Obama Asks for Help from Public to Reform Housing Finance System?
First of all, I just want to say that part of me feels as if I’m responding to one of those Internet rumors that says something about “Obama’s Citizenship Case to be Quietly Heard by Supreme Court,” or that “Starbucks Coffee Found to Cause Erectile Dysfunction”. So, if that turns out to be the case then I guess the joke is on me.
On the other hand, if it’s true that President Obama and his band of Happy Harvard grads and Goldman alum have actually asked for input from various constituents on how to reform the housing finance system, well then I don’t really know exactly what to say, except that all of a sudden I’m so deeply afraid that I may have to fly back to my hometown and see if my Mom will let me sleep in my old room, bring me soup and jelly sandwiches, and sing to me until I fall asleep. As I write this, I keep stopping every few minutes to go look out the window for no apparent reason. Stop it, Mr. President… you’re freaking me out over here.
Do you suppose that next week he’s going to ask if we have any thoughts on Afghanistan? Oh my God! I’m taking an Adivan. Who did he ask about health care reform? Oh my God! Is that why he hasn’t gotten that much accomplished in the first year of his term? I had figured that it was because of Republicans refusing to support anything but “NO”. Was it really because he wasn’t sure how to proceed? I think I may throw up.
It’s like my whole world has been knocked off of its axis. All I can think of is what my high school Latin teacher used to say: “An nescis, mi fili, quantilla sapientia mundus regatur?”
Which means: “Don’t you know then, my son, how little wisdom rules the world?”
However, my Latin teacher also used to say: “Audaces fortuna iuvat,” which means “Fortune favors the bold”. So, feeling like I had to push forward if for no other reason than to make certain I didn’t pass out, I started to read the list of questions to which my president was seeking answers. Maybe they’d be easy questions, I hoped. I only made it to question number two before I stopped in my tracks:
2. What role should the federal government play in supporting a stable, well-functioning housing finance system and what risks, if any, should the federal government bear in meeting its housing finance objectives?
Now, all I could think to do was answer in Latin, because nothing is that scary in Latin: “Aio, quantitas magna frumentorum est,” I said out loud to no one in the room.
It means: “Yes, that is a very large amount of corn.” You see, the thing is, at 48 years old, I actually don’t remember all that much Latin from high school.
Try question number three: 3. Should the government approach differ across different segments of the market, and if so, how?
And I replied: “Aut insanit homo, aut versus facit.”
Which means: “The fellow is either mad or he is composing verses.”
Skip over that one, maybe question number four? 4. How should the current organization of the housing finance system be improved?
Appareo Decet Nihil Munditia? I replied quickly and in a confident tone, which means: “Is It Not Nifty?” Hey, when I took Latin, we still said “nifty,” so how old are you, 26?
Okay, number five’s got to be the one… come on… give me something I can swing at anyway.
5. How should the housing finance system support sound market practices?
“Antiquis temporibus, nati tibi similes in rupibus ventosissimis exponebantur ad necem,” I said, sounding as serious as a Roman Emperor asking a question of the Senate. It meant: “In the good old days, children like you were left to perish on windswept crags.”
I was losing steam. One or two more like these and I’d be Googling “Costa Rica”.
6. What is the best way for the housing finance system to help ensure consumers are protected from unfair, abusive or deceptive practices?
Okay now… here’s one… I could take a shot at this one for sure.
Well, maybe one thing we could try is to hire people for any of the dozen or so mammoth federal regulatory agencies that are supposed to protect consumers from unfair, abusive or deceptive practices THAT WOULD ACTUALLY DO THEIR JOB?
Or, in lieu of that, how about we turn the whole thing over to the Las Vegas casino companies. I mean, you can’t even do math in your head in a casino without getting thrown out in a dark alley with a limp that doesn’t go away for 45 days. I’ll bet you the casinos could protect us from the financial bad guys, what do you think?
