Thomas Paine, Where Have You Gone?

Jonathan Dalton, Phoenix Real Estate Agent“That government is best which governs least.”

It’s an argument that could be said to be Common Sense, if you happen to be into archaic political puns. But living in a land where there’s an almost-free market economy (a true free market wouldn’t have built-in stops to halt the slide of the stock market, as were triggered a decade ago to halt trading following the Hong Kong flu) in an election year, inaction is not an acceptable strategy.

Most of us are left to decide whether the cures are worse than the disease, or whether these are actual cures or such much rhetoric designed to garner votes. One of the oft-overlooked aspects of our system in checks and balances is at always allows blame to be shifted, usually from Congress to the White House and bank. Promise something in the primaries then blame Congress for not making the promise a reality, sometimes causing angst and sometimes allowing a candidate to save face.

Who you vote for is your own call. We all have reasons for the votes we cast and not all are based in the issues. There’s just one nagging detail of one campaign promise that I can’t get my arms around … the proposal to freeze mortgage rates for five years.

This was caged on Tuesday in terms of families who “in order to send their children to college were forced to take out subprime second mortgages.”

Perhaps that happened in some quarters but that’s not the primary reason why we are where we are. Loose monetary policy, lack of lender accountability and an NAR-fueled “prices only can go up” mentality led many to buy homes they never could afford using subprime vehicles. Those taking second mortgages were more likely to take their dream vacation or buy some toys than send their kids to college.

Families are being impacted by the wave of foreclosures but, at least in many outlying areas here in the Phoenix market, it’s more a case of investors walking away from bad gambles than families feeling the sting of a mortgage rate adjusting upward.

Thomas Paine’s words imply something that doesn’t sell well in an election season – the concept of personal responsibility. There’s also a healthy dose of cynicism, the idea that the government only can further screw up what’s already gone to pot rather than letting the free market take care of its own cleanup.

That some homebuyers were duped is undeniable. But sympathy is hard to muster for families who expected cash back at the end of a transaction and couldn’t figure out that it was wrong, or who signed blank loan docs at closing and didn’t think it slightly odd.

When I was much younger and my now ex-wife and I were looking at larger homes (not long after purchasing our original), we sat down and had a discussion. We were in a 1,500 square foot home and were looking at 3,000 square foot homes. It was just my daughter and the two of us.

There’s a difference, we realized, between what we can qualify to purchase and what we really needed. That’s a difference many homebuyers forgot over the past several years.

It’s not the place of government to make amends for the poor decisions of its citizens. There are no programs in place to replenish my bankroll when I call an all-in bet with Ace-Queen offsuit (much less suited connectors, another favorite weakness.) Or for hitting on 20.

Promising such relief in an effort to gain votes is wrong at a minimum but sadly also expected of someone running for office. You’re as likely to find truth in a campaign promise as in a market recap by Larry Yun.

We expect our leaders to have the answers. It also would be great if they had the wisdom to understand that sometimes silence is an acceptable answer as well.

[tags]subprime mortgages, Phoenix real estate[/tags]

Jonathan Dalton

Jonathan Dalton is a 40-plus-year resident of the Valley and has been helping folks buy and sell homes since 2004. He can be reached at 602-502-9693 or info at


  • Charleston real estate today 10 years ago

    Well said, Jonathan.

  • Scott McGrane 10 years ago

    I agree Jonathan. I think it goes back to the way we are wired as Americans. We try and solve the problem and tell people what they want to hear. Why would our Presidential candidates be any different when responding to the subprime woes? For example, with women, when my significant other comes to me with a problem; the first thing I do is try and solve it, when I first need to understand what she is going through and simply listen. It was like you said; maybe even saying nothing is an “acceptable answer.” Let me reference what Stephen Covey says in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, “Seek first to understand then to be understood.”

    Great Article Jonathan.