"Charity is commendable, everyone should be charitable. But Justice aims to create a social order in which, if individuals choose not to be charitable, people still don't go hungry, unschooled or sick without care. Charity depends on the vicissitudes of whim and personal wealth, justice depends on commitment instead of circumstance.
Faith-based charity provides crumbs from the table; faith-based justice offers a place at the table"
~Bill Moyers

Thursday, October 2, 2008

11 Racist Lies Conservatives Tell to Avoid Blaming Wall Street for the Financial Crisis

Conservatives are twisting the facts beyond the breaking point to support their revisionist history. But don't be fooled.

11 Racist Lies Conservatives Tell to Avoid Blaming Wall Street for the Financial Crisis

By Sara Robinson, Campaign for America's Future.
Posted October 2, 2008.

Conservative pundits and politicians have piled onto the excuse like shipwreck victims clinging to a passing log: The real blame for the current economic crisis, conservatives would have you believe, lies not with anything they did, but rather with the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act -- a successful Carter-era program designed to get banks to stop covert discrimination, and encourage them to invest their money in low-income neighborhoods.

It's always easy to tell when the cons are completely lost at sea. The lies get more absurdly preposterous -- and also more transparently self-serving. But when they go so far as to openly and unapologetically latch onto race and class as an excuse for their woes (which this is, at its heart), you know they're taking on water fast -- and scared of going under entirely.

You can hear the conservative commentators burbling this CRA fable from the Wall Street Journal to the National Review; from Rush to