Guest Editorial
America’s new heroes and values

By Craig Cantoni | December 30, 2009

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craig cantoniAs a reflection of America’s new heroes and values, a conservative talk-radio station in Phoenix is awarding gift certificates to “heroes” who are supposedly in need of help. To qualify for a hero award, someone has to be a firefighter, police officer, or teacher. In other words, the person has to have a generous pension plan, good medical benefits, a high degree of job security, and high social status.

Awards are not given to people who do charitable work without recompense, who labor as roofers and other extremely dangerous occupations in the private sector, who toil without recognition at little pay in the bowels of public and private bureaucracies, or who emigrate from another country to work 18-hour days in a convenience store, not knowing if the next customer will be the one who shoots them and leaves their family destitute without so much as a burial benefit.

One of the hero awards was given this week to a firefighter and his spouse and eight kids. Yes, eight kids. They got the award because they had lost their house through foreclosure and now – brace yourself – have to live in an apartment. Oh, the horror.

No details where given on why their house was foreclosed. Did they buy a house they couldn’t afford? Did they take out an adjustable-rate mortgage on the gamble that home prices would increase? The answers don’t matter, because, ipso facto, firefighters are heroes, whether or not they have ever risked their lives to save someone else. The same with teachers, who don’t risk their lives at all.

On second thought, not all teachers are seen as heroes. Those who teach in parochial schools for less money than their public school counterparts are never classified as heroes, because teachers’ unions don’t propagandize about them.

A couple of heroes were featured in a front-page story in the Dec. 10 edition of the Wall Street Journal. The story was about a street in Palmdale, Calif., where many residents have walked away from their mortgages because the market values of their homes have fallen below the outstanding balance of the mortgages. One of the walkers was a teacher; another was a firefighter.

They had not walked away because they had lost their jobs or were unable to afford the mortgage payments. Instead, they had stiffed lenders (and eventually taxpayers through federal bailouts) for four reasons: (1) there was no penalty for doing so; (2) they were able to rent luxurious homes in the same neighborhood at a rent that was substantially lower than their former mortgage payment; (3) they could spend the savings in housing on frivolous purchases; and (4) they had no moral qualms about walking away from their obligations.

The teacher and her husband had walked away from monthly mortgage payments of $3,700 on a no-down-payment mortgage of $430,000, for a house with granite countertops, a pool, and a “purple-and-turquoise fantasy playroom upstairs for their three daughters.” They also owned two rental properties. Of course, the standard script put out by teachers’ unions and swallowed by the media and much of the public is that public teachers are underpaid and live one paycheck away from poverty.

Now the ethically-deficient teacher and family are renting a larger home on the same street for $2,195 a month. It has a pool with three waterfalls and a grand staircase that the teacher “could picture her daughter descending on prom night.”

What has the teacher done with the money she is saving on housing? Did she invest it for a rainy day or future medical expenses? Did she put it in a college fund for her daughters? No, she did the American thing and immediately squandered it on personal touches for the new home, including a $1,800 dining set.

What a great role model she is for her students. She probably teaches an ethics class on how to do something shameful without feeling any shame and then bragging about it to two million readers of the Wall Street Journal.

Living on the same street as the teacher is a firefighter who has the same values as the teacher. With an income of $99,600 (yes, you read that right), he had walked away from two mortgages totaling $423,000. He now rents for $2,200 a month, or $2,600 less than his former mortgage payments. Apparently having been taught about ethics and shame by the teacher, he bragged to the Wall Street Journal that he now has enough disposable income to attend rock concerts and to make payments of $700 a month on his BMW 6 Series coupe.

With heroes like these, Americans don’t have to guess what the future holds for their country. It will be a future of numbskulls, spendthrifts, indebtedness, and moral turpitude.