I remember the 2008 housing crisis being a short chapter in a binder of history notes I had to go over in the sixth grade. To me at that time, it had nothing to do with me, I was 11 years old and could not change the past, and could not see how I was going to change the future in housing because I wanted to be a doctor. “Doctors don’t sell houses or work with the banks”, I thought to myself and I was somewhat right. Doctors do not sell houses or work directly with banks but that did not mean I could not take what I learned and change the future. I did not choose this course, like many others, it was chosen for me as a mandatory general education class, but it turned out to be one of my favorites and one of the only ones that I walked away from with a real expansion of my knowledge. The 2008 housing crisis may not have directly affected me in 2008 but it did affect many families around me and friends. Thanks to this course and especially the connections that the books we read allowed us to make (my favorite being Parable of The Sower), I can understand the real impact of the crisis.
One of the largest drastic events in American history: The 2008 housing crisis. The housing crisis was a major man-made disaster that occurred in the U.S. where people were sold homes under the impression that they could buy without having to deal with major debt, except that the rise in demand for houses led to an increase in bypassing by banks, so anyone could get a home no matter their ability to maintain it. Alex Blumberg, producer of “This American Life: The Giant Pool of Money”, a podcast addressing real-world issues met with NPR’s international business and economics correspondent, Adam Davidson, and Jim Finkel, managing director in the Expert Services practice and creator of a CDO, to give the background story of the 2008 housing crisis. Blumberg explains a NINA loan and its play in this crisis: “someone will lend you a bunch of money without first checking to see if you have any income or any assets… there were lots of loans like this, where the bank didn’t actually check your income”. This global financial crisis was run by greed. This was shown with the acceptance of the NINA loan, which allowed for people who were not fit to meet the demands of a mortgage to get access to one which mostly ended poorly for the people in their newfound homes, who ended up homeless due to foreclosure. Alongside the people losing their homes was the widespread debt that the banks and the US had to deal with because a decision was made to give without knowing the chances of a return, which were very slim to none.
My understanding of the 2008 housing crisis was greatly impacted by the reading of the novel, Parable of The Sower by Octavia Butler. It is written following the storyline of a girl by the age of 16, Lauren Oya Olamina, who escapes her dystopian community to find safety, security, and herself. In many ways, Parable of The Sower does not blatantly show a connection to the 2008 housing crisis, but there are similarities in their storylines that make them slightly adjacent to each other.
The connection between Parable of The Sower and the 2008 housing crisis runs on a very fine line but for me, that line opened my mind up way more than any video or book we read before that. The connections built were strongly based on the key concepts we went over throughout the course that were important to the 2008 housing crisis in its entirety.
To start off, expulsion is “the act of forcing someone or being forced to leave” (Cambridge dictionary). Expulsion has been one of the main concepts shared across all texts and it is one of the most available parts of the 2008 housing crisis. With businesses and banks not being able to get residents that they were giving mortgages to pay, they pretty much had to kick these people out of their homes. This is where the crisis kicks in because the banks that allowed these people to take out payments for mortgages without checking their backgrounds and whether they were able to keep up the payments had no money coming back to them, which put the banks out and into debt. This I was able to connect back to Parable of The Sower because the residents of Robledo were expelled from their own homes by people that they forbid from their town with the wall that they built for protection. At the beginning of the novel, it is made clear that the people on the other side of the wall were dangerous to the Robledo community with robberies, break-ins, and murders that started to occur whenever some made it into the city, which kept the residents living in fear. As Lauren, her family, and a few others travel to church one morning, Lauren states, “I think if there were only one or two of us, or if they couldn’t see our guns, they might try to pull us down and steal our bikes, our clothes, our shoes, whatever. Then what? Rape? Murder?” (pg. 9). There were people that lived on the streets of the Robledo community that were not as reactive, especially during the day as Lauren saw it, but at any moment could snap and choose that the people they are seeing are the perfect targets. As time moved on, the town of Robledo was in danger at practically all times of the day as the “pyro” drug began to circle the people of the less fortunate community and they began burning everything due to their thirst for fire, which they described as “better than sex”. Fire is a reoccurring path of destruction in the text, even in Laurens’ dreams, in one where she learns to fly, Lauren explains, “The wall before me is burning. Fire has sprung from nowhere, has eaten in through the wall, has begun to reach towards, reach for me. The fire spreads” (pg. 4). Fire is not only shown in Robledo, but it is also happening all around California, naturally though through droughts, storms, and heat waves. The expulsion of the people of Robledo from the community was due to the pressure, another key concept of ours that is continuously shown, brought on by the pyros but their city was well on its way to destruction before that with the natural disasters that were getting closer to home. The natural disasters and the pyros slowly creeping into the city relate to how the tables slowly turned for the people and the banks in America and the pressure slowly started to increase, as they began dealing with the effects of the 2008 housing crisis. Banks made the original plan to increase the outreach of the subprime mortgage market in 1999, and they did, they reached millions of people. Millions of people who were once excited, finally able to invest in a home because it had become the cheapest and easiest thing to do, and succeeded in about 9 years of comfortability, end up having everything taken away from them, and received growing debts, specifically consumer debt (Investopedia).
In bringing the pressure back for another connection, in Parable of The Sower, Lauren has no choice but to escape and make her way North, which she does so pretending to be a man alongside her friends Zhara and Harry. Along their journey, the violence and natural disasters follow them, and the pressure for succeeding in their efforts to escape and survive grows larger. When noticing a fire spreading in a town nearby as they travel North with their new additions, Lauren states, “So many people hoping for so much up where it still rains every year, and an uneducated person might still get a job that pays in money…” (pg. 177). The pressure and hopes for better relate to the 2008 housing crisis because after everything began to fail, the government began trying to find ways to save the country from a dangerous space that would have been way worse to get out of, which is when they began bailouts, which is when the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) began where they would be able to contribute as much as $1 trillion to buy up toxic debt (Investopedia). Alongside the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission), which “initiated a temporary ban on short-selling the stocks of financial companies” to stabilize markets.
I think it does matter for us to be taught about such events and their effects on the country given GLOBE’s purpose for Geneseo students because it helps that we’re educated. It helps us in our lives so that we don’t undergo the same experiences that people from past times had and reading about it in different contexts helps us to better understand the realness of it. I feel like this because Parable of the Sower is set in an already dystopian society, as in everything is already at its worse so it kind of brings that severity into play and opens our eyes when we begin to make those connections.