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The economic crisis meets terrorism

Annie Lowrey catches something unexpected: The arrested subject of last weekend’s Times Square bomb plot is a homeowner in the midst of foreclosure. Here's MSNBC:

[Faisal Shahzad] defaulted on a $200,000 mortgage on his Connecticut home and the Shelton property is now in foreclosure, according to court records. The foreclosure records show Faisal Shahzad took out the mortgage in 2004, and that he co-owned the home with a woman named Huma Mian. Chase Home Finance LLC sued Shahzad, 30, in September to force the foreclosure. The case is pending in Milford Superior Court.

This guy is like string theory for the media: He brings together the seemingly incompatible stories that drove the past decade. That said, you of course don't want to speculate on why someone "really" did something. The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex. But it's a reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don't make headlines but do ruin lives. And for all that we've done to save the financial sector, we've not done nearly enough to help struggling homeowners.

Update: This post clearly confused people, so I'll just quote my follow-up.

No, I do not believe that foreclosure leads to terrorism.

My point was a bit different. People who desire the murder of innocents qualify, I think, as pretty disturbed, and their particular brand of disturbance gets a lot of attention. But Faisal Shahzad's unlikely connection to the broader story of the foreclosure crisis is a reminder that there's this vast tragedy going on that's hurting a lot of people in a way that's faded from the headlines but not faded from their lives.

By Ezra Klein  |  May 4, 2010; 2:15 PM ET
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Oh please. I'm sure if i'm plotting a bombing and intending to flee the country, paying my bills would be the top of my to do list.

besides, wasn't he in pakistan for a few months? Guess he forgot to sign up for his bank's auto-bill pay feature.

Posted by: NoVAHockey | May 4, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

"...we've not done nearly enough...." Comical, almost a parody. He also frequented Craigslist and ate nachos. hmm.

Posted by: truck1 | May 4, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

This reminds me of how the Fort Hood shooter was
a) a Virginia Tech alum, thus sharing an alma mater with the most deadly shooting spree on record,
b) within 10 miles of Fort Hood was the diner where the second-most-deadly shooting spree occured.

So you could have constructed a narrative about how--
-high-powered virginia technical universities make people crazy, or how
-East Texas's gun-obsessed culture makes mass shootings more likely,
but we're more interested in the islam/terrorist in our midst angle, as well as, to a lesser degree, the psychiatrists are crazy angle. In truth, I would say all four perspectives are true to some degree, and the combination is what done it.

Posted by: jacobh | May 4, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm, he was still able to pay cash for an expensive plane ticket to Dubai bought at the last minute, plus purchase the Pathfinder and bomb materials. I think you're projecting foreclosure anxiety onto a blank canvas, Ezra -- very speculative at best.

Posted by: scarlota | May 4, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Was the guy a Muslim? Because, unless I've missed something, that tends to be the common factor in recent terrorist plots. Not home foreclosures.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | May 4, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: scarlota | May 4, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

jnz x xmx x xmxmx x xmcnfgmxsnxnx xmx xnxnx x

Posted by: scarlota | May 4, 2010 4:31 PM | Report abuse

"we've not done nearly enough to help struggling homeowners."

Help them do what exactly? Are people that have negative equity and haven't really put more money into the home than a renter would have actually homeowners? If it happens to me, I'll move out!

Posted by: staticvars | May 4, 2010 5:15 PM | Report abuse

"The hearts of men are opaque, and motives are complex."

Oh, you liberal, you. You can tell all you need to know by the color of someone's hat.

Posted by: vagueofgodalming | May 4, 2010 5:17 PM | Report abuse

Damn, that Kevin Willis guy is brilliant! He's figured out that those Christian guys in Michigan were actually Muslim! X-ray vision, I'm tellin' ya!

Posted by: Dollared | May 4, 2010 8:10 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein, have your little friend also look into the possibility that he had a preexisting condition not covered by insurance, that his COBRA ran out, that he was asked to show papers while "takin' his kid out for ice cream," or that he was distraught by greenhouse gases over Pakistan.

Posted by: truck1 | May 4, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse


is that really where you want to go? The, I'm in foreclosure so I'll go blow something up theory? Where are all the terrorists (homegrown or otherwise) before this? This is your weakest argument ever.

I'm thinking Nevada or Michigan would have been hit harder than Times Square because there are many more foreclosures there. but hmmm. no.

Posted by: visionbrkr | May 4, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

Ezra, Please ask your S.O. to actually write some stuff that's worth linking to. You linking to her linking to MSNBC is shameless to the point of not being professional.

Posted by: bmull | May 5, 2010 4:34 AM | Report abuse

Wow, Scooby Doo! I'm sure right now Faisal's muttering to himself, "Ahh, if weren't for those pesky geniuses at WaPo and MSNBC, I might have successfully blamed my antics on jihad! Now the whole secret sect of bomb-deploying, former home owners' plot is foiled! Foiled I tell ya. Lol.

