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Solving the Mortgage Crisis: A Modest Proposal
Monday, May 11, 2009
A few days ago the federal government borrowed another $300 billion or so that will one day have to be repaid by Americans who are now approximately three years old --hey, they never objected-- so the money could be applied to help alleviate a little mortgage debt across America, or, say, in the Vegas condo market.
Cut to our greenhouse.
Uber heirloom gardener Ryan has been starting seedlings to transplant in the garden after the threat of the last frost passes in about a month.  Among the many varieties of heirloom plants he has propagated is a variety of heirloom tomato going by the cumbersome name of Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter.  Here are Ryan's startlingly healthy Mortgage Lifters that he grew from seed.
Behind every variety of plant is a story, but the story behind the Mortgage Lifter is particularly interesting and one that Congress may want to ponder before returning to the cookie jar for another centibillion dollar snack.
It was the early 1930s, the Great Depression was upon the land, and all suffered.  But none suffered more than than the humble folk of Appalachia.  Near the base of a huge mountain in that blighted region lived a man named Charlie Byles.  Despite the despair that gripped the nation, Charlie was not without hope.
Charlie had a keen ability to exploit opportunity  --an ability made even keener by the threat of imminent starvation.  He noticed that the clap-trap trucks that tried to climb that West Virginia mountain frequently came rolling back down, their radiators hissing steam from the overexertions of the ascent.  Cleverly, Charlie borrowed some money and built a little radiator shop at the base of the mountain.  When the trucks came rolling down, Charlie was there to offer his services at, no doubt, a fair price despite his obviously disproportionate leverage in the negotiation.
Although the radiator shop did fairly well, the mortgage on the property was an oppressive weight that Charlie felt every day.  He racked his brain for money-making ideas, and eventually he hit upon the notion that he could grow a superior tomato and sell the seeds.  So, lacking any formal education in plant breeding (or anything else for that matter since he had only attended school for a few years), he embarked on a program to produce the best large slicer tomato in America.
He took four varieties of tomatoes and planted one in the center and the other three around it.  It was sort of a United Nations approach to plant breeding:  He used varieties from England, Italy, and Germany.  Using a baby's ear syringe, he blew into the flowers of the the plant in the center the yellow dusty pollen of the plants around it.  He took the resulting seeds, planted them, and encircled the best seedling with its hybridized sibling plants.  He then repeated the ear-syringe pollinating routine and took the best seedlings from that generation.  He repeated this process six more times until he developed a large pink slicer tomato that was genetically stable.
The plant he produced was a magnificent performer.  It grew vigorously,  fruited abundantly, and produced tasty pink tomatoes that individually weighed as much as four pounds.  People drove from far away to buy the plants (and probably needed to have their radiators repaired after the long trip) and Charlie sold the seeds mail-order for a king's ransom of 10 cents each.  With his marketing acumen he was able to completely retire the mortgage on his radiator shop in six years.  Thus, Radiator Charlie's Mortgage Lifter was born.
Memo to Congress:  Spring is coming.  First, take four tomato plants....