Paul Solman: Yesterday, free-market enthusiast Megan McArdle, who describes herself as “the tallest female econoblogger” but is more often identified in the blogosphere as a libertarian, devoted a post on theAtlantic.com to Ed Andrews, the NYT reporter whose story and book, Busted: Life Inside the Great Mortgage Meltdown, was featured on last night’s NewsHour.
McArdle revealed that Ed’s new wife, Patty Barreiro, had twice filed for bankruptcy, the second time after their marriage, and thus during his descent into debt.
We asked Ed Andrews for a response. Here’s what he sent us.
Ed Andrews: It is hard to believe that anybody would accuse me of trying to airbrush a story in which I recount the cringe-inducing details of my calamitous plunge into junk mortgages.
But Megan McArdle, a blogger for the Atlantic, accuses me of omitting crucial information: namely, that my wife, Patty, was involved in two bankruptcies, one in 1998 with her former husband; and one in 2007, while she was married to me. McArdle says this is “material information that changes the tenor of the story,” and then accuses Patty of “serial bankruptcy.”
These bankruptcies did occur, but they had nothing to do with our mortgage woes. They were both tied to old debts from before we were married or bought a house. They had nothing to do with my ability to get a mortgage; nor did they have anything to do with our subsequent financial problems.
Since Patty had been so brave in letting me tell our own story so candidly, I wanted to spare her the public exposure on these older woes. But that is now impossible, so here is the story:
The first bankruptcy in 1998, five years before Patty and I got together. It occurred because Patty’s former husband, a producer of TV commercials in Los Angeles, didn’t file income tax returns for five years. Patty, who was a stay-at-home mom and wasn’t earning money, was blindsided. She had been signing returns, but he hadn’t actually been filing them. Because her husband’s business income was reported on their personal tax returns, she had to join him in the bankruptcy filing.
All that happened in 1998, and it obviously had nothing to do with the story in Busted. It never even occurred to me to mention it.
Patty’s second bankruptcy stemmed from a loan she received from her sister, while Patty was still living in Los Angeles. At the time, she was caring for four children, working for very modest pay, and receiving almost no child support from her ex-husband. (Despite multiple court orders, he remains chronically delinquent on untold thousands of dollars.)
When Patty couldn’t repay, her sister followed her east and sued her. I offered to pay off the loan by withdrawing money out of my 401k, but I wasn’t allowed to because the purpose didn’t qualify as a “hardship.” Without an alternative, Patty had no choice but to seek bankruptcy protection.
None of this has any connection to our story. It had nothing to do with Patty being a spendthrift. It had no bearing on my ability to take out a mortgage, and it had nothing to do with our financial problems.
Fortunately or unfortunately, Busted is a simple story: we took out a mortgage we couldn’t afford, earned less than we hoped and couldn’t bridge the gap.
One final note: I tried to return McArdle’s call three or four times on Wednesday, but received a busy signal every time. I couldn’t leave a voicemail message.