Don Stratton: Punishing financial responsibility

Just when you begin to think that the Biden administration couldn’t possibly do any more damage to the mores and values of our society, they manage to come up with just one more thing that is counterproductive to everything that most of us have been taught — the idea that working, paying one’s bills and keeping a good credit rating are positive things.

Effective May 1, the Biden administration’s Federal Housing Finance Agency implemented a new mortgage fee schedule for federally insured loans that is penalizing those with high credit scores in order to help people with bad credit.

Although I don’t watch Fox News, I did see an internet screenshot of a Fox graphic, which explains the new rule the best. It says that a low credit score results in a 1.75% discount on mortgage fees, while a score of 740 or higher results in a 1% penalty. The new rule simply shows that the fiscal responsibility that I was taught to achieve and maintain may be a waste of time and effort.

I have known poverty, and I understand the difficulties of it. I knew it at a time when there was no safety net to help get out of it. The life that I lived with my grandparents in my early years was a level of poverty that makes many people living below the poverty level today look well-to-do.

For the first few years, we had no electricity; it was not available where we lived. We had no running water, no telephone and an outhouse. The entire house was heated, somewhat, by a coal stove in the living room. Cooking was done on a coal-fired iron range.

We farmed with draft horses and horse-drawn implements. We were subsistence farmers, meaning that we had very little income, and used, instead of selling, almost everything that we grew. It was much like farmers had lived over a hundred years earlier. I can guarantee that our standard of living was far below that of most people who are called poverty stricken today, and I spent the rest of my life making sure that I would never be poor again.

When I moved to Lima to live with my father, things were better. My dad had a decent job at the steel foundry, owned our home, and the bills got paid. My dad repeatedly talked to me about fiscal responsibility, drumming into me that a man should work to support his family, keep his bills paid, and always keep his word. He always said that a man’s credit and his good word were the most important things that he could have in life.

My point in all this is that I can understand the efforts of the government to help people who are poor. I don’t question that at all. What I do question is how we have progressed- or regressed- to the point that poverty can actually pay better than working for a living, and maintaining a good credit score is something for which we can be punished.

When the CATO Institute issued a study several years ago, it determined that there are over 120 taxpayer-paid government programs from which poor people can obtain help in one form or another. The study concluded that, “The combined benefits from those multiple overlapping programs can easily add up to the point where welfare simply pays better than work.”

That same study determined that in 34 of the 50 states, welfare paid better than a minimum-wage job, and that in 10 states and the District of Columbia, welfare paid better than the entry-level salary of a teacher. Casey Mulligan, of the University of Chicago, testified before Congress that, “Jobs still take time away from family, schooling, hobbies and sleep. But the reward for working declines, because some of the money earned on the job is now available even when not working.”

Is it any wonder that employers are begging for people to work today? It’s just simply too easy to get by, and do it quite well, without working, and when a government starts to reward people for having bad credit, it has gone too far.

Don Stratton is a retired inspector for the Lima Police Department. His column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Lima News editorial board or AIM Media, owner of The Lima News.