Monday, February 11, 2008

Kevin Mims Responds

I think this speaks for itself:

Hey, I appreciate all the interest in my Marketplace commentary, and I apologize if anything I wrote was misleading. It wasn’t my intention to argue in favor of a government bailout for troubled homeowners or to portray mortgage lenders as predatory. I took pains to point out that my mortgage is a good one, with a competitive rate and fixed for five years. The point I was trying to make was that if your income is dependent on the real-estate industry (as mine and my wife’s are), then the current real-estate downturn can hurt you even if you have a good loan. It is absolutely true that Julie and I took out a home-equity line of credit after purchasing the house. The house was in need of a lot of serious repairs when we bought it. The heating-and-air system was over thirty years old and failed in our second summer in the home. We also spent money on improvements that were entirely cosmetic (landscaping, etc) and which in retrospect we probably shouldn’t have undertaken. And I can’t deny we blew money on stuff that had nothing to do with home-improvement.

My Marketplace commentary came about in a curious fashion. I had submitted commentary to the program before but had never had a piece accepted. Somehow, though, I must have gotten included in the program’s database of potential freelance contributors. On January 8th I received an email from Marketplace (apparently sent out to lots of other people as well) that asked “What’s Your Real Estate Plan for ’08?” I was invited by Marketplace to fill out a questionnaire which asked for responses to such things as “Describe your real estate situation,” “Describe the best and worst aspects of your current situation,” “What if any difficulty do you anticipate with your real-estate plan this year?” And so forth. I filled out the questionnaire and sent it back. The only thing about my situation that I could think of that might be unique was the fact that I had lost a home to foreclosure in a previous down market and now, 27 years later, was facing the same thing all over again. So I mentioned this in my questionnaire answers. A Marketplace reporter contacted me and asked if she could interview me for the program. I told her that, as a freelance writer, I would rather tell my story myself via a commentary. She arranged for this to happen. Alas, I was permitted only 300 words or so, which made it impossible for me to describe every aspect of my situation. Thus, I described only what I thought might interest people: the fact that for the second time in our lives my wife and I were facing foreclosure as a result of a real-estate downturn. Had I more time, I would gladly have spelled out that this situation is primarily due to our own failure to plan properly for hard times. Anyone who has read my New York Times Modern Love piece knows that I am not shy about fessing up to the fact that I am a poor breadwinner and an all-around financial loser. I never meant to imply that I have been victimized by corrupt lenders or that I endorse a real-estate bailout by the federal government. Again, I apologize if my piece gave anyone the wrong impression about my situation. Marketplace should not be held responsible for this failing on my part. I’ll try to do better next time.

--Kevin Mims

14 comments :

CPAone said...

I have to give Kevin credit. People today are extremely defensive.

This guy says it like it is.

Good luck to everybody. What a mess we have to clean up.

Patient Renter said...

I think it was the last sentence of the original piece, the (paraphrased) "we might end up living with our daughters for a while" thing that seemed to evoke, pity, whether intended or not. Combine that with the undisclosed home equity loan and we have a recipe for name-calling (douchebag).

Kevin, it's clear that given your response you weren't seeking pity though I'm sure you'd get some. It's also pretty clear that you're not a douchebag. I take that back, though given the circumstances you might understand why I threw that out there.

I know you also never implied support for a bailout at all. My comment regarding a bailout (which is being proposed by various politians at the moment) was just to use your case as an example, since many bailout proponents would wish to hand over taxpayer money to those who took "equity" out of their homes and are now in trouble. I'm sure you don't deserve the bad situation that you find yourself in now, but neither do taxpayers and prudent individuals deserve to foot the bill for folks in your situation.

Best of luck.

Rob Dawg said...

And I can’t deny we blew money on stuff that had nothing to do with home-improvement.

No you FAILED to include this in your original commentary. With this "little" omission your story of good people hurt turns into one of irresponsible people hurting others by taking down the housing market through their excesses that not only go unpunished but in your case earned you money.

GIVE BACK THE MONEY YOU GOT FOR THE PIECE! GIVE BACK THE MONEY YOU GOT FOR THE PIECE! GIVE BACK THE MONEY YOU GOT FOR THE PIECE! GIVE BACK THE MONEY YOU GOT FOR THE PIECE! GIVE BACK THE MONEY YOU GOT FOR THE PIECE!

Max said...

Thus, I described only what I thought might interest people: the fact that for the second time in our lives my wife and I were facing foreclosure as a result of a real-estate downturn. Had I more time, I would gladly have spelled out that this situation is primarily due to our own failure to plan properly for hard times.

What I take exception to is Mims' passive tone. Even in this response he appears to fall on his sword, but in reality he's deflecting responsibility once again. It wasn't his fault that Marketplace limited his commentary space etc.

The fact is, the omission of that single fact changed the entire tone of his piece. He went from someone who didn't "plan properly" and had an active role in his own financial demise, to an innocent victim of circumstance.

What "interests people" in an autobiographical commentary is the truth. When the truth isn't interesting and you write something else, it's called fiction.

Lipsmacker said...

Interesting. I've read Kevin's piece and I've read the comments. My opinion? Some of you out there need a life. Seriously. What his piece states is that the economy slowed down, and he and his wife aren't earning what they previously earned, and so he might lose his house. Some out there are interested only in doing a hatchet job, jumping to all sorts of conclusions, claiming he spent his money on a Hummer, or medical bills, etc. Worse are those who claim he's making out like he's a victim of unscrupulous loan officers, or playing a victim. Or simply calling him names, or accusing him of wanting some kind of bailout--again, all based on faulty assumptions. Stick to the facts, lame ones! Maybe he spent the money fixing the home; so what if it was medical bills. Who cares? The point of the piece is still the point of the piece: they might lose their home due to the economic slowdown. Leave off the personal attacks. They make you sound petty and small. Very small. This guy puts out information on his own life, and some people have nothing better to do than go after him with cheap shots. How very brave of you folks. Let's air some of your life so we can all act like infants and call you names. Like, I said, get a life, and grow up.

