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Five Letters Re: Living Through the Real Estate Crash and Bankruptcy

Mr. Rawles,
After reading the article entitled “Living Through the Real Estate Crash and Bankruptcy” by Brad C. [1], I was absolutely livid. I am not an economics major but I firmly believe that our country is in the shape that it is due in large part to people like Brad C. who leveraged everything that they could to live “the American dream” and then screwed all of his creditors by simply deciding that he was not going to pay. Even going so far as to max out his credit cards knowing he was not going to be paying the bill because after all who wouldn’t want “free money”. It must be nice to take vacations with the family while not paying your bills. Then he has the nerve to reference thanking Jesus when he still has a job. He then justifies his actions by saying “…it’s just business.” Just because something is legal does not make it morally right. Like many people, I owe more on my modest home than it is worth. Yes, I could walk away and say “screw the greedy bank that was nice enough to loan me money so that my family has a roof over their heads”. After all, it’s just business. I signed on the line and made an agreement. I am not going to back out of it because it is no longer convenient for me. There was once a time when a man’s word meant something. I pray that Brad C. has truly learned his lesson. – Jason J.

Mr. Rawles,
I read your blog every day and appreciate all the knowledge you provide my family and I with. I am 28 years old and own a small company with 10 employees, in San Diego, California. I work hard and try to live a just and Christian life honoring my family’s name and values. 

I can honestly say that I have never disagreed with a single thing written on your blog until today. The article “Living Through the Real Estate Crash and Bankruptcy, by Brad C.” was very informative, but ultimately disheartening. I was sad and annoyed that a person as pathetic and weak as Brad C, would have the honor of being posted on your wonderful blog. I appreciate your note at the bottom regarding theft, but I must say that it can be misinterpreted to mean that Brad C did nothing wrong. Brad C is a common thief. Nothing more. As you, Mr. Rawles, have stated and shown us on many occasions, just because the government says something is okay, it doesn’t mean that it is. Bankruptcy is a perfect example of this. I actually liked the posting until Brad C got to his self justification of theft with, ” Do I feel bad?  Yes, but keep in mind this is just business.” Brad obviously doesn’t feel bad. I mean heck…he got a Lincoln Navigator, right?

As a business owner I have dealt with people like Brad C., who feel that debt failure is “just business” as he pathetically stated. I would love for Brad C. to let me know how I am supposed to explain this “just business” attitude to my employees? When people of Brad C’s character don’t pay me or go BK then buy a ’98 Lincoln Navigator the next week am I supposed to just pretend that’s OK and not feel ripped off? Brad seems to feel like this whole “real estate” thing popped out of nowhere and he was an innocent bystander? Like he took a business risk and he failed and it isn’t his fault? He has no remorse for the bank or the companies that lent him credit to which he defaulted. This is wrong. He continually notes that he rented to “low income” housing regions. Why did he think these areas yield higher rental profits? Higher profits are justified by higher risk! Brad took a higher risk to make more money and failed. 

I am so tired of people justifying that walking away from obligations is acceptable because it is not convenient for them to stand by decisions. I was raised to stand by my decisions and live with them. It is people like Brad who have wrecked the country that I fought for and made it what it is today, not because Brad went bankrupt, but because Brad justified in his head that going BK wasn’t his fault, is acceptable behavior, and is “just business”. I compare Brad to people who are shocked their 401K went down 30%? Do they not understand what an investment is?

Brad is the type of person who lives by the motto “if you can’t beat ’em, might as well join em”. Good Christians and honest Americans like myself live by the motto “If I can’t beat ’em then they are going to kill me trying to beat ’em”.

Also please don’t make us get out the scratchy violin for your poor “older RV” and ’98 Lincoln Navigator, Brad C. That would be a heck of an upgrade from some of the rest of our situations and we all pay our bills. 

Regards and God bless, – Jimbo

JWR:
I read the article entitled “Living Through the Real Estate Crash and Bankruptcy”, by Brad C. As I read the article I became increasingly disgusted and angry. I have long believed that the “get rich quick at the expense of all else” mentality is what is wrong with this country. Brad’s article reinforces this belief. People like Brad, who bought up huge amounts of real estate back in the early 2000s are the ones who caused the real estate bubble. They queued up in front of development offices, months before construction even began, and they bought homes and immediately flipped them to make a quick buck with no intention of ever living in the homes. Meanwhile, folks like myself who just wanted to buy a home to live in had to pay inflated prices or move into smaller, more affordable places. I did the latter, and I am currently one of the unlucky homeowners who is underwater, thanks to the actions of folks like Brad C. But unlike Brad, I continue to make payments on my house – I am a man of my word and I live up to my obligations. So many these days do not.

