The Journal Sentinel continues its desperate sensationalist tabloid journalism this week, trying to get you upset that some people with criminal records are licensed mortgage brokers. Oh, the horror! Some of them have even taken part in the same shenanigans many others in the industry were practicing during the wild-and-wooly sub-prime era. Get out! How have we sunk so low as a society to let felons try to rehabilitate themselves in this manner? Off with their licenses!
The (so far) two part saga of greed, intrigue and pretend-outrage is brought to you by former Spice Boy Cary Spivak, from which we have not heard much since he was banished to the back business pages after his separation from fellow investigative columnist Dan Bice a couple of years ago. Given the less snarky, more moderate tone of the Bice column, it appears Spivak brought the right-wing attitude to the enterprise back in the day, which has not been missed.
In any event, Spivak now brings his hungry editors more of the high-horse fodder they have been looking for in their doomed attempt to save the paper by appealing to the same audience as right-wing talk radio. Any time you can get a couple of mug shots of black men on Page One is a good day for the Journal Sentinel, or so they think. I mean, how can you beat a lede like this: "A killer, a handful of drug dealers and a onetime leader of the Latin Kings - these are just some of the criminals who..." What? WHAT??... "have received state-issued licenses to write your mortgage loan."
Whoa, mama, this is serious stuff. 340 criminal mortgage brokers – 500 if you count the perpetrators of the J-S’s last news-bomb campaign, drunk drivers. "The licenses give the ex-cons easy access to a client's personal financial information, including bank account and Social Security numbers," pants Spivak. Yipes! I bet they used them, too. No? Oh. But, never mind because "...More importantly, the licenses open the door to the mortgage market..." No! Not the mortgage market!!
Wait, isn’t the mortgage market all dried up? Yes, and, although the entire series reeks of mortal danger, almost everything in the articles is in the past tense. A couple of these criminals became criminals again when the mortgage market "was awash in billions of dollars until it [er] crashed". They got caught and are back in prison years ago. Well, good. Now those hundreds of apparently rehabbed offenders can go about their business by legally contributing to society, right?
Not if Spivak and the Journal Sentinel can help it. Spending your time in prison trying to better yourself by perhaps studying for the brokerage exam is just another criminal trick, according to Spivak. "Real estate is a popular subject among the drug dealers and white-collar criminals doing time in low-security federal prisons - facilities often called Club Feds...Real estate is always an area guys talk about . . . they make it sound so easy." Yeah, easy, see? "‘The first book I picked up was a real estate book,’ he said." Jesus Christ! Close the library NOW!
Who needs to bother to get a drug cache to sell when you can just go out and use your freshly-minted brokerage license to break the law some more, complete with a detailed paper trail for investigators to use to bust your ass -- again. Makes sense to me. Obviously, they have no interest in being upstanding citizens. This outrageous attempt to find new criminal angles through adult education and state licenses must cease!
And, indeed, it already will. After spending most of Sunday’s article trying to convince us that our hair is on fire, we learn beginning in paragraph 48 that the feds and the state have new rules to do criminal background checks and to prevent felons from getting these apparent licenses to print money within 7 years of their convictions. Problem solved, right?
No. As they do with all of their phony campaigns, expect the Journal Sentinel to wax concerned about this "problem" on the editorial page and to run stories bragging about how some opportunistic legislator or other is trying to put more teeth in the law to bite the bad guys, all just because of the fine reporting of the J-S.
It makes you wonder, though, what exactly the Kings of State Street would have ex-offenders do when they get out of prison. Many of the dark suspicions that they have about the formerly lucrative world of mortgage brokerage would also apply to other, less educated professions. Is the garbage collector searching through my trash for my social security number? Should that janitor be allowed to wander through the halls of our empty office at night, covetting my coffee cups and snowglobes? Is that guy in the back spitting into my Big Mac?
It seems to me it would be a better idea to open avenues for those who have done wrong to make a positive change, not close them by scaring the public with yellow-journalism hysterics. If some cons can use their time in prison productively and come out with a skill or trade they didn't have before, more power to him, and to us. Society as a whole will have a lot more trouble with someone coming out of prison who can't use his honestly-earned mortgage license than with someone who can.