Restitution vs. Retribution from Fannie and Freddie

Ideas and Issues

 New Orleans               After an endless three year investigation the SEC (Security & Exchange Commission) filed charges against the former CEO’s of the quasi-public housing finance giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, whose warm nicknames all speak to the badly mangled and badly needed home mortgage assistance we need now.  The SEC decision seems to have attracted love letters from the business press so that they can finally have someone to blame.

Why don’t I take much pleasure from this?

I suspect it is not making me very happy, because settling on someone to blame for the mess is still miles away from understanding the mess on one hand, and on the other hand really does nothing to resolve the mess.  These guys won’t do time, but families will still continue to lose their houses based on decisions that these dudes and hundreds like them made in the name of their institutions and their own paychecks.  They and others won’t suddenly find themselves out on the street or crammed into a cheap rental.  They won’t be there to decide what to put in the back of the van or pickup and what memories to crush into a garbage bag and leave on the street.

It galls me every time I read about Hank Paulson claiming to do charity work and see a picture of Timothy Geitner giving advice (of all things!) to other governments, that they were so codependent with the banks and Wall Street and cared so little about really solving the problems created by these shenanigans.   I can’t keep harping on the fact that even in the bailout, we simply didn’t use about $750 million set aside for home modifications, because we couldn’t get the government to muscle up on the banks to make things right.

I’m at a loss to articulate my anger as well as I need to do, but increasingly I am pushed to believe that there is a fundamental flaw in our society and our social values that finds us placing a higher premium on retribution than on restitution.   Too many are cheaply satisfied by having someone to blame, rather than hanging in on the issue or problem until there is resolution for the victims.  This all seems a false or misplaced morality.  We  pretend we are finally doing the right thing, even though we are doing nothing of substance to make the victims whole again and glue Humpty Dumpty back together.

Sure the guy pulling the trigger should pay a price, but if we don’t do everything we can to save the woman who took the bullet and put her back to together, we don’t have any real sense of justice at all.