About Me

Twenty years ago I asked a Tarot card reader what would I be doing when I was 50. She replied, “I see you doing something so wildly creative, it defies a job title.” Only recently did I realize that was a slick way of saying, “I have no idea of what you’ll be doing.” But that prediction kept me charging ahead to the fifties with zeal and anticipation. Now that the future is today, I’m ready for anything!

What Does Being "Responsible" Mean?

I hate the word “responsible.”

Not because I consider myself an irresponsible person.

But because the word “responsible” is unclear and subjective, without a universal definition.

In a recent weekly address, President Obama used the word "responsible" nine times. Here’s an excerpt from the transcript, provided by The UpTake: (boldface mine)

Right now, there are more than 10 million homeowners in this country who, because of a decline in home prices that is no fault of their own, owe more on their mortgages than their homes are worth. Now, it is wrong for anyone to suggest that the only option for struggling, responsible homeowners is to sit and wait for the housing market to hit bottom. I don’t accept that. None of us should.

That’s why we launched a plan a couple years ago that’s helped nearly one million responsible homeowners refinance their mortgages and save an average of $300 on their payments each month. Now, I’ll be the first to admit it didn’t help as many folks as we’d hoped. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.

That’s why I’m sending Congress a plan that will give every responsible homeowner the chance to save about $3,000 a year on their mortgages by refinancing at historically low rates. No more red tape. No more endless forms. And a small fee on the largest financial institutions will make sure it doesn’t add a dime to the deficit.

Homeowners are considered irresponsible for refinancing in order to pay off credit card debt. But is it irresponsible when the accumulated debt is to pay for an urgent care visit? A new well pump when the old one gives out? New brakes for the truck?

For many people, the conversation will end right here with the admonishment, “Well, you should have had savings. You should have planned in advance.”

The Star Tribune has a story about a south Minneapolis couple who opened their 875 square-foot house to a succession of relatives who faced job loss, divorce, untenable student debt. The article mentioned conflicts over relatives who drank beer, tenants who were grateful because they were able to have a roof over their heads for their family and dog and cat.

I can just hear the commenters. “If they didn’t drink beer, if they got rid of the dog and cat, they wouldn’t be in that situation.”

Life isn’t always pretty. The solutions to problems aren’t always tidy and the people who need help aren’t always perfect. How much effort, how many blue-ribbon task forces, and how much money will it take to parse out responsible homeowners from irresponsible homeowners? 


  1. I'm wondering if he used "responsible" as a replacement for "screwed over."

    Because calling them homeowners who got screwed over by huge financial institutions who were partaking in criminal activities of a massive, global nature who still have not been prosecuted might be too—might offend—um, might stir up yet another right wing nightmare and consequent aggression on the very people he's hoping to assist.

    I don't know this. I don't know anything about this country right now! And I have almost no faith. Yet a part of me, 10 year old Paula, still longs for and dreams of the America I loved to sing about.

    Unlike Mitt Romney, who never. should. have. sung. at. all.

    Sorry, that was seriously partisan! Ah, well, you're a woman of strong belief and opinions. You'll fight me on it if you disagree. You can handle it, I know. :D

  2. Hey Paula: Always interesting to hear your take! To me, “responsible” means people other than those with $20,000 incomes who took out $500,000 mortgages. “Responsible” means people other than serial refinancers who refi to visit Disney World, buy motorboats, etc. etc. The word is a sop to Republicans who say the housing crisis was caused solely by irresponsible homeowners. And you’re proving my point: there’s no universal yardstick to determine what “responsible” means.

    Guess it’s the 10-year-old in me that doesn’t like anyone wagging their finger in my face and saying “Be responsible.” Thanks for reading, Paula, and have a great weekend! :=) Susan


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