Truth and consequences

"America did not tell the millions of men and women who came from every country in the world and who -- with their hands, their intelligence and their heart -- built the greatest nation in the world: "Come, and everything will be given to you" She said: "Come, and the only limits to what you'll be able to achieve will be your own courage and your own talent." America embodies this extraordinary ability to grant each and every person a second chance.

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“America did not tell the millions of men and women who came from every country in the world and who — with their hands, their intelligence and their heart — built the greatest nation in the world: “Come, and everything will be given to you.” She said: “Come, and the only limits to what you’ll be able to achieve will be your own courage and your own talent.” America embodies this extraordinary ability to grant each and every person a second chance.

Here, both the humblest and most illustrious citizens alike know that nothing is owed to them and that everything has to be earned. That�s what constitutes the moral value of America… What made America great was her ability to transform her own dream into hope for all mankind…

Those who love this nation which, more than any other, has demonstrated the virtues of free enterprise expect America to be the first to denounce the abuses and excesses of a financial capitalism that sets too great a store on speculation. They expect her to commit fully to the establishment of the necessary rules and safeguards. The America I love is the one that encourages entrepreneurs, not speculators.”

–Speech by President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy before Congress November 7, 2007

When questioned about the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, Senator Jim Bunning (R) from Kentucky said, “When I picked up my newspaper yesterday, I thought I woke up in France. But no, it turns out socialism is alive and well in America.” But judging from President Sarkozy’s speech, France might even take exception to the predicament in which the U.S. finds itself.

It seems our housing bubble has turned into an F5 hurricane, threatening free-market capitalism and the global markets it courts.

As the finger-pointing moves around the room like the hands on a clock, it chimes predatory lending, speculation, debt capitalism, corporation socialism, complex circular hedging and nationalized housing.

For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction and, likewise, we have brushed against at least two standing economic principles: Predatory lending diminishes the whole of lending markets and when a majority of a population is over-extended in speculative debt (where capital is made inane by complex circular hedging), bad things happen. Perhaps under-capitalized capitalism has too long provided the engine of growth for the U.S.

It is important to note that, while we are only beginning to feel the pangs of the opposite and equal reaction of our exuberant choices, there is a divine concept that seasons all-things-American: grace, a precept of which I am certain the Senator from Kentucky ascribes and one that does have a place in economic recovery. But I am getting ahead of myself.

Wendy Broffman’s cover story is articulate and skillful.

The U.S. economy does not fit handily into a few pages of prose, but Wendy has encapsulated the heart of this monumental event of our time, and from the key perspective of multifamily.

There is much more to the Housing and Economic Recovery Act than bail-out headlines so I hope you will take a moment to read both Wendy’s story and a fast recap of the bill in NMHC President Doug Bibby’s The Closer. It is great to know that our industry leaders have assuredly taken the helm to drive this legislation that would resurrect the renter-homeowner equilibrium in our government, and provide for an economically-viable future.

And grace? Well, it is a key fundamental in this, the land of second chances.