Florida: Swindled and Beaten Bloody

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Just in case yesterday's news of a bounce on the stock market gave you a glimmer of hope, Riptide is here to remind you that your future is bleak and depressing. The CBC recently compared Florida to "a terrified cardiac patient," lying awake at night, praying the angina will pass.

"The confidence games here were ruinous," writes Neil Macdonald. "The housing fraud was industrial scale. The economic shortsightedness bordered on lunacy."

Macdonald hops from Lehigh Acres ("Some of these homes--pastel orange, blue or green--have never been occupied, yet the windows are smashed, the appliances have been ripped out and the yards are a tangle of garbage-strewn brambles") to Cape Coral ("A vast, rambling place with no core and ghost towns on its edges") and concludes that the Florida real estate market is a giant Ponzi scheme that has seen its end. 



Florida has become the place journalists come to get a grip on what a financial meltdown really looks like. Not long ago, Harper's sent a reporter down here to dig through "the ruins of the mortgage crisis."  The New Yorker followed with a riveting dispatch by the great George Packer that also compares Florida to one big Ponzi scheme. Everything is fine, Gary Mormino, a professor at the University of South Florida in St. Petersburg, tells him, as long as "a thousand newcomers come tomorrow." And that's the real downer. Recent census data says that over the 12 months ending July 1, Florida saw 9,300 more people leave than move here.

We've weighed in on the wreckage and devastation ourselves and talked to a man who has seen this before and says a light at the end of the tunnel is not far off. And we've got more to come and the swindlers and hucksters who made this all happen.

The good news? Now is a great time to buy.

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