Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun, on throwing “the class war flag”:
John McCain, who wasn’t sure how many houses he owned when asked about it during the 2008 presidential campaign, threw the flag when Barack Obama spoke of taxing households that make more than $250,000 a year to help pay for a health insurance expansion.
And last week House Minority Leader John Boehner did it again, this time with regard to President Obama’s plan to keep the Bush-era tax cuts only for middle-class earners, not the wealthy.
Mr. Boehner accused the president of “resorting to tired old class warfare rhetoric, pitting one working American against another.” He said it was “bad policy” to exclude the highest-earning Americans from tax relief.
Others, including low- and middle-class citizens who support Republican candidates, accuse Mr. Obama and the Democratic leadership of being “socialists” engaged in the “redistribution of wealth.” They don’t seem to have a clue that it’s already happened, that most of the wealth went up, not down — and largely to people who were already doing well, not to those struggling at or near the bottom.
“Well, yes — burning Korans is deeply stupid and inflammatory. But, um, so is haphazardly invading, bombing, Predator striking, torturing, and imprisoning hundreds of thousands of people, just for the hell of it.”—Blue Texan (via)
Mr. Paschal, who is black and worked as a loan officer in Wells Fargo’s office in Annandale, Va., from 1997 to 2007, offers a sort of primer on Wells Fargo’s subprime marketing strategy by race.
In 2001, he states in his affidavit, Wells Fargo created a unit in the mid-Atlantic region to push expensive refinancing loans on black customers, particularly those living in Baltimore, southeast Washington and Prince George’s County, Md.
“They referred to subprime loans made in minority communities as ghetto loans and minority customers as ‘those people have bad credit’, ‘those people don’t pay their bills’ and ‘mud people,’ ” Mr. Paschal said in his affidavit.
He said a bank office in Silver Spring, Md., had an “affinity group marketing” section, which hired blacks to call on African-American churches. (New York Times, 6/6/09)
The quotes come from a sworn affidavit of a former Wells Fargo loan officer, filed in support of the city of Baltimore’s lawsuit against the bank, on the grounds that it actively pushed its most destructive financing products in the city’s black neighborhoods — often times to borrowers who would’ve qualified for traditional loans. Ultimately, the court dismissed the case. Not because the reverse redlining claims were false (they clearly weren’t), but because the city attempted to pin too much of its bleak economic condition on one predatory lender.
“It is difficult for cities to show a causal link between one lender’s actions and overall economic blight,” said Linda Fisher, a law professor at Seton Hall University in Newark, New Jersey who has written about reverse redlining and the correlation between race and subprime lending. “Cities may need to tailor their lawsuits more narrowly.” (Reuters 1/7/10)
Today there’s news that a new, more narrowly focussed complaint has been filed by the city:
Baltimore…filed a new complaint that outlines specific costs arising from 190 vacant, foreclosed homes. Wells Fargo says the new lawsuit should also be dismissed, arguing that it’s essentially the same complaint. (Baltimore Sun, 9/8/10)
On a side note, I’m fascinated by the tactic of “affinity group marketing.” Particularly when what is being marketed, peer-to-peer, is one of finance capital’s most destructive commodities. And the kinds of community institutions, peer networks, and affective relationships through which this “marketing” is unfolding, have historically formed the bases of some of the most important critique of and resistance to urban capitalism.
When you are actually writing, and working as hard as you should be if you want to succeed, you will feel inadequate, stupid, and tired. If you don’t feel like that, then you aren’t working hard enough.
[T]he president’s studied silence on race — and many white Americans’ insistence on their colorblindness — leave America’s real racial problems mostly unaddressed. Racial injustice today takes a form far more dangerous than the vile prejudices that sometimes appear on placards and racist blogs. It isn’t gross caricatures of Obama as a simian that give the lie to the notion that America has entered a post-racial age. Instead, it’s the deep and persistent gap between blacks and whites by nearly every socioeconomic measure…
In May, a group of scholars led by Brandeis sociologist Thomas Shapiro released a report showing that the black-white wealth gap has quadrupled in the past 25 years. A household’s wealth is measured by calculating its assets (savings accounts, stocks, bonds, and especially real estate) and its debts. The asset side of the balance sheet is grim: blacks are less likely than whites to own real estate. Even in 2005, at the peak of the most recent real estate bubble, only 49 percent of blacks were homeowners, compared to 74 percent of whites. And because of persistent racial segregation, the value of homes that blacks own is significantly lower than that of white-owned homes.
On the debit side of the ledger, the statistics are even bleaker. Blacks have been disproportionately affected by market failures in home financing and personal credit from the New Deal through the early 21st century. From the 1930s through the late 1960s, blacks seldom had access to federally backed mortgages and loans; in that period and beyond, they were more likely to buy properties using expensive nonmortgage instruments like land contracts; and beginning in the 1980s and 1990s, as the Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations deregulated the financial, personal loan, and mortgage markets, predatory lenders (from pawnshops to payday loan agencies to subprime mortgage brokers) found their most lucrative markets among minorities.