An honest exchange of ideas is essential to maintain a healthy nation. Spend any time on Facebook and you’ll know that we have the exchange of ideas part down. But the honesty bit is sorely lacking.
I leave a good online debate feeling energized, optimistic even. Good debates are rare, though. Last week I decided to quit “debating” people who make no effort to base their arguments on reality. But I don’t ignore them either; I ridicule their logic. Does it do any good? Not much. But if each of us reasonable citizens looked at the lunatics and said, “Shut the hell up. You’re not helping,” I think we’d get somewhere.
This is a pretty accurate paraphrasing of a discussion I just had on Facebook. The last sentence is an exact quote:
Random Ass Face: Clinton started us on a path to financial ruin and Obama is following it. Our only hope is more Republican ass kicking in 2012.
Me: Well you make a compelling point, tough to argue with to be sure. But I’ll try. First though I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that you made a silly mistake: You forgot about the President between those two. And moreover, you seem to have missed that it was on his watch that the actual meltdown occurred.
RAF: Tom-You can’t blame Bush without citing a reason!
Me: Silly, Ass Face, you blamed Clinton and Obama without citing reasons and they weren’t even in charge when it happened! But, okay, I’ll bite. How about two wars that he didn’t pay for? Lowering taxes during time of war? An impotent SEC while Wall Street banks created mortgage-backed bonds that drove up demand for sub-prime mortgages?
RAF: Sub-prime mortgages were Clinton’s fault! In the mid-90s he directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to demand that banks make bad loans. By the way, calling me “Ass Face” makes you sound really deep.
Me: I’m plenty deep. It’s just that I haven’t needed to leave the kiddie pool. I’d love to, believe me. Probe my depths, I dare you! Anyhoo, let’s try this: Can we agree that the real estate bubble burst around 2007?
RAF: The bad loans were Clinton’s fault!
Me: For the sake of argument, I’ll agree Clinton asked banks to make loans if you’ll agree that Wall Street’s invention of mortgage-backed bonds fueled a need for sub-prime mortgages, that companies whose sole purpose was to originate loans and sell them to Wall Street sprang up in the 2000s and that the bubble burst in 2007. Okay?
RAF: My frontal lobe hurts.
Me: I know but bear with me, I’m almost done with you. We have agreed that Clinton asked banks to make loans in, say, 1996; that Wall Street demanded to buy bad loans from originators as late as 2006; and that loans began defaulting at an alarming rate by the end of that year, causing the real estate market to crash. You admit then that Clinton’s loans would have necessarily lasted about 10 years before defaulting if they were the cause of the 2006 meltdown and that Wall Street’s lasted, sometimes, no more than one. So here’s your logic: “Clinton’s loans”, kept current for 10 years, were obviously stupid loans to have made, and ruined the economy; lending institution’s loans, which defaulted by the millions months after being issued, are so insignificant that you ignore them. Eat shit.
Maybe after reading the way I publicly castrated Mr. Face you don’t believe my assertion that I respect all reality-based opinions. I promise I do. Look, I’ll even debate myself:
Conservative: Tom - I know this is hard for you to accept, but you are funny, smart, handsome, kind, patient…
Me: Please stop—
Conservative: wonderful, sexy—
Me: Stop. I insist.
Conservative: If I must. Also, I don’t think government should be involved in any way with loans made between banks and individuals. And people shouldn’t take out loans they can’t afford. It’s not our job to protect people from themselves.
Me: I agree that people shouldn’t take out loans they can’t afford. But neither should lending institutions lend money to people they know can’t afford them. Lending institutions invented adjustable rate mortgages with artificially low introductory rates so that home owners could afford them for a couple years, knowing that they, the lending institutions, would package and sell the loans before said loans defaulted. And the Wall Street banks that bought them invented bonds they then filled with all the bad loans they bought, foolishly thinking they had spread the risk. There is no conspiracy in one family taking out a stupid loan, there is a conspiracy in one bank buying millions of bad loans, piling them up in bonds that even they don’t fully understand, and selling the bonds.
Conservative: You had me at “Hello”.
Me: I’m getting uncomfortable here. I didn’t even say, “Hello” did I?
Conservative: Who can say? I am mesmerized by your deep hazel eyes and—
Conservative: Sorry. Where were we?
Me: We just agreed that individuals shouldn’t take out loans they can’t afford and that lending institutions who give out millions of loans they know will never be repaid are lying, stinking, scumbag criminals who should pay dearly for the devastation they wrought on this great country.
Conservative: That doesn’t sound quite right. You sure we agreed on all that?
Me: Look into my deep hazel eyes. Are these a liar’s eyes?
Conservative: No. And what’s more—
Me: Okay, okay. We agreed that a lot of people made bad/reckless/unlucky/ill-informed decisions and that several Wall Street banks conspired to loot the system.
Conservative: So what do we do?
Me: I was hoping you knew.
Conservative: Get drunk and watch NASCAR?
Me: Ugh…Typical Conservative! Get high and listen to the Dixie Chicks?
Conservative: Typical Liberal.
Me: (since it’s my blog, I’ll take the last word). We must quit operating with socialism for Wall Street and capitalism for everyone else. We should regulate Wall Street banks, preventing them from crashing the system again. And we should investigate the madness that caused the collapse with the same rigor we investigate Presidential blowjobs.