Owning Up

Two stories recently have been preying at the back of my brain lately, both demanding I write about them, but finally something clicked in my head on what they had in common.

First up, there was this story in yesterday’s Boston Globe about unplanned pregnancies and how difficult many people find it to stay on top of their birth control.

Then, there’s the tale of U.S. Representative Laura Richardson (D-CA), who has apparently bought three houses in recent years — and has defaulted on the mortgages for all three.

In the first story, the Globe discusses the psychological challenges many women have in remembering to take the pill, tips to get past them, and suggestions for alternatives.

In the second, we see the story of a woman whose political fortunes rose at the same time her personal finances plummeted — she rose from state representative to the US House while she bought — and lost — three separate houses. The implications are clear — she used money she had pledged for mortgages, utilities, and whatnot on her political campaigns, and is now paying the price.

What do these two events have in common? Quite a bit.

Having sex and buying a house are two major personal steps in life, and often have life-changing consequences. They usually involve personal commitments that can last years and years. And if you mess them up, they’re usually going to have consequences that you’ll spend years and years paying for.

Is that fair?

In the first case, I think that’s irrelevant. No matter what people say or do or want, there are certain facts about sex that just can’t change.

Yes, birth control should be the responsibility of both partners. But should they fail, the consequences fall more severely on the woman. After all, a man can always walk away (or, at least, try to), but the woman is stuck with it.

This is reprehensible, and we are getting better at getting men to own up to their responsibilities (three cheers for DNA testing), but the fact remains: should the two of them mess up, she’s going to have to live with it far more than he is. It’s a fact of nature.

In the second case, it seems fairly clear that Representative Richardson was probably speculating in real estate, counting on housing prices to continue to rise as her political fortunes did so. And now that that hasn’t happened, and she’s paying that price now.

In both cases, there is a push to exonerate the people who are paying the price for their poor choices. Some Democrats in Congress are pushing a “freeze” on home foreclosures for those who have fallen behind in their payments, and with birth control, there is more and more emphasis on making sex as consequence-free as possible, right up to the point of late-term abortions.

Now, I’m hardly an exemplar of personal responsibility, especially financially. But I have had a bare minimum of common sense, and I’ve made a point of limiting my potential liabilities in both areas. I have never even considered buying a house, and many years ago I took a very cold, very dispassionate, very rational look at my own medical conditions (and how many of them are genetic) and realized that I had absolutely no desire to risk inflicting those on a child, and underwent a very simple (but, for a couple of days, somewhat painful) surgery to make sure that that would never happen.

It seems, to me, that the government is becoming the solution to far too many problems — and “problems” is being redefined as “the logical — albeit unpleasant — consequences of poor individual choices.”

That’s fine and dandy, if you’re the one who’s being bailed out of your problems. But the catch there is, it usually costs the government money. And here’s one little detail that those who push such “solutions” often neglect to mention — the government doesn’t have any money of its own. All the money it has, it takes from us.

That means that even though I have ben careful to not put myself in certain predicaments, I still get to pay for those mistakes made by other people. And what do I get for my money in those cases?

Certainly not any consolation that those we are bailing out will learn any lessons. Certainly not any gratitude. Certainly not any promises that this will be the last time that the responsible ones will be tasked with rescuing the irresponsible ones.

I think the current pop psychology term for this is “enablement.”

I guess we’ll just have to content ourselves with the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with the knowledge that we helped out our neighbors. And the anticipation that we’ll surely be called upon to do it again.

And again.

And again.

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