Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review May 4, 2000 / 29 Nissan, 5760

Michael Kelly

Michael Kelly
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Arianna Huffington
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports


Some Closing Thoughts -- ON MONDAY, I bought a house. Well, that's not right. On Monday, I agreed to allow the Mellon Bank N.A. to buy a house, which the Mellon Bank N.A. agreed to allow me to fix up, live in, pay taxes on and take care of for the next 30 years, on the strength of my promise to (1) stay alive for the next 30 years and (2) give to the Mellon Bank N.A. a large check on the first of every month of those 30 years, until I have paid the Mellon Bank N.A. a sum of money totaling about 150 percent more than the sum of money I borrowed from the Mellon Bank N.A. in the first place, or, in other words, a sum of money that is clearly more than I or anyone else other than Pa Mellon N.A. is ever likely to get his hands on.

At some point in life, the secret of even a tenuous grasp on happiness is permanently not noticing almost everything. The true nature of the relationship between you, your house and the Mellons is just one more thing to hustle into that corner of subconsciousness where you are also storing the news about your federal withholding taxes and your waist size. But before arriving at that long-term solution, you must survive the short term--the moment where you are forced to sit down and listen to the truth, acknowledge that you have heard the truth, understand the truth and are legally bound by the truth. This is called the settlement, or the closing. It is called that because if it were called the indenturing, no one would show up.

Closings are two-person shows; the seller's lawyer and the buyer's lawyer get all the good lines. Everybody else gets to sit and try to look as if he has some say in, or grasp of, what is happening. The lawyers arrive in suits, armed with great sheaves of important paper and excellent pens. It is as both lawyers are performing the ceremonial uncappings of their Mont Blancs that you realize that you of course have forgotten to bring a pen and that you will have to open your bit role in the proceedings by asking in a small voice if someone can lend you an instrument with which to sign away the remainder of what it now occurs to you has been a life filled with small failures of exactly this sort. It is at this point also that it occurs to you that you really should have put on a tie and that it may not have been wise to bring to the settlement a 4-year-old and an 11-month-old, both of whom, in the presence of lawyers, appear suddenly quite remarkably dirty.

But wait--there is your check on the table. How comforting it is to look at that. Such a magnificent amount of money! Who would have thought that your name would ever appear on a check bearing a sum like that? Why, you must be rich to have your name on such a check! This cheering thought lasts until you recall that your name is on this check as the payer, not the payee. You are giving that money away, and it took you your life up to now to accumulate that money, and when it goes bye-bye, what you will be is not rich but poor.

After this, it all goes rapidly downhill. You sit there and your wife sits there, signing, signing, signing, while the lawyers say things like: "And here, you are agreeing to maintain payments of the promissory note on the first of every month, and to maintain home insurance at the appropriate value, and to maintain payments of the property taxes and to maintain the home in such a condition that it maintains a value at last equal to the amount of the loan, and if you fail to maintain these requirements, the bank maintains its right to foreclose, not that this would ever happen of course, ha, ha, ha, and at any rate you would receive ample warning."

The nadir arrives with the presentation of the federally mandated Truth in Lending Mortgage Disclosure Statement. This tells you, in a little box, "the amount you will have paid after you have made all the payments as scheduled." Why the government thinks you want to know this is a national mystery. We are Americans. We want the Mellons to give us a Truth in Lending statement about as much as we want McDonald's to give us a Truth in Eating statement.

But there it is. You really should look at it. A grown-up would. So you look. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear me. That was a mistake.

Michael Kelly is the editor of National Journal. Send your comments to him by clicking here.


04/28/00: Endangering Elian
04/19/00: Imitation Activism
04/12/00: Why they hate Bubba
04/05/00: Census and nonesense
03/29/00: The Stiffs and Their Statuettes
03/15/00: Anarchy in Kosovo
03/08/00: Reform joke
03/01/00:The Pinhead Factor
03/01/00: The Christian Right: Past Its Prime . . .
02/24/00: McCain's Majority
02/16/00: Sharpton's Supplicants
02/09/00: The GOP Pilgrims' Sad Tale
02/02/00: Fodder For the GOP
01/26/00: Million-Dollar Mediocrity
01/19/00: Campaign Reform: Let's Pretend
01/12/00: Never Again? Oh, Never Mind
01/05/00: Turn Off, Tune Out, Drop In
12/22/99: Gore's TV Gambit
12/15/99: Campaigns Do Clarify
12/08/99: Kosovo's Killers
12/01/99: Not Ready for Prime Time?
11/24/99: The Company He Keeps
11/17/99: Republican Illusion
11/10/99: The Know-Nothing Media
11/03/99: Necessary Partisanship
10/27/99: Buchanan's Gift to George W. Bush
10/21/99: Who are the real friends of the poor?
10/14/99: Gore's 'courage'!?
10/08/99: Republican Stunts
09/23/99: Buchanan's folly
09/16/99: Beatty and Buchanan: That's Entertainment!
09/09/99: Puerto Rico Surprise (Cont'd)
09/02/99: Puerto Rico Surprise
08/12/99:The Age of No Class
08/05/99: Assessing Welfare Reform
07/29/99: On the Wrong Side
07/21/99: Mass Sentimentality
07/15/99: Blame Hillary
07/08/99: Guide to the Arts: For Your Summer Reading . . .
06/30/99: A Perfectly Clintonian Doctrine
06/25/99:Smorgasbord by the Sea
06/16/99: A National Calamity
06/09/99: Stumbling Forward
06/02/99: Commencement '90s-Style
05/26/99: Will we ever learn? Clintochio is a lying ...
05/19/99: Comforting Milosevic
05/13/99: Short-Order Strategists
05/06/99: Four Revolting Spectacles

©1999, Washington Post Co.