Binyamin Appelbaum thinks people that took possession of homes on option ARMs they couldn't possibly afford are victims. Unscrupulous mortgage brokers and lenders lured them into free-rent schemes, and now “their” homes are being taken away from them.
Rochelle Parker is a victim. She couldn't make the payments on her credit cards, so she took out a loan on the Internet to consolidate them. And another to pay that loan. And another to pay that loan. And another, and another. It's a vicious cycle where Parker is the victim of both lenders who want their loans repaid and lenders who won't float her anymore credit.
The list of victims goes on and on with new victims identified every day. But, isn't there a point where the supposed victims knowingly accepted loan terms they could not live with and thus became their own victimizers?
Did execs at GM and Citi really believe that their companies would not become political footballs? Did they really believe that, contrary to all human history, the government would stand by the contracts as written? Is any good faith belief possible, when the government had to break contracts to make these new contracts? Of course not.
Did anyone really believe they could live rent-free forever in homes double or triple the size of their parents, who scraped and scrimped for thirty years to pay off their home? Not in your wildest dreams.
Yet, the pundits who identify these people as victims, are the same who accuse libertarians and anarchists of being “Pollyanna-ish”. To them, the only victimizers are people who make a contract with the intent of actually fulfilling the contractual obligations. If you enter a contract with someone who expects the contract to be fulfilled, you are automatically the victim.
But, there has to a line somewhere. For instance, no one could possibly make the argument that a person who goes to a loan shark and begs for a loan at 30% interest per month is a victim, could they?
Enter Mary Jordan.
In today's Washington Post, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, Mary Jordan, goes to great lengths exposing the “victims” of mafia loan sharks in Italy. These aren't just run-of-the-mill victims, however, these are special victims.
There's a salesman, who got $15,000 (at 30% monthly) from a man dressed in Versace driving a Mercedes. He tried to make payments, but eventually fled. He blames the “banks for pushing people like him into the arms of the Mafia. 'If they would be a bit more open with their credit, many people wouldn't fall into this trap,' he said. 'They only give money to those who already have it.'” Victim.
The amateur soccer club owner in Rome who knew 120% interest, “was steep”? Well, players, coaches, and fans depended on him to keep the club going. “He had no choice.” Victim.
And, then there's an unnamed gallery owner who took 15,000 euros at 120% annual interest. Flanked by his wife and lawyer, he spoke only on condition of anonymity because, “if clients knew he had gotten tangled up with a loan shark, he said, he would 'lose social prestige and honor.'” A marginal producer whose only concern is social prestige feeling no remorse for failure to repay a debt willingly entered in to? Victim.
Victimized by the hard prospect of bankruptcy. Victimized by his social status. Victimized by banks. But, most of all, victimized by “criminal gangs” who provided cash when he desperately needed and begged for it."How did I get to this point?" he said, his tired eyes tearing up.
He said he wanted to tell his story because, as the economic crisis deepens, more and more lives are being destroyed by loan sharks."I could have decided to go bankrupt and not gotten involved with all this," he said. "But that is a hard decision to make."
It seems, in the cult of the victim, an honest guy just can't catch a break.