Lipsmacker said...

PS Could it be some of you out there have an itty bitty ax to grind?

Anonymous said...

Hell yes I have an ax to grind. Today, like every day for the last three years, I am going to go home to my tiny, cheap, crappy rental and tell my wife that prices are still unaffordable. I bust my tail to work and save and make sure my family is financially responsible. And this guy is an example of every guy who bought a house he could not afford. Yes I feel sorry for him as an individual. nothing worse than feeling like you are a "financial loser", but as a group this guy is the cause of soooo many problems that is pushing the government to propose bailouts, freezes and economic stimulus packages. If you can't see that his actions have an impact on our national economy then you need to re-evaluate how you view the world. Econ 101 - macro economic trends are a representation of micro economic tendecies.

Lipsmacker said...

Well, I went back and reread Kevin's article. "My wife, an escrow officer, and I, a notary public, were earning good money. We had every intention of staying here forever, but the subprime lending crisis has triggered another real estate meltdown. Now my wife's salary has been cut and her bonuses eliminated. My notary work has dwindled to a trickle. It becomes more difficult to make our house payment each month."

It sounds like they could afford the home at the time. The downturn has changed their situation, and they are earning far less.

"It's the sudden decrease in our incomes."

That's how I read the piece. I don't read that he is pulling anything or playing funny with the money. He doesn't appear to be blaming anyone or anything except the downturn in the economy.

So should be be eviscerated because things have changed and they can no longer afford the house they bought?

Max said...

so what if it was medical bills. Who cares? The point of the piece is still the point of the piece: they might lose their home due to the economic slowdown.

I'm sure if it was medical bills, he would have said so. The point of the piece was that "they might lose their home due to an economic slowdown." The truth is they're losing their home because they borrowed against it and spent all the money. Period.

Don't you think the Mims' own actions had something to do with their predicament? Don't you find it a little self-serving that he left out that one fact from his story?

Whatever his motives, by misrepresenting himself like that in public invites scrutiny. Believe it or not, words have power. Policy makers listen to shows like Marketplace and make decisions based in part on what they hear. It's important that when we hear/read/see something we know is a lie, we get it out in the open before any damage is done.

Lipsmacker said...

Sorry Max, but it sounds like you are sniffing out secrets and lies where there aren't any. Kevin points out that Marketplace contacted him, and he also states he was limited to 300 words. That's basically 1 page plus 50 words! That's hardly more than a hiccup's worth of space. Now maybe you think it's all-important that he disclose taking out a 2nd and doing improvements on the property, etc., but it's immaterial as far as I am concerned. The guy takes responsibility for lousy planning. The economy is going along at a good clip; they purchase an 80 year old home, and they think, hey let's take out a loan and fix her up. He doesn't ask for a bail out, and he doesn't blame everyone but himself, so I think all the criticism and grandstanding is unwarranted. To say nothing of mean-spirited. You want all the details in 300 words? Misrepresenting himself? That's your nasty suspiciousness showing. Give the guy a break!

Tyrone said...

PS Could it be some of you out there have an itty bitty ax to grind?

Absolutely not. My ax is a Battle-ax! It's freakin' huge. I grind it and swing it at all the idiots out there taking taking on $500K mortgages on $50K incomes, as well as realtors, lenders, banks, sellers, flippers, etc.

Patient Renter said...

"or accusing him of wanting some kind of bailout"

This never happened.

"based on faulty assumptions. Stick to the facts"

The "facts" were not all provided.

"Or simply calling him names"
...
"lame ones!"

Well done.

Lipsmacker said...

Re: wanting a bailout. No, but the insinuation was all there, which was slimy enough. As to the facts, they were all there when it comes to what the piece was reporting; i.e., the effects of the sudden downturn on this particular homeowner. "Lame ones." Well, given the assumptions, the accusations, the name-calling, the insinuations, the distortions, gee, I don't know, seems lame enough to me.

ProblemWithCaring said...

Lipsmacker said...
Interesting. I've read Kevin's piece and I've read the comments. My opinion? Some of you out there need a life. Seriously. Ed Note: There is a Pent-up demand for "lives". Most are waiting for their values to revert back to their fundamental relationship to incomes.

What his piece states is that the economy slowed down, and he and his wife aren't earning what they previously earned, and so he might lose his house. And then we found out, by his own ommision, that was false. He WILL lose his house, because he and his wife borroed more against it than it was worth, gambling that home values would rise.

Some out there are interested only in doing a hatchet job, jumping to all sorts of conclusions...simply calling him names, or accusing him of wanting some kind of bailout--again, all based on faulty assumptions. Stick to the facts, lame ones! Again, he claimed: "We had every intention of staying here forever, but the subprime lending crisis has triggered another real estate meltdown." Excuse folks for taking umbrage with the notion that somehow 'subprime lending' caused him to buy more house than he could afford.

Maybe he spent the money fixing the home; so what if it was medical bills. Who cares? You may be missing the point of blogs, and guest commentary, and public radio, and the like. You care. I care.

The point of the piece is still the point of the piece: they might lose their home due to the economic slowdown. Again, the point is obscuration.

Leave off the personal attacks. They make you sound petty and small. Very small. Nothing shows the depravity of name-calling like your specious derision of someone's moral inferiority. Well, played, sir madam.