The California Corridor: Some Lessons on Government Largesse From the New Frontier

Stealing Up For a Truck?

My point in this long excursus? Note the description “late-model Toyota.” I think it is a Tacoma, maybe 2009-11, so not a cheap truck by any means.

Earlier another youth drove in without seeing me mowing the lawn. I ran up; startled he stammered, “Hey, mister, I’m only looking for scrap metal to buy.” (What is it with the national epidemic with good wire or scrap metal?)

I’ll pass on his shoulder to finger sleeve tattoos, the ink drops under the eyes, the shaved head, wife-beater T-shirt, the inked-in but impressive religious icon tattooed on the neck, and the whole nine yards. As I wrote earlier, I immediately noticed brand new hot-water tanks, still in their labeled cardboard containers, in the bed of his truck. They seemed very “metal” to me, but not very “scrap.” Words were exchanged and he backed out.

Here’s the point: he too drove a brand new truck, this one a custom-painted fire-engine red Dodge, hopped up, with an expensive stereo blaring.

Chrome-rimmed Poverty?

Where are we going with this?

Yes, I confess once more to the same destination as the flash mobs and the London riots. What we think in the West now as too little is far too much. Both these thieves could trade in their multi-thousand-dollar trucks for cash to buy food, rather than steal the property of others and cause mayhem to make their payments. Heck, the rims alone are worth $1000.

(Thieves and gangbangers create a climate of general fear; they ruin the sense of tranquility, and they betray 150 years of collective labor of the now dead to create civilization from near nothing. Shame on them. Americans should not need to have armored rural mail boxes.) To suggest that they could do without the trucks or go without the dole, is not -- channeling the president’s most recent speech warning against anti-government zealots -- the same as wanting children to suffer from mercury poisoning or to render us helpless against the health care industry or to destroy government and want to start over from scratch.

More Federal Cash to the Rescue

So it is too with the federal government. In 2008 the housing market collapsed due to Wall Street speculation in sub-prime paper, dishonest banks, and real estate agents pushing mortgages and houses, and to be fair, either stupid or greedy unqualified house buyers who, late to a doomed game of musical chairs, thought even they, as the music ended, could find cheap loans, buy a home, earn thousands in instant “equity,” borrow against it, and get “free” cash.

But the glue that held the entire amorphous mess together were federally-guaranteed loans backed by Freddie and Fannie, agencies that were guided by congressional politics and not market worries -- and themselves skimmed by incompetent bureaucrats who ended up millionaires. Take away those multibillion-dollar guarantors, and the market would have precluded the unqualified, the Wall Street roguery would have been neutered, and the inevitable housing bust would have been serious rather than catastrophic.

They Borrowed All For Us

Then there was George Bush’s 2008 multitrillion-dollar “stimulus” that “saved” the country, but destroyed the real progress he had made from 2006 to 2008 in addressing mounting debt. Then there was Barack Obama’s “second” $800 million “shovel-ready” stimulus. Now, of course, discredited Keynesians post facto decry its timid minuteness -- but go back to January 2009 and read the op-eds. Then there was ebullition that Obama had taken the big dare and gone “big.” Only spending of that magnitude, we were lectured, would save us -- as in funding “millions of green jobs” and “investments” and “infrastructure.” It was a weird time of Van Jones’ fakery, and preachy assurances/warnings from Geithner, Goolsbee, Orszag, Romer, and Summers. Pelosi et al. were even bragging that there was no need to read the vast borrowing bills before they were passed.