I have heard a lot on the news lately about predatory lenders, but folks like Brad are just as guilty, if not more so, for the housing crisis. I call them predatory borrowers, and the article that Brad wrote makes me think (just for a split second) that it might be a good idea to bring back debtors prisons. I was shocked when he said that as he’s going through bankruptcy he advocated continuing to spend on credit cards and rack up debt. When he said he had recently bought an RV, I literally shouted at my computer screen. I was heartened to hear that no credit card company had issued a new card to Brad, despite his attempts to get one. I hope he never gets one again.

I see Brad as a selfish person, and he is exactly the kind of person I expect will behave quite poorly in a TEOTWAWKI [2] situation – the kind that will attempt to take from others what he has not earned for himself. He of course will justify it much as he did his bankruptcy situation in the article – “trying to make the best of a bad situation” or “doing what you can to provide for your family”. He seems to have no problem rationalizing away these actions, which I (and probably many others) see as abhorrent. I fear that there are many others out there like Brad, and the size and the scope of the housing crisis reinforces this fear since there were so many others doing the exact same thing.

Thanks for your blog, I continue to read and learn. – Ian

Mr. Rawles,
Brad C. seems to be a real piece of work. I have a real estate sales license and used to be an appraiser. We have a name for guys like this and it’s “Slumlord”. Reading this letter made my blood boil and to be honest I couldn’t even finish it. If the housing authorities told his section 8 tenants they could leave without notice it’s because he failed ( I’m assuming after numerous notices ) to maintain his properties at a minimal standard. Then he talks about his “clean and sober” houses ( we call them “halfway houses” ) and how he can put ten beds in a house. First of all whoever thought it was a good idea to put up to ten parolees together in a house should have his head examined. I’m sure he didn’t live in the neighborhoods where these houses were and I’m sure the neighbors were none too happy about it. Secondly, these parolees are not clean and sober. I live in a nice middle-class suburb ( I’m planning my escape but it takes time ). That is except for the “clean and sober” house down the street ( by the way, these properties are usually run down and poorly maintained ). These guys are always in the yard smoking grass and drinking. Calling the police is fruitless because the response times in our area are so slow. Drug testing these guys is a joke. There are numerous products to beat drug tests and I’m sure these guys are experts on the subject.

To read this guy’s letter crying about his misfortunes and quoting scripture like he’s some kind of pillar of the community was really more than I could take.
Thanks, – D.W.

Dear Mr. Rawles:
I was so stunned and upset by the recent posting by Brad C. I am writing to you for the very first time. This man doesn’t understand the first thing about being a Christian and the fact that he included a verse at the end of his disgusting display of greed and sloth is just the icing on the cake. 

With all due respect, your total lack of moral regard for those that were living in your rental units is startling. You regarded them as being unworthy to know what was going on even though your poor planning placed them within 20 days of homelessness.  Did you ever stop to consider how many of these individuals would find shelter if suddenly one day the Sheriff’s Department showed up to force their eviction because of your personal recklessness?  Your own words convince me that you didn’t give a flying fig about anyone but yourself and your material possessions.  The fact that after though such financial difficulties your priorities are focused around your own extravagant creature comforts (You need that RV for what, exactly???) convinces me that you have learned absolutely nothing and will end up getting yourself back into the exact same situation as soon as you possibly can. Your own statement that you are already applying for credit cards again is proof of your continued ignorance. PAY YOUR DEBTS – LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS!
When I combined this with your apparent lack of sense of responsibility to pay your credit cards I sir am amazed.  Your determination that the credit card companies whose money you spent wasn’t really lost is ridiculous. You took their money and refused to return it. That is theft.  I cannot think of many posters on this site that have displayed less ethics.  The fact that you ended your post with a Biblical verse, Luke 12:15: “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth.” is laughable at best.  You obviously have no true understanding of Christian charity.  I hope your current landlord doesn’t regard you with as much disdain as you showed your tenants. Although I’m sure most that read your post would agree that you would deserve it. Perhaps then you’ll get it!

I will pray for your family that you will wise up and realize how foolish you really are before you end up homeless and hungry. Sincerely, – M.M.

JWR Replies: As I was first reading Brad C.’s lengthy article, I kept expecting to see a transition to genuine repentance and restitution. But there was none! I realized that there would be lots of righteous anger in rebuttal letters. (I chose the best five from among the nine that came in.) Despite my initial reservations, I’m glad that I decided to go ahead and run the article as a pointed example of how not to live. Hopefully his poor example will encourage SurvivalBlog readers live within their means and not fall into into the same debt trap. I also hope that you can see the peril of equivocating and convincing yourself that “it is just business” to cheat your creditors. Theft is theft. Calling it something else doesn’t change it, or it’s consequences. There is a Supreme Judge of the universe, and ultimately we will all answer for our unrepentant sins. Perhaps not in this life, but surely, beyond.

As my mother is fond of saying: “Time wounds all heels.”