On a roll now… bring on lucky number seven. Come on lucky seven, Daddy needs a new pair of shoes! (Elvis was now singing “Viva Las Vegas” in my head.)
7. Do housing finance systems in other countries offer insights that can help inform US reform choices?
Other countries? What other countries? This is America, Mr. President. We barely even know there are other countries. We know about a few vacation destinations, like Mexico, London, Paris… are those “other countries”?
I stared at my computer’s screen and said: “Amoto quaeramus seria ludo,” which means: “Joking aside, let us turn to serious matters.”
Okay, skip that one. How about number eight? Wait, there is no number eight? Oh, come on. Did the administration think that we’re smart enough to field those types of questions, but not smart enough to handle more than seven. Like eight would have thrown us into a tizzy?
Wait, maybe I skipped over number one too quickly. Like a test in school, I went back to see what I had skipped.
1. How should federal housing finance objectives be prioritized in the context of the broader objectives of housing policy?
I responded with the first thing that came to mind: “Assiduus usus uni rei deditus et ingenium et artem saepe vincit.”
It means: “Constant practice devoted to one subject often outdues both intelligence and skill.” And I think that actually about sums up my position on that, so yes… that’s my final answer.
See, I answered two out of seven. That’s not all that bad. I don’t always do that well when we play, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader,” at home.
Well, I guess all I can hope for is that my fellow constituents are a heck of a lot smarter than I am when it comes to setting public policy that will dictate how mega billions of dollars of the world’s finances are handled, and where we’ll all live. Don’t be a smart ass… they could be. One of my neighbors figured out how to program his Tivo to record television shows when he calls his home phone from his cell phone… or something very close to that, I can’t exactly recall. It was amazing though.
Mr. President, I realize that you’re dealing with some seriously tough questions and challenges these days, but no one said it was going to be easy, right? Hillary probably made it look that way, but that was really Bill that was president before, not her, so it probably was a little deceiving. Tell you what… send me more of those emails asking for money like you used to when you were campaigning and I’ll sport you a twenty here and a fifty there just like I used to… would that help?
Mr. President, I wanted to tell you this when you were still running for office, but you were never alone. I whispered: “Aspice, officio fungeris sine spe honoris amplioris.”
It means: “Face it, you’re stuck in a dead end job.”
Regardless, I suppose, now it’s up to us… the American people… to help our president figure out how to fix the catastrophic mess that the banks created and the government has allowed to deteriorate to the point where buying a house sounds about as attractive as… hmmm… running for President.
Okay, Mr. President, I’ll get to work on this in the morning, but I have to tell you… next time… if you’re going to tap out on something like this, could you please let us start working on the problem before you’ve let it go this far down the loo? Like, I wouldn’t have minded tackling some of these questions six months back, maybe even a year ago would have been nice. You could have just said:
“Look, all I’m going to have time for this year is debating whether health care reform includes death panels, a few trips to obscure countries to restore our reputation overseas, and of course the bailing out of anything classified as “too big to fail. Other than that, and attacking Fix News, no it’s Faux News, you guys are going to have to pick up the slack.”
I, for one, would have been okay with that a year ago.
Now, I’m thinking we’re circling the drain at a pretty good clip there, Mr. O. Now, Zillow’s working on an iPhone App that shows the decline in your home’s value every 12 hours. Now you tell us you don’t already have a plan? I mean, I knew nothing you were doing was making any sense, but I just assumed that I wasn’t in-the-know enough to understand what was happening behind closed doors at the White House, and that one day you’d emerge… after the mid-terms perhaps… to announce that you’re taking some bold action that no one was expecting. But, no? No? Seriously? That’s not going to happen?
Mr. President… I have to tell you… this is very disturbing for some of us. I really don’t know what to say, but like I said, I’ll take a shot, even though what I really want to say is:
Acta est fabula, plaudite!
It means… “The play is over, applaud!”
(And it was said to have been emperor Augustus’ last words.)