Our original blame-game story only mentioned the responsibilities of borrowers in passing. That we did not devote a full page to borrowers rightfully provoked much comment from readers. They charge that those now in trouble were trying to get something (a nice home) for nothing (no saving for a down payment, no worrying about monthly payments).
E. Pong wrote, "Your article leaves out the most critical culprit, the HOME BUYER!! Why does the main-stream media paint them as mindless victims? They certainly did their share of neglect and greed by buying homes, cars, furniture they couldn't afford! It's time for people to start realizing they are personally responsible for their actions."
Greg Beitel wrote, " Even as a liberal democrat I am stunned that the list of entities responsible for the subprime lending crisis does not include the borrowers who signed up for the mortgages. In the end, they are responsible for deciding that they could afford the mortgage and signing the papers. No one forced them to take on a loan the couldn't afford."
From another reader: "The Blame Game story about the rise in foreclosures omitted a very culpable participant, the borrower. Too many borrowers were victims of their own greed, sometimes willingly participating in the misrepresentation of their qualifications and at other times accepting risks when they were unprepared to accept the consequences."
A. Seibert wrote: "Yes, many people were improperly tempted by easier and bigger loans, but in the end, it's their responsibility to look after their own behinds, get educated about things, and make their own decision that is right for them."
Jason Savage wrote in to pinpoint a particular reason to blame borrowers: "A significant percentage of stated or no income borrowers inflated their income to qualify for certain loans. Borrowers with Hybrid loans either knowingly or unknowingly accepted the risk of future payment shock. Some took a gamble and lost."
In their defense, however, it must be pointed out that many borrowers were drawn into making untrue income or assets claims by unscrupulous brokers. Some borrowers report getting their loan applications back and seeing that their incomes had been widely inflated.
Still, many readers expressed their beliefs in good, solid American virtues of personal responsibility and rugged individualism. Wrote K. Saylor: "I am afraid that the weak minded conclusions you espoused in this article is leading it to become, 'America - Home of the incompetent and irresponsible.'"
Bottom line: There's certainly lots of responsibility here, especially for the borrowers who were less than honest about their finances. Others can be blamed for not being more pro-active or diligent about obtaining the right kind of loan for themselves. It's also true, however, that consumers tend to be very naive about home buying; very few of us do it more than every 10 years or so. It's a complicated transaction that many are not really up to and they rely on industry professionals to guide them though it.