Back around 96-97 I worked for a local plumbing company. We were the largest new construction plumbing company in the greater Cincinnati area, an area seeing a huge boom in new construction at the time. When I started with this company, my job was service technician. I would go to new homes we had done construction on and fix any problems that may have popped up after the new owners moved in.
During that time, we developed a phrase called “10 cent millionaires”. These were people who basically stretched themselves so thin to live in this new house that they couldn’t afford anything else. It was amazing, you would walk into a $250,000 house (which is upper end in Cincinnati). They would have two nice cars in the driveway, but inside the house was basically empty. It wasn’t that they hadn’t moved in yet – it was because they couldn’t afford much in the ways of furnishings.
One story really comes to mind. One day I got called out to one of these houses. The people wanted their icemaker hooked up. We charged $25 for this service, basically enough to cover our costs. When presented with this price, the homeowners were in shock. They quickly told me how there was no way they could afford this, as they have a big mortgage to pay now. As I left, I kept thinking to myself “well what are they going to do if a car breaks down, or someone gets sick?” It wasn’t like they had to give me cash, we gladly accepted every credit card and would even bill these people on a net-30 basis. I informed the couple of these payment options, and they still couldn’t muster up the $25.
I been thinking about this a lot lately as I hear the right say that people should lose their houses for living outside their means. What’s funny is that when I was going to these houses we were in the 1996 election cycle, and a lot of them actually had Dole signs in the yard. In other words, it was a bunch of Republicans so worried about playing “keep up with the Jones’” that a small $25 charge was pushing them over the financial edge. Is that the fiscal responsibility that the right champions?