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Angry Renter is Angry (And Fake)

The AngryRenter.com website has accumulated quite an impressive following, some 48,000 members at last count, and has even been attacked by the Wall Street Journal.  

Angry Renter is a petition and gripe site, protesting the mortgage bailout in America.  Unfortunately according to the Wall Street Journal, it's nothing more than Astroturf - a fake grass-roots movement founded by former House majority leader Dick Armey and Republican publishing magnate Steve Forbes.

Angry Renter takes the libertarian stance that if you can't afford your mortgage, too bad for you!  The rest of us (which is to say, renters) chose to live within our means.  If we skip our rent, we get kicked out, end of story.  Now I can sympathize with this point of view, because it has occurred to me that no one is proposing a rental relief bill, and surely renters are being hit as badly by the economy as property owners.  But without any of the benefits.

The problem with this argument is similar to the problem with criticizing other social programs like the public school system.  You may not have a child in public school this year, but what about five years from now?  What about when you were a kid - did you yourself attend public school?  And what about your cohort, all of those other kids that can either go to public school, or turn to a life of crime?  It quickly becomes apparent that it's better for us all if public schools exist, even if the benefit is one or two steps removed from us personally.

Public schools are an example of a greater good.  911 service is another one.  You may not need to call 911 today, or tomorrow, or even this year.  But if you need to call it some day, you'll be glad it's there.  Mortgage relief is another greater good which is one step removed.  Even if you yourself are not paying into a mortgage directly, you are reaping the benefits of other people paying their mortgages.  

Closest to home, we have the fact that although you rent your home, someone else owns it.  I have heard a lot of scary stories from renters who came home to find themselves evicted, because their property's owner had (unbeknownst to them) defaulted on their mortgage.  If your landlord gets a mortgage bailout, I bet you'd be pretty happy about that!  And none of us knows if our landlord is or isn't getting a bailout, because that's the kind of thing landlords tend not to tell their tenants.

In a broader sense, when people get evicted from their homes, it is a Bad Thing.  If someone loses their home, they may have to close their small business - which could mean your job.  They could end up on the welfare rolls, which comes out of your tax money.  The quality of life in your neighborhood will be driven down by the foreclosure next door, and the one next door to that, and to that, and so on in an endless domino chain of disaster.

If you're against bailouts, then be against bailouts - but don't be against them just because they don't seem to benefit you directly.  We do all benefit indirectly from bailouts.  And more to the point, if you have a better idea, the world is all ears at the moment!