Audit Notes: blame the borrowers, Walmart cashiers, newspaper prices

The Democratic Party platform on mortgage issues

Henry Blodget somehow thinks that “everyone has spent the last five years trying to blame the housing crash on every conceivable housing-market participant (except the buyers who voluntarily paid and borrowed too much—they’re apparently blameless).”

He must have missed that whole Rick Santelli/Tea Party thing, the most prominent of innumerable examples in the blame-the-borrowers genre.

Also, Blodget apparently hasn’t read the Democratic Party’s platform. FireDogLake’s David Dayen has and he quotes it on the mortgage mess:

For more than a decade, irresponsible lenders tricked buyers into signing subprime loans while too many homeowners got in over their heads by buying homes they couldn’t afford.

Dayen calls out the false equivalence there and the platform’s “Dishonest Nonsense on Housing:

Remember, you can’t talk about the largest consumer fraud in history without also blaming homeowners for buying “too much home.” When you’re talking about a systemic fraud perpetrated by lenders, trustees, financiers, appraisers, brokers, middlemen, lawyers, robo-signers and all the way up to executives at the highest levels, “irresponsible” homeowners slot in very low on my list. As I understand it, you need two sides to make a loan deal. Under normal underwriting conditions, it should be impossible for anyone “irresponsible” to try to buy a home they couldn’t afford.

— It’s hard to imagine how this gaffe on Walmart cashiers made it through The Wall Street Journal’s retinue of editors (emphasis mine):

Called “Scan and Go,” the new mobile-payment application is the retailer’s latest attempt to reduce long checkout lines; the company says it spends $12 million per second on casher’s (sic) wages in the U.S.

That works out to about $378 trillion a year in Walmart cashier wages, which is impressive considering the entire U.S. economy produces just $15 trillion a year or roughly $478,000 a second.

What Walmart was trying to say, which we can see from the WSJ’s corrected text, was that “it can save $12 million for every second it can cut from the checkout process in the U.S.”

Even after the correction, the subhead still says “Giant Spends $12 Million Per Second on Cashiers’ Wages in the U.S.”

— Frederic Filloux has a good post on print newspaper circulation and why the industry should raise prices:

#1 Price hikes -both for street price and subscriptions- only marginally impact circulation already devastated by the conversion to digital.

#2 Additional revenue coming from price hikes far outpaces the loss in circulation (which will occur anyway). Ten or twenty years ago, US newspapers drew most of their revenue (70%-sometimes 80%) from advertising. Now the revenue structure is more balanced…

#3 There is room for further price increases. When asked about the threshold that could trigger a serious loss in readership, Andre Weber and Kyle Poyar opine that the least loyal customers are already gone, and that we have not yet reached the critical threshold that will discourage the remaining base of loyal readers.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum. Tags: , , , ,