when it was offered, but a small part of me, still knew that it was dishonest.

I know that the proposed $700 BILLION financial bailout is complicated and is multifaceted, but yet I can't help approaching it with the same attitude as I have towards AOL's rebate.

I and others chose not to listen to those who kept saying that renting is throwing money away. I respectfully listened as people told me that you can never go wrong with Southern California real estate, and I respectfully disagreed with friends who opted to buy homes that they couldn't afford with interest only loans, banking on the rising house prices to give them the equity they needed to refinance down the road and shrink their house payments.

And yet now, it looks like I may have missed an opportunity, not an opportunity to buy low and sell high, but an opportunity to take advantage of a system that seems unwilling to let people live with their mistakes.

I am painfully aware that if the number of people affected by the housing crisis foreclose, that lives will be upset. Children will be uprooted from schools, the economy, (and people's tithings) will stall a bit, but isn't that a consequence for actions. Specifically a consequence for people biting off more than they could chew? For fibbing on loan applications, for counting their eggs before they hatched, for buying something today that they weren't even sure they would have the money for tomorrow?

Perhaps grace is needed. Perhaps a bailout that enables our economy to live to fight another day, and that keeps the middle class in Mini McMansions is the graceful loving thing to do. But maybe it isn't, maybe the best thing to happen would be for a natural adjustment to take place, for the housing market to somehow reflect actual values, and for people to be given the chance to live within their means.

I don't know...I do know that it sucks for the kids either way. They not only are going to be forced out of the homes that some of them lived in, but they are going to be the ones bearing the full weight and repercussions of the sins of our nation, manifested not only in higher taxes, but in place of their inheritance, many will be paying for their parents' retirements instead.

Gosh I'm glad, (or at least I hope) that my life doesn't revolve around the greenback...much.

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