Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Foreclosures and your tax dollars

Lucas County Commissioners yesterday approved a contract for $200,000 to help up to 60 families who are facing foreclosure on their homes. That's $3,333.34 each.

According to Comm. Pete Gerken, "This is darn good public policy and don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

Um...right. It's good public policy to take money from everyone in order to give it to a few who've made bad decisions with their finances over a period of time.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul is NEVER good public policy. It's only good for Paul or the person who wants Paul's vote!

NewsTalk 1370 WSPD has a sound clip of Gerken on the subject (link will be added when clip is available) in which he addresses the criticism some would level on such a policy. His reasoning is that he "makes no apology" for spending tax money to help people stay in their homes.

Of course, he's not helping them - you and I are. And in taking our tax dollars for this purpose, he's saying that government needs this money to help people more than you need it for making sure you don't end up in the group they're trying to help!

Missed in all the hoopla over helping people is that the money isn't even going to the families in such need. Nope - the money is going to pay for services and classes being put on by the contracted agencies. Eligible families will participate in counselling, budget classes and training on interest rates ... a bit after the fact, if you ask me.

Perhaps the loss of a home would be a good enough lesson in those subjects. Don't misunderstand me - I'm not being an evil, heartless conservative. I don't want families to lose their homes.

I just believe that, often, the best-learned lessons are the hardest ones. Sometimes the only way people truly learn is when they are allowed to suffer the consequences of a bad decision. It happens as we grow up and it continues into our adulthood. When government steps in to try and save people from the consequences of bad decisions, the cycle - and precedent - becomes never ending. And the result is less freedom for everyone.

As it is, our commissioners are more interested in the few (60 families) than they are the many (the other 400,000 residents in the county). They're perfectly willing to expend $200,000 of your tax dollars to 'save' up to 60 families.

Now, this is only available to families - at least one parent/guardian with a minor child in the house. That's because they're using TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) dollars.

For at least four years, the commissioners have found new uses for these funds, adding new programs that can be paid for with these dollars. That's because we get more money than we actually need - and because we spend it all each year (by adding new services), we continue to get more. Lucas County has also increased the eligibility levels for many of these programs, most up to 250% of poverty level and some have been as high as 300% of poverty level.

(Remember: 300% of poverty level for a family of four is about $62,000. According to 2005 IRS data, that income puts you into the top 25% of wage earners in the United States. That's hardly 'poverty.')

As a commissioner debating a similar issue, Gerken once accused me of hating social service agencies and of not wanting to 'help' people. I replied - rather forcibly - that it wasn't that I didn't want to help people, I just believed in doing so with my own money rather than by spending other people's money that had been entrusted to me. There was no retort.

If every Ohio county spends $400,000 on foreclosure programs (the total amount that our commissioners have set aside), the cost of such help adds up to $35.2 million. If every state copies this, that's $1.76 billion - and now you're getting into 'real' money. Money that has been taken from each taxpayer who would probably have a better use for it.

“I’m sure everyone feels sorry for the individual who has fallen by the wayside or who can’t keep up in our competitive society, but my own compassion goes beyond that to the millions of unsung men and women who get up every morning, send the kids to school, go to work, try and keep up the payments on their house, pay exorbitant taxes to make possible compassion for the less fortunate, and as a result have to sacrifice many of their own desires and dreams and hopes. Government owes them something better than always finding a new way to make them share the fruit of their toils with others.” ~ Ronald Reagan

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If you have an opinion about the decisions the commissioners made - or their logic in making it - let them know. They'll think they're doing the right thing unless we tell them otherwise:

Tina Skeldon Wozniak: twozniak@co.lucas.oh.us
Pete Gerken: pgerken@co.lucas.oh.us
Ben Konop: bkonop@co.lucas.oh.us
Phone number: 419-213-4500
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For another perspective on foreclosures, try this article which says foreclosures are good for some...

UPDATE:

GOV'T TO BLAME FOR MORTGAGE CRISIS

"There simply was no such thing as a developed Subprime mortgage industry until the US congress created it by ordering banks to issue loans to people who were not credit worthy."

- Columnist Jerry Bowyer

10 comments:

navyvet said...

Pete Gerken, Pete Gerken, paging Pete Gerken...your commie is showing....

Keep it up Pete, my black market sales of Tums are making me rich.

Thanx.

Tom

jrs said...

Agreed and well-said, Maggie.

What no one wants to talk about is the true nature of many of today's foreclosures - greedy lenders taking advantage of borrowers who are not adept at handling their own finances and worse yet - who want to live well beyond their means, of course because they deserve it.

My neigbor lost his house because he lost his job as a truck driver, missed several payments, had nothing in the bank (2 brand new SUVs and Disneyland every year, etc). Did I mention he lost his job because of his alcoholism and recent DUIs ?

I realize that there are many people who are caught up in bad luck, the bad economy, etc in legit ways. I suspect, however, that for every one of those there are 10 cases like my neighbor.

It's hard to address the real problem without offending or appearing judgemental and harsh. And letting this all shake out on its own would cause ripples to significant to ignore anyway.

So those of us who live within our means, spend wisely, and are good citizens will have to stand by and watch a bail-out of epic proportions.

*sigh*

-Sepp said...

It's a temporary "feel-good" fix and nothing else.
If these folks got behind on their house payments due to NOT being able to afford the place to begin with, how is 3 grand going to "save" them when the already unaffordable bill comes again?
Give them all another 3 grand next time too?

Maggie Thurber said...

jrs - there are some who've just fallen on hard times, but the solution for that is not another government program in addition to all the ones that currently exist.

But, like you, I don't think those individuals represent the majority. The whole purpose of this effort is to keep people in their homes that they can't afford (for whatever reason). Why aren't we more interested in getting them into something they CAN afford rather than prolonging the bad situation?

Strangely, no one talks about that option...

-sepp: this particular money isn't going to their mortgage payments - it's going to agencies who will counsel them and enroll them in classes and give them training ... and how that helps them stay in a place they cannot afford is beyond me.

It's feel-good, but not a fix...

Robin said...

Too bad they can't help people refinance their loans at a lower rate, instead of throwing money into a pit of more programs (someone must have whispered in Pete Gerkin's ear about an agency that wants/needs cash).

Foreclosures hurt everyone in the neighborhood.

Ben said...

What about all the people who worked hard and saved money and did it the right way? It is like they are being punsished for doing things right, while those who didnt can just have someone take care of their problems. It doesnt seem right.

I am not a homeowner, but if I was, this would really piss me off.

Publius said...

Maggie, do you have the text on this proposal or know when the commissioners will have meetings about it? I looked on the commissioner website but couldn't find what I was looking for.

Tim Higgins said...

Maggie,

You have very rightly quoted those well chosen words of President Reagan. I will point to another quote instead,

"A Liberal is a person who lets their compassion overwhelm their common sense. A conservative lets their common sense overcome their compassion."
- me

I am afraid that Mr. Gerken has established himself as a liberal, and you have, in turn have done so as a conservative.

Maggie Thurber said...

Publius:

http://apps.co.lucas.oh.us/agenda/
MeetingReport.aspx?MeetingID=393

items #08-388 and #08-389 under Job and Family Services

Maggie Thurber said...

Ben - yes... tax dollars from those who can't afford to own a home (or choose not to)...what a way to spend money.

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