Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 7/21/2008 [Archive]

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Credit My Account

By Martha Randolph Carr

We are at least a year away from seeing the bottom of the housing bust and things may look a little differently by the time we finally reach a resting place. Rules may change, more personal fortunes may be drained or built and the ruler we've been using to judge success may have to be recalibrated. That kind of wide-scale upheaval is hard to stomach because so much of our baseline assumptions about each other started with where someone lived. Take that away and we may have to pick other markers to keep the contest going of who's in and who's out.

One of the biggest elements of the American Dream is the purchase of a home. You get to choose a little bit of acreage and put down roots that you imagine might last generations. The sense of fulfillment and pride that comes with being handed the keys begins at the cellular level and goes back to the times when owning land meant real power. It was a radical idea for humanity when we decided that voting would be based on nothing more than being a citizen and not on owning land. In the past the logic was that owning land took a little education and grooming and therefore the riff-raff wouldn't suddenly be telling their betters what to do. That one act was really more revolutionary for the common man than anything Lenin ever threw out there.

Every time a group of people who have a similar goal come together as an identifiable voting bloc politicians sit up and pay attention. Policy gets changed in favor of those willing to organize and vote as one. It has given recent immigrants a voice and made differing groups actually listen to each other and compromise. But, it is still the idea of owning something permanent, a piece of the Earth that fills our daydreams.

A house is the biggest purchase the vast majority of Americans will make in their lifetime. It has the potential to create a certain degree of accumulated wealth for the buyer that has ramifications for the next generation as well. After the last World War an entire generation found it easier to buy a home. Chastened by their childhood, which was in the shadow of the Depression they worked hard to pay off the mortgage and passed the deed on to their grown children. Family trees that had never possessed large amounts of available cash suddenly had the power that comes with choice that sometimes only money can buy.

What kind of house we own, where it sits, who lives in the houses next to yours can all be used as a meter of sorts to determine an outward value. For anyone who is nervously calculating, apparently it is possible to put a price on what someone is worth and their home is the most visible place to start.

And now, for a lot of people the benchmark is evaporating quickly through foreclosure, debt and the loss of years worth of work. No one is blameless in this drama. But it is interesting to note that the corporations such as Bear Stearns or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that first profited from the manipulation through the buying and selling of sub-prime mortgages are now being bailed out by the government, which should translate to everyone as taxpayers. The millions of taxpayers who are in trouble are going to get almost no help at all. The packaged mortgages have been sold so many times we can't even get someone to answer the phone much less take some responsibility.

In other words, our government is attempting to double-bill us and without our permission. And, if there are no consequences for those among us who created the mess and partied hardy for the past twenty years you can be assured they will get busy concocting the next great big hullabaloo.

Now, back to that part about what happens when large groups of people band together with a single intention and let it be known that they plan to vote. It's the common man's sword in the stone. Are you registered yet?

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: www.newvoicespeakers.com. Author's email: Martha@caglecartoons.com or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com. Download Martha Randolph Carr's black and white mug shot photo.

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