MOST PEOPLE TOOK subprime loans because, by the ’00s, real average wages in the United States had stagnated for thirty years, the social safety net had been disassembled, and yet prices had continued to rise. Wealth inequality had reached heights not seen in a century. Ordinary people were not buying mansions they couldn’t afford. Ordinary people were taking subprime loans to keep the lights on, and the heat, and the gas, and to feed their kids. They were taking subprime loans to survive.
I was the first point of contact. Subtending all the trading, the hedging, and the rating fraud was a simple phone call where I explained how much money I could save my desperate new friend. When I hear the suggestion that ordinary people were living beyond their means, I think of these phone calls. I think of how I used every trick to convince my new friend to stay on the line. I think of the promise threaded into my every word, the promise sewn into the fabric of this nation, the threadbare fantasy of an American dream.