Confused Bill

February 26, 2011

Uncle Harry's Confused Friend Bill

I hate politics. It's just like religion -- i.e., largely, if not entirely, based on faith. I had it was impossible to change someone’s political views, until recently, that is, when my good ol’ Uncle Harry seemed to accept my economic argument about what he called Obamacare.

But, wrong again: Politics and religion are essentially two forms of the same will to believe, to believe, for instance, that Barack Obama is a Kenyan, communist, cannibal and homosexual, and that global warming is the "greatest con game in the history of the world."

I walked over to Uncle Harry’s yesterday. His good friend Bill was visiting and expounding, when I got there on Barney Frank and real estate prices. He said that “goddam liberals” were “transferring wealth to poor people” by giving them mortgages they couldn’t pay back, and that Barney Frank had got a law passed to give money to poor people. He said the country “is being taken over by communists.”

Uncle Harry was nodding agreement. Me, I’m thinking he must be getting senile to fall for such crap that in the past he would have shrugged off as nonsense. Now, I worry for my future as I approach his age.

I said to Bill, “You’re saying that giving mortgages to people who can’t pay then off is a transfer of wealth. How does the poor borrower get any money out of having his house foreclosed on and losing whatever equity he’s put into it?”

Bill’s response: “Look, it was the law. ‘Lenders have to give money to poor people.’”

Me: “But the guy who’s lost his house and equity, where’s he getting any money out of that?”

Bill: “I don’t know exactly how it works, but it’s the biggest transfer of wealth in the history of the country.”

Me: “You’re saying that giving mortgages to people who can’t pay them off gives them money?”

Bill: “Right.”

Me: “And you say there’s a law saying lenders have to give mortgages to people who couldn’t meet the payments?”

Bill: “Right.”

Me: “Can you site the law, the specific law?”

Bill: “I’m not going to play that goddam liberal game of ‘documented sources.’” He did the little thing with his fingers. “It’s the law, and I know it’s so.”

Me: “The mortgage problems in Europe, how did Barney Frank manage to cause that, too, people being given mortgages they couldn’t pay back?”

Bill: “Europe. Fuck. Fuck Europe. Fuckin’ communist homosexuals.”

Bill’s face got red at this point and he looked like he might get violent have a seizure. I excused myself to go to the bathroom. When I returned, Bill was gone.

I tried to show Uncle Harry that giving a mortgage is not the same as giving money, in fact, it’s almost the opposite. A mortgage is a contract on the part of the borrower to pay money, and interest, back to the lender. I said the only transfer of wealth in the whole stupid mess was the half-percent fee that the crooked lenders’ agents got for each bad mortgage they originated and then sold to various investment bankers who bundled the shitty mortgages into near worthless bonds of “debt obligations.” Uncle Harry seemed unable to follow what I was saying.

Like I say, I worry what this sort of thing portends for me as I age.