Letters: Mortgage Woes, Eating Disorders, Quiz Shows

Listeners comment on mortgage meltdown and sub-prime loans, eating disorders in men and whether quiz shows are being dumbed down.

NEAL CONAN, host:

It's Tuesday, the day we read from your e-mails. Our show last week on the mortgage meltdown focused on what's known as subprime loans, mortgages to people with less-than-stellar credit. Several lenders are near bankruptcy as more and more homeowners default. One listener, David in California, warned against throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Thank God for subprime loans, he wrote. My wife and I, like many folks in the Bay Area, wouldn't be homeowners without it. We took out an 8020 loan with close to a 100-percent interest rate. We've since refinanced. Despite now having good income, we had terrible credit histories, and without the relaxation in subprime underwriting, we would still be renters.

And there's nothing wrong with renting these days, argues Tonya in Boulder, Colorado. A huge problem, she complained, is the constant refrain from everyone - financial people, real-estate people, investment people, parents - that you should buy a house. This mantra comes from an era when homes were four times the average income, not 10 times that or more, and when people tended to buy a house and stay there for a long time instead of the more mobile society we have now. We need modern financial advice and recommendations for people's financial realities of 2007.

We also talked last week about eating disorders in men. A new study from Harvard University reported that if you include binge eating, up to 40 percent of those with eating disorders are male, well above what most experts believed.

And that led a listener in Berkeley, California to confide that he understands the problem. I have never had the body type that is so arguably the all-American-boy look currently being sold to the American public: abs of steel, tapered waist, smooth and built.

I have never had the desire to binge and purge. That being said, however, I nonetheless find myself feeling ashamed when I walk through the mall or watch the shows on TV or read the ads in the magazines. I know I can't have that body, and I can see how easy it would be to fall into that trap.

And last Thursday, we found out who among us was smarter than a fifth-grader. That's the new game show on Fox and, well, "Jeopardy!" it's not. Many of you agree that game shows dumb down their questions to relate to a wider audience, and that's just fine with Stacy(ph) in Madison, Wisconsin.

People watch the fifth-grader show for the laughs, she wrote, and that's really the essence of it. We want something we can feel positive about. We want to see someone we can identify with, something we can understand and something positive. Why do you think "The Weakest Link" didn't last? It was very negative, and we got to watch someone be told: You're not good enough. Go away. If we want negativity, we can watch the news. We need something to enjoy in the truest sense.

Speaking of which, another listener, Jean(ph) in Illinois, e-mailed to ask: I have twice failed the test to be a contestant on "Jeopardy!", but I have been a contestant on "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me," where I succeeded in winning Carl Kasell's voice for my home answering machine. So what does that say about NPR's quiz show?

If you missed out on any of these topics, you can still join the discussion at our blog, npr.org/blogofthenation. If you have other comments, questions or corrections for us, the best way to reach us is by e-mail. The address is talk@npr.org. Please let us know where you're writing from and give us some help on how to pronounce your name.

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