Oh, the Tentacles of Circumstance!

Tentacles of circumstance describes all too clearly how many home occupants with mortgages feel today (If they were homeowners they would be without a mortgage). They have been caught up by the tentacles of a system that was set up to benefit everyone but them, and many of the tentacles were run by crooks. I recently saw an episode of Law and Order that referred to the “Tentacles of Circumstance.” Research on this line attributes it to President Lyndon Johnson’s father. The biographer Robert Caro wrote:

For Lyndon Johnson was a genius at what his Hill Country populist forebears would have defined as the highest art of government: the art of using the power of the sovereign state to help its people, particularly the least fortunate among them, people who couldn’t help themselves, who were fighting forces too big for them to fight alone. His father, who was a passionately idealistic rural legislator, had a wonderful phrase for it. He said that the duty of government is to help people who are caught in the tentacles of circumstance.

Further on in the piece (it is worth a read), he talks about what people had to do in the Hill country to get water:

Sometimes these women told me something that was so sad I never forgot it. I heard it many times, but I’ll never forget the first woman who said it to me. She Water yokewas a very old woman who lived on a very remote and isolated ranch–I had to drive hours just to get out there–up in the Hill Country near Burnet. She said, “Do you see how round-shouldered I am?” Well, indeed, I had noticed, without really seeing the significance, that many of these women, who were in their sixties or seventies, were much more stooped and bent than women, even elderly women, in New York. And she said: “I’m round-shouldered from hauling the water. I was round-shouldered like this well before my time, when I was still a young woman. My back got bent from hauling the water, and it got bent while I was still young.” Another woman said to me, “You know, I swore I would never be bent like my mother, and then I got married, and the first time I had to do the wash I knew I was going to look exactly like her by the time I was middle-aged.”

So it has been with the mortgage industry in this country. Millions of hard working Americans trying to reach the dream of home ownership are now bent and round shouldered. The government has offered ineffectual programs to help get the water out of the wells, and meanwhile the swine that created the mess and should be in jail get fatter by the day. Within ten years of being elected to Congress LBJ had brought electricity to the hill country so women would no longer become bent and round shouldered. Five years into an economic meltdown caused by greed and lawlessness, and the government has little to show. None of the real crooks in jail, millions of homeowners still with underwater mortgages, and no clear signal that electricity is on its way to illuminate their world and reduce the burden. People continue to struggle with two buckets of water hanging from a mortgage yoke. How long before the electricity arrives?