9.2.09

CLEARING OUT THE EXCESS. New York adds names to Ko-Ko's List.

Wall Street didn't force Americans to take out loans on houses they couldn't afford. They merely encouraged them by extending credit to people that couldn't pay it back, which they would have known if they hadn't been so busy buying and selling the complex securities that they, in fact, barely understood themselves. And there is another force that contributed just as much to the mortgage meltdown, one that is as much to blame as the guys in midtown.

The real villains here, the truly bad seeds at the heart of this crisis, have gone unpunished thus far and are still in operation. They are Jeff Lewis and Ryan Brown of Bravo's Flipping Out, Armando and Veronica Montelongo of TLC's Flip This House, Kristen Kemp of TLC's The Property Ladder, Kendra Todd of HGTV's My House Is Worth WHAT?, and the TLC, Bravo, HGTV, and Fine Living networks in general. All of them encouraged people to take out massive loans in order to buy and renovate homes and sell them at a profit when, really, most people have terrible taste, and furthermore, are bad at laying tile. These shows are still on! WHY?

We'd also like to see the team responsible for MTV's Cribs, the set designers of the loft on Friends, Page Davis from Trading Spaces, and the editors of Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple, and the dearly departed Domino brought in front of the House Financial Services Committee to explain themselves, along with everyone else who, over the past ten years, has colluded to convince the American public that if they weren't living in a wholly renovated open-plan home with recessed lighting, granite countertops, and freakishly organized closets, they might as well be living in a cave.

Apparently the yuppie implosion also has implications for gold-diggers.

That's high-end excess. In Middle America, the recreational vehicle is another symbol of excess that faces tough times. Our President visited Elkhart, Indiana earlier today.

Elkhart's unemployment rate is 15.3 percent, up from 4.7 percent a year ago. Lee [County, Florida]'s is 10 percent, up from 6 percent a year ago.

Elkhart's primary industry, manufacturing, is suffering. Keystone RV Co. and Jayco Inc. laid off 600 people last week, according to The Truth, Elkhart's newspaper. The RV companies were closed Saturday and could not be reached for comment.

A business cycle can be an opportunity to clear out the excess. Although much of the Schadenfreude appears to be at the expense of the financiers and the real estate hustlers, the recreational vehicle business is another in which there is excess to wring out. (I'm not sure whether the recreational vehicle with a Land Cruiser serving as camp dinghy or the large Dodge Ram pickup or those motorized moon buggies that tear up the woods are the worst symbol of lower-middle-class excess.)

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