So, an economics reporter for the New York Times, who makes over $120k per year (120 plus overtime, whatever that is), couldn't pay his $4,700 per month mortgage. He wrote a book about his situation. He stopped paying his mortgage 8 months ago, and just sits in his house, waiting for the bank to kick him out. He does not mention it, but I imagine if the banks try to kick him out he will fight it, even though he is basically living there without paying anyone. He truly has no shame, as this is the center point of his New York Times Magazine article and his book.
He can't afford his mortgage, but instead of moving into a smaller place in a worse neighborhood, but he has chosen to stay in his current house without paying. He does not value the bourgeois virtue of paying one's debts. Legally, he can default on his mortgage, but extra-legally, he is a shmendrik (aka, loser).
I think he is a thoughtful person, probably a good neighbor and friend. But that he could rationalize this kind of unethical behavior highlights a big problem we all face. If the zeitgeist says that those who don't pay their mortgage, for whatever reason, are victims of big, greedy banks, then we have a big problem. It has always been proposed that a jubilee, or absolving debtors of their obligations, would fix problems, but doing this just raises the costs of debt for future borrowers, most of whom had nothing to do with the prior situation. You can't break promises without considering their effect on future transactions.