I wonder, Ezra, do you think the radicals of oh, a certain community, hate you any less for co-cooking up this unsolicited defense on their behalf? I bet ya do, don't ya? Nope-you appear as stupid to them as you do everyone else that read this comedy piece.

Stay tuned for Ezra's next piece on why bees sting people!

Posted by: meeg1972 | May 5, 2010 4:38 AM | Report abuse

Good grief. Let me help you out of your absurd speculation:

1. In 2008, Shahzad put his house on the market.

2. On April 17, 2009, Shahzad became a naturalized citizen.

3. Shahzad VOLUNTARILY QUIT his job in May, 2009.

4. In June, 2009, Shahzad bought a one way ticket to Pakistan and left the country.

5. In July, Shahzad's wife and children left the country and went to Pakistan.

6. Shahzad called his real estate agent from Pakistan and told him that he was letting the home go into foreclosure.

7. In February, 2010, Shahzad came back to the US on a one way ticket, rented an apartment and started putting his terrorist attack into motion.

This man is a Muslim jihadi. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the economy.

Posted by: anna_78750 | May 5, 2010 1:06 PM | Report abuse

Ezra says:
"...foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don't make headlines but do ruin lives."

I say:

Mr. Shahzad is no commonplace lout.
Don't believe that his motive's in doubt.
He isn't just any
Foreclosed Pakistani -
He is Muslim, Islamic, devout.

Prior comments here have it right. This column is embarrassing and dangerous. How can you say such a thing? Ezra - some journalist sooner or later will make the obvious link - be brave, be the first.

Posted by: Symphon | May 5, 2010 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein:

You forgot to blame the Tea Partiers for the Times Square incident.

Posted by: ElmerStoup | May 5, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

This is the most absurd, anti-American, insulting piece of drivel ever to appear in The Washington Post. And, believe me, I've read a lot of absurd, anti-American, insulting drivel in The Washington Post.

Klein is absolutely disgusting. There is a global Islamic jihad against the United States and Western culture. If Klein wants to stick his head in the sand and pretend it does not exist, that is his right. But for him to suggest that American taxpayers should be covering the mortgages of terrorists to keep them happy is shameful.

Are you certain this article was not meant for

Read The Obama Timeline to learn how we got into this predicament, and for ammunition to fight against the thug-in-chief.

Posted by: colony14author | May 5, 2010 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Ahhh yeah......umm dude. I, uh, think you might want to think about what you're saying here and consider the possibility that the guy quit his job voluntarily and went to Pakistan to train for jihad so, perhaps, paying his mortgage wasn't a big priority for him since he was planning on going on a murder spree and dying or fleeing to Pakistan anyway.

Seriously. Put down the Karl Marx and try to exercise a few brain cells. Not everything comes down to economics, education level and rich vs poor. This guys family was rich and influential in Pakistan, he's got an advanced degree (just like you!!) and was working (until he decided to quit). For your analysis to make any sense you are going to have to recognize reality and understand that poverty and lack of education had nothing to do with this. Good luck with that.

Posted by: wspanicfreak | May 5, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Look, this guy (Faisal, not Ezra. We can all agree that Ezra is a moron) is smart enough to get college and advanced degrees and put together a marriage of convenience. He quits his job, sends the family to Pakistan (I'm sure THAT conversation went well at home), efficiently gets a vehicle and false plates, then constructs the lamest most passive aggressive excuse for a car-bomb in the entire history of Islamic terrorism.

I mean really: he didn't know that American propane cylinders have safety valves or that most US fertilizer isn't ammonium nitrate?

My take: Dig deeper. See if this more or less honest ambitious Pakistani was turned by threats against the folks back home. He goes to dirka-dirka school and gets trained in bomb making, comes here and makes EXACTLY what they taught him to make. He then hangs around for 48 hours, desperate to be caught, and finally has no choice but to get on a plane when his control again threatens his family in Pakistan with extinction.

Posted by: Winston_Churchill | May 5, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Foreclosure made him do it? The bomber could be someone who disgrees with Obama's health-care policy? Who writes this material? It's brilliant. I don't need to watch Jon Stewart any more.

Posted by: melk1 | May 5, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

I think this was more likely "blowback" for Obama's illegal use of predator drones. Oops, sorry, the blowback theory only applies when a Republican is in office. Fanatical muslims love us now that Obama is elected. So it had to be the foreclosure. Excellent piece!

Posted by: jymerk | May 5, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Ez buddy ... next time run the idea by your friends on the journolist before you write your column. This is really embarrassing...

Posted by: pittsburghpa | May 5, 2010 5:04 PM | Report abuse

Ezra can't do math.

The guy let his property get foreclosed on, but somehow managed to afford 14 round trip tickets to Pakistan in a 2 year period.

Maybe he found something else to do with his mortgage money. Oh, yes, he spent thousands on explosives, paid rent on a house, continued to travel, bought a gun, etc.

Ezra Klein -- ACORNs do not fall far from the tree.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | May 5, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

He tried to blow up Times Square because he we didn't forgive the principal on his loan? If he did qualify for loan forgiveness, wouldn't he have had more money for a bigger bomb?

Foreclosure actually saved lives.

Posted by: Cornell1984 | May 5, 2010 5:46 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Klein's column is right up there with all of his brillant health care reform analyses: Ignore the doc fix in the cost of ObamaCare, it keeps the cost assumptions down; taking $500 billion from Medicare strengthens Medicare; the CBO projections based on phony congressional assumptions are OK because Congress always lies about what stuff really costs; let's not wait for the Medicare actuaries' report, it might tell the public something unpleasant we really don't want them know; etc.

Posted by: ElmerStoup | May 5, 2010 6:25 PM | Report abuse

Wow. A string theory simile--you're a genius! (Even if the simile doesn't make any sense.) Seriously, guy, one thing this incident isn't, is a "reminder that foreclosures generate an enormous amount of misery and anxiety and depression that can tip people into all sorts of dangerous behaviors that don't make headlines but do ruin lives." That doesn't even occur to a sane person who isn't grinding some axe to deflect from his advocacy of bad policy. (If you can use an inapt simile, I can mix metaphors.) "Struggling homeowners" don't really merit "our" help; their situations are their own, and you as one person should feel free to help as many as you want. But they didn't get into their struggles by making a decision to prepare for flight from the country after a terrorist bombing, as this guy did. And bringing them, or even the rise in foreclosures, into this story is sheer inanity. Doesn't make you look smart, nuanced, wise, or anything but ridiculous.

Posted by: d1stewart | May 5, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

Whenever you have an article justifying Islamic terrorism, irrespective of the stature of the journal, the readers' comments invariably condemn such justification. This is just one such example. I hope that Ezra Klein reads the comments carefully, and understand that the reader is quite intelligent and will not be swayed by irrational points of view.

Ashok Chowgule, Goa, India

Posted by: AshokChowgule | May 5, 2010 10:21 PM | Report abuse

Who in the world dresses and feeds you Ezra. This is the single most out-of-touch-with-reality post I've ever seen.

I'd deconstruct your pathetic little offering but you're obviously not up to rational thought.

Posted by: mbecker9081 | May 6, 2010 12:42 AM | Report abuse

But there is a bright side. It looks like the U.S. housing crisis will be a boon for the Peshawar tourism industry. Look how Faisal Shahzad spent his last money to fly his family and himself there. Since he obviously had no Islamic connections or motives for doing this, just like his decision to bomb Times Square had none, we can only assume it was connected to his personal financial crisis. Trouble is, he decided to come back and attempt mass murder. Let’s hope that not too many other people coping with home foreclosures react to their personal financial crises the same way or Times Square will be a ruin. In fact, after reading Ezra Klein’s blog they may now realize they have a simpler way out: selling him the Brooklyn Bridge over and over again.

Posted by: davros1 | May 6, 2010 2:43 AM | Report abuse

He is a follower of a fascist ideology that espouses violence to spread its power via 'man caused catastrophes'. Islam is the root cause of this attack.

Posted by: roberth | May 6, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

Wow, the comments are so uniformly negative I almost feel sorry for Ezra. Almost. I understand where Ezra is coming from. You WANT to be unbiased. When the bomb goes off (or doesn't go off) you WANT it to be something other than Islamic terrorists - that just plays into the assumptions of the bigots. But, darn it, every time it's another one of those jihadi guys. So you look for an angle - yes he's Muslim but he's a foreclosed upon Muslim, a lost his COBRA coverage Muslim, a Tea Party Muslim, something, anything but that same boring "jihadi praying for the downfall of the West" Muslim. Unfortunately, even with with best of motives, grasping for straws like this just makes you look like a fool.

Posted by: nunuvyer | May 6, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

This is just brilliant stuff! I just laughed out loud. Does this idiot not have an editor or something? Who okays this drivel???

Posted by: EMHow81 | May 6, 2010 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Okay, this is really good stuff. I suspect that you didn't realize when you wrote your post that the guy had spent five months -- at least -- in Pakistan training with some thugs who are set on destroying the United States.

I hope, anyway, that you didn't have access to that information when you suggested that it was our economy which played a role in this wackjob's decision to try to blow up one of the most densely concentrated public squares in the world.

Posted by: teoandchive | May 6, 2010 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Poor Ezra, some times he just thinks about stuff to much. Like a typical leftist-intellectual, he had to come up with some way of blaming the US economy or banks, or some other TRUE EVIL for terrorism. Couldn't be the fact that he's just a muslim, could it?

Posted by: truth5 | May 6, 2010 12:43 PM | Report abuse

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