Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And why the press is important...explaining the mortgage crisis

I was so annoyed last week by the rant on CNBC by some guy named Santelli which was then repeated over and over and over again on NBC networks. I knew I was annoyed by a news person yelling about the federal help to stem foreclosures, but I was also annoyed that he wasn't actually explaining anything, just venting, like some crazy uncle at a family dinner who doesn't really sound like he knows what he's talking about. And that is not the role I think the news media should be playing - especially now when everyone is so worried about our personal and national future.

I came across this article from the Columbia Journalism Review, and I learned a lot more about the current foreclosure crisis. It really is amazing, and it points out that this should not be "reported" as neighbor vs. neighbor. The mortgage and banking industry took full advantage of as many people as they could, made A LOT of money for themselves and caused this mess. So, if Santelli wants to rant about something, maybe he should focus on all of our taxpayer dollars going to some of the institutions that caused this mess - with NO real consequences.

The boiling anger we’re seeing by citizen against fellow citizen is understandable given that the press still hasn’t fully told the story of the boiler rooms, “the crooked heart of the credit crisis,” as Audit managing director Dean Starkman called it.

That this burst of outrage erupted after homeowners got a (relatively meager) bailout rather than after Wall Street and the banks got their trillions ($10 trillion by Bloomberg’s count) with repeated trips to the trough illustrates as clearly as I’ve seen it the failure of the press to fully portray the real cause of this catastrophe.

Read the full piece for a decent explanation of the mortgage mess. (BTW, I was one of these people the mortgage people tried to talk into a bad loan...I had some cash to "put down" when I was looking at buying a condo in 2005 and was told that I should just finance the whole thing. I didn't move forward, but I felt very uncomfortable by the whole thing - and very confused!)

If this isn't enough, also read this critique of Santelli and his misdirected anger.

(Also, keep this article in mind while you hear about neighborhood "tea parties" being organized by people against foreclosure assistance...and against their neighbors.)

Where was the press?

Very interesting article in Mother Jones about how reporters failed the public in the current financial crisis. And summed it up as follows:

Who will blow the whistle on the next disaster in the making? Where's the next subprime mess? Barring a major reordering of resources and priorities, don't count on the business media to find out. "The press were kind of prisoners of respectability," Hudson says. "With exceptions, they really want official sources; they want official approval; they don't want to be too out front. They do a good job after the fact, but not beforehand, when it counts."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009