Wednesday, January 29, 2014


From tonight's State of the Union:
Misty DeMars is a mother of two young boys. She’d been steadily employed since she was a teenager. She put herself through college. She’d never collected unemployment benefits. In May, she and her husband used their life savings to buy their first home. A week later, budget cuts claimed the job she loved. Last month, when their unemployment insurance was cut off, she sat down and wrote me a letter – the kind I get every day. “We are the face of the unemployment crisis,” she wrote. “I am not dependent on the government…Our country depends on people like us who build careers, contribute to society…care about our neighbors…I am confident that in time I will find a job…I will pay my taxes, and we will raise our children in their own home in the community we love. Please give us this chance.”
Congress, give these hardworking, responsible Americans that chance. They need our help, but more important, this country needs them in the game.
Don't hit. Don't steal.

And don't use your life savings to buy a home, even if it means you owe nothing in terms of a mortgage. There's more to living than owning, especially when you still owe on something you claim to own. Your success may depend on some hitting and stealing, even if you're not the one doing it. 

The above story carries with it a sense of entirety—Misty DeMars and her husband spent their entire life savings to buy their first home. Spending anything less doesn't make for a story worth telling, much less a story worth telling the president. With what most Americans have saved, it's likely that they didn't even have enough for a down payment—never mind having enough to pay for a house outright. (The family has a $249K~ mortgage for a $262K home).

To start, the framing of this woman's story is extremely precise to the point of suspicion: Misty DeMars is the mother of two young boys. Is her husband the father of these two young boys? She's been steadily employed since she was a teenager. She and her husband made a $13K down payment on a $262K home. What has she done with the money she's earned since she was a teenager? She'd never collected unemployment benefits...until she did. That's a big difference.

And when the benefits ran out, she wrote a letter to the president—a letter in which she claims her family is the face of the unemployment crisis, that our country depends on people like her, and then denies dependency on the government.

Does the writing of the letter not make the last statement a bit of a contradiction?

Raising two young sons doesn't require a quarter-million dollar home. Claiming that our country depends on your success doesn't make it so. And buying a quarter-million dollar home without having a substantial amount of money left over after making the down payment is the opposite of responsible—an issue which, above all else, is what's wrong with the story. The story is meant to frame this this couple as being responsible. They were not. Adding the two young boys to the story doesn't change anything—although it does seem worth noting that these stories seem to involve kids quite often. Regardless of their intentions, this couple was incredibly reckless when they purchased their home. This country is full of reckless people—people who claim to be responsible after the fact, when their stories end in tears. Sad as they may be, these stories are avoidable. And when parents are reckless, the kids are just pawns.