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Home ownership is a responsibility, not a right

These days we have politicians of all stripes promising help to homeowners who’ve gotten in over their heads. Can’t pay your mortgage? Just hold out your hand. The government is coming to the rescue.

Rescue? From your own irresponsibility in buying a home you couldn’t afford? From your own failure to plan for the escalating mortgage rate you signed up for? From your speculation in the housing market that you knew full well was a risky investment? (It’s called “speculation” for a reason.)

What makes you think you deserve that mortgage? What makes you think you deserve to keep that house? You have no basic right or entitlement to a home, to have one given to you by the government or by anyone else. You have no inherent right to a reduced, renegotiated, or forgiven loan. You paid your money and took your chances. Your loss is not the government’s responsibility and it certainly isn’t mine as a taxpayer.

Generations of American homeowners have scrimped and saved for down payments to buy homes they could afford. Down payments of up to 20%. Those same homeowners expected to pay off those loans, and did, at the terms agreed upon by both parties. If they had to sell the home, they knew their profit or loss might depend on the vagaries of the housing market. That’s the way it’s done, people. Purchasing a home is a big decision and a major financial commitment. If you can’t afford to do it, you don’t do it.

Jonathan Hoenig over at Smart Money called these homeowner bailouts immoral, and I agree with him. They are unfair to the responsible homeowners and taxpayers who have to pay for them. They encourage the irresponsible financial behavior of the bailout recipients and legitimize the idea that a contract is a meaningless piece of paper. They give substance to the notion that somehow every American is entitled to own a home. They foster the idea that the government (aka your fellow taxpayers) will bail you out if things don’t go your way. Those misconceptions imperil our economic future and need to be squelched — now.

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