By Mencken’s Ghost
August 15, 2012
Directly south of my small townhouse is a tree-lined Scottsdale neighborhood of homes ranging in price from $1 million to $3 million. Many of them are horse properties.
A couple of years ago, I noticed on my daily walks that one of them was falling into disrepair. The grass had died and weeds and debris covered the yard.
Aha, I said to myself, the home is going through foreclosure, and another idiot, among scores of idiots, had bought a house he couldn't afford in order to keep up with the Jones's, or I should say, to keep up with other idiots.
Idiots trying to outspend idiots. What could possibly go wrong with that?
And banks and the US government extending credit to idiots. What could possibly go wrong with that?
A few weeks later I noticed that a fairly new Chevy Suburban with huge chrome wheels was parking in the driveway. Curiously, though, the yard and house continued to deteriorate. It's strange, I said to myself (I've been talking a lot to myself ever since the country lost its mind), that the house had been bought or rented but is not being maintained.
The Suburban was in the driveway for over a year until a contractor I know began remodeling the house a couple of weeks ago. He told me that the guy with the Suburban was a squatter who had moved in and had the utilities turned on. (The contractor's company is now a fifth of the size it was before the bubble collapsed.)
Next door to the squatter home is a vacant one-acre lot. That's where a nice 1970s house used to stand but was torn down during the housing bubble to make way for a 10,000 sq. ft. McMansion. The McMansion made it to the point of being framed and sided with plywood before the builder ran out of money after the housing bubble burst. It sat like that and deteriorated for over two years, a blight on the neighborhood. Recently, someone bought it and razed it, evidently with the plan to build a new home on the lot. That will be the third home on the same lot in about five years.
Think of the money wasted across the nation on similar financial fiascos. Instead of investing in plant and equipment, Americans are "investing" in McMansions and granite countertops and stainless steel appliances and four-dollar frappuchinos containing 400 calories, and big tuition loans for useless degrees. What could possibly go wrong with that?
Three other 1970s homes in the 'hood have been razed recently to make way for new homes. No exaggeration: One week a nice brick home is standing. The next week it is gone without a trace, except for the mail box at the curb.
Thanks to government monetary policy, the boom-bust cycle is repeating. What could possibly go wrong with that?
Soon, I'll be standing on a street corner in a winter overcoat on a 115-degree day, mumbling to myself and scaring little children. At least you'll know what drove me insane.
Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.