BLOG VIEW: Regular readers of this blog and my editorials in Secondary Marketing Executive and Servicing Management may have noticed that I am not shy when it comes to voicing my disapproval of the actions of elected officials, cabinet members, regulators and industry leaders. And please note that I use the word ‘actions’ – I am focusing on policies and business decisions, not character assassination, and I strive to back up my views with verifiable facts.
Of course, not everyone agrees with my views. However, an absurdly large amount of unhappy feedback that I've received over the years is extremely personal. And in the course of my somewhat long career as a writer and editor, I've been on the receiving end of a great many vicious insults from readers who vigorously object to little ol' me.
How bad is this feedback? One reader made an open wish that I would die, while another suggested that I abandon my current profession and seek work collecting shopping carts in a K-Mart parking lot. My work has been called everything from garbage to bovine excrement, and some of the negative feedback I've received over the years has raised questions about my intelligence, sanity, patriotism and masculinity.
The one genuinely painful aspect of this brand of criticism has been the lack of invigorating wit in these putdowns. Quite frankly, there's nothing to provoke old-fashioned nostril-flaring anger if someone calls me an ‘idiot’ or a ‘moron’ – and I've been called both by people who love to flaunt their educational degrees and intellectual prowess. Indeed, the harsh commentary dumped my way is either wrapped in enervated puerility or reaches into such brainless scatology that good taste and my copy editor prevent me from repeating those words.
Ultimately, I don't lose sweat or sleep over negative feedback to my work – I am not afraid to stand for what I believe in and I really don't care what the name-callers have to say about me. I am fortunate to be at a point in my life where I have the luxury of laughing off such mean-spirited prattle.
But not everyone has the luxury that I enjoy. Consider the mortgage banking industry – for the past three years, the industry has been on the receiving end of vituperative comments from the Obama administration about how it cheated people out of their money, wrongfully kicked them out of their homes and single-handedly drove the economy off a cliff. Even today, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continues to accuse all mortgage servicers of everything from incompetence to downright dishonesty.
And what has been the industry's response to such negative comments? To date, there has been very little response from the industry's main trade groups or the high-profile executives at the major financial institutions. The silence is more than embarrassing – it has demoralized the industry and has allowed the federal government to steamroll its way across the industry for crass political purposes. The result has created pain and problems for the industry and the consumers that rely on the industry.
On a rare occasion, someone will courageously speak up and be honest about the state of housing finance. Not surprisingly, those people get slapped down.
Take the case of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Roughly a year ago, Romney videotaped an in-depth and rather frank interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal in which he voiced his opposition to federal loan modification programs designed to keep distressed homeowners in their residences.
‘Let it run its course, and hit the bottom,’ Romney said about the foreclosure situation. ‘Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let [the market] turn around and come back up.’
Of course, Romney was on target with his diagnosis of failed federal loan modification programs – many prominent economists share his views – but the candidate's less-than-stylish language was used as a springboard for personal attacks. The limousine liberals of The New York Times editorial board eviscerated the candidate's statements by falsely claiming that Romney advocated a ‘let-it-crash argument,’ while the Democratic National Committee created a website and a YouTube video advertisement that maliciously suggested the former Massachusetts governor did not care if people were evicted from their homes.
The negative feedback clearly shook the Romney camp. Eleven months passed between the Las Vegas Review-Journal article and the Romney campaign's release of a housing policy platform – which was quietly posted to the campaign website without having the candidate expound on his proposals before journalists or supporters.
I imagine that the vicious feedback that Romney received for speaking openly and honestly in his Las Vegas Review-Journal interview contributed largely to his ongoing policy of being as vague as possible on the issues and being elusive to all but the sycophantic Rupert Murdoch media outlets. When Romney mentioned the problems of the Dodd-Frank Act and its proposal on qualified mortgages at last week's debate, it came as a shock – if he stood by his earlier comments and talked about qualified mortgages months ago, the presidential race would have been completely different. Unfortunately, the harsh feedback damaged his confidence in his views, and that may very well cost him the election.
Henry David Thoreau once wrote, ‘There is no just and serene criticism as yet.’ The challenge, of course, is to know when to dismiss destructive criticism and when to challenge it with gusto. And I would imagine that if Thoreau lived in today's toxic society, he would respond to his critics by telling them to go stick their heads in Walden Pond.
– Phil Hall, editor, MortgageOrb
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