Friday, May 25, 2012

Week 2

This week's topic, the financial crisis, was probably one of the most difficult concepts I've tried to learn about and understand. From what I've researched, it seems as though All the Devils are Here is one of the most concise and easy to follow books that explains and discusses the financial crisis. If I were to use this book in the classroom it would likely be merely to get background information for myself and to help me understand the issue and feel more confident about teaching and discussing the issue with my students. The part of the reading that I find most interesting is the explanation of the events leading up to the financial crisis and the authors' idea of the changing culture of America. We discussed the idea in class and one of the authors, Bethany McLean also mentions in her questions and answer session with C-SPAN. What McLean believes is that the concept of the American Dream has shifted. Many American's dream of owning a home. However, is it possible that the dream went from the belief that we must work hard to reach that goal to the belief that we are entitled to home ownership amongst other things. This idea presented in the book I believe would make a great discussion in a classroom.

Honestly, I had trouble trying to learn about All the Devils are Here and the financial crisis. I'm not sure I would ever feel comfortable teaching a classroom in depth about the issue and I'm not sure many students would be able to handle the concept in very much depth. I would most likely bring in an expert to help me with this topic if I were to teach it.

Discussion questions 7 states: 
"This book holds sacred the view that desire for increased home ownership spurred the growth of mortgage-backed-securities and subsequent other financial investments. It was with this mindset that banks and other financial institutions moved away from traditional 30-year mortgages and expanded into shady areas such as sub-prime mortgages and other predatory tactics such as hidden fees, fraudulent appraisals of homes, and robo-signing loan documents. Does the American Dream place too much emphasis on homeownership or to what extent should homeownership be encouraged on a national policy level?"

What I find most disturbing about this is not necessarily the emphasis on home ownership itself, but the way people go about achieving home ownership. In my opinion, there is an apparent culture of immediate satisfaction in America today. This leads to feelings of entitlement as Bethany McLean mentioned in her interview. While this may allow financial institutions to use predatory tactics, I think there needs to be a change in consumerism culture. Citizens should be aware of the decisions they are making and what long term effects those decisions will have. Encouraging home ownership when one does not have the means should not be practiced by any government or financial institution. Perhaps the government should promote awareness about the economy and finances so that American citizens have a better understanding of the financial decisions they are making. The media would also need to play a huge role in this shift. We cannot place blame on any one player.


  1. Danielle, you raise some excellent points about the feeling of entitlement that exists among many American citizens and the culture of immediate satisfaction that exists in the modern America. In my opinion, there will always be a segment of the population that makes poor financial decisions and gets itself into trouble with banks and creditors; you can't really fix stupid, as they say. The other side of the coin is the income disparity that exists in the modern world, so I think it's hard to separate the individuals who unduly feel that sense of entitlement from those who genuinely do work hard but simply never get the opportunity to own a house of their own by way of the traditional mortgages. These two extremes exists side by side in America today, it really makes this whole issue very difficult to take any concrete position on, at least for me. I've known plenty of people who generally work as hard or harder than any business executive, but because of any number of factors (the exorbitant cost of higher education, the disparities in k-12 education by region, the ability of employers in the modern America to really take advantage of depressed local economies by supressing unionization and/or legal action against their own wrongdoing) are simply put at a ridiculous disadvantage when it comes to buying a home. These people will always have to work harder to achieve basic comforts than those of us raised in more economically stable households / regions, and it's hard for me to fault them for taking advantage of a chance to raise their families in a real home they can barely afford vs. a rented apartment. By the same token, any social programs geared towards these people also opens the door to all sorts of sense-of-entitlement-feeling yahoos as well. This whole issue gets more and more baffling the more that I think about it.

  2. Better "consumer economics" courses in school would help. 12th grade Econ is too late, and is (IMO) too heavy on theory.