Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Harsh reality TV

What was the first reality TV show?

COPS? Real World? American Idol?

Try Queen for a Day.

From 1956-1964 thousands of women submitted their sad stories to producers, hoping to get picked as one of four contestants. The greater the tear jerk factor, the better the odds. The studio audience picked the winner. The best (or maybe the worst) story would earn you the title Queen for a Day with some prizes, a chance to wear a fake robe and crown, and have emcee Jack Bailey hand you some red roses while your pitifulness was exploited for all to see. It was one of the highest rated shows on the air.

Now we have evolved to things like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Applicants send in their sad stories to see if they can be chosen to win a bodacious new house.

Like, the Harper family in Lake City, Georgia. Their lot in life was so bad that the septic tank was leaking into their house. Poof, the Extreme team picks them and builds them a 5300 square foot spread. For free.

Well, then the Harper's took out a $450,000 loan against their new free house. To start a construction business. (If you know how to run a construction business, shouldn't you know how to fix a septic tank?) That's right. They got a free house, then mortgaged it up.

And, now, oops. They can't pay the mortgage because Mr. Harper is unemployed. The house is being foreclosed on today on the steps of the Clayton County Courthouse.

Makes you feel so good about everyone involved, doesn't it? The Harpers. Us for watching. The television producers who made us cry so they could sell $250,000 commercial time. The banker that loaned Mr. Harper the money on the house. And I would bet, AIG who insured the derivative the mortgage turned into.

Isn't this the story of the housing crisis? Folks took on debt they couldn't afford to repay. Banks were happy to take advantage of them because Freddie and Fannie were there to back them up. AIG was there to insure nobody lost any money.

Mr. President, in the inimitable words of Ron White, you can't fix stupid. And for many of the folks in or soon to be in foreclosure, stupid is as stupid does.

The Harpers aren't the only recipients of Extreme Makeover free homes that are now being foreclosed on.

So Mr. President, if a free house won't prevent folks from being foreclosed on, how does a renegotiated interest rate or (and this I want to see) a renegotiated mortgage amount under the threat of bankruptcy solve anything?

We are already paying for the suckers who blew thru money that didn't exist. So, now we are going to do it again?

It is ugly out there. Because greed and stupidity made it that way. Let it go. Let it burn. Then let's start over.

Henrietta Hughes, come on down. You can't fix her problem by having someone give her a house to live in. (By the way, your team apparently vetted Henrietta about as well as your HHS picks. She and her son have a few skeletons in the closet and some land in Florida in their name they need to explain.)

Since when is a house an entitlement?

I will never forget the day my mom called me into the room while she was screaming at the television. Queen for a Day was on. The winner was thanking the host for the money they had given her because it would allow her to buy her baby a crib.

"Well, where is the poor baby sleeping now?", asked Jack.

"In the box our new television came in", replied Mrs. Stupid.

Mom, I'm glad you're not here to watch this.

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