NPR Blames Borrowers for the Recession
How would you complete the following sentence:
For nearly two years the US economy has been battered by a recession brought on by _________________.
I would guess most semi-informed people would mention the housing bubble and mortgage backed securities (unless you are so completely incompetent as to not know about the $8 trillion dollar housing bubble!). Somewhere in the discussion one would hope to hear about the sub-prime lending spree that hugely profited unscrupulous mortgage brokers and victimized many borrowers. Right?
Not if you're Liane Hansen chatting with Marilyn Geewax (get out the Q Tips!); according to Hansen the recession was brought on by "excessive borrowing - millions of people took on far too much mortgage debt or maxed out their credit cards." Yep, it was all those foolish Americans frivolously maxing out their credit cards and buying houses willy-nilly. At this point you hopefully gave NPR one of its well deserved Dial-away™ moments and switched to some other station, otherwise you were subjected to even more astute economic insights about Americans and their savings.
After Geewax explains that a study found that "about half of all Americans said they couldn't scrounge up $2000 even if they turned to their relatives for help," Hansen asks, "Why do so many people live on the financial edge?" A reasonable question. You might expect to hear something about depressed wages, exhorbitant health insurance fees, predatory lending, skyrocketing college expenses, union busting, etc. or as one of the commenters on the NPR site writes,
"This was a very poor presentation of the issue by NPR. Despite an introduction, followed by an interview, not a thing was said about American wages. They mention how generations ago, we had a greater savings rate, never mind that back then, families could live well on one income."
Geewax is not about to answer the question, but continues on with scolding the current generation of Americans,
"We've just sort of step by step, generation by generation, gotten more accustomed to this idea of easy credit...has lead to a kind of financial illiteracy, we don't read the fine print, we don't really think about compounding interest and so people kind of lost track of the financial risks..."
If all this weren't bad enough, Geewax and Hansen then turn the whole story into a condescending commercial for NPR. Geewax explains that to save up $2000, all a couple has to do is each "put $20 in a cookie jar every time they listen to Lianne Hansen on Sunday mornings, by the end of the year that couple would have $2000." Wow why didn't I think of that? Better yet, if everyone put a dollar in the cookie jar every time they heard something stupid on NPR news, we'd all be millionaires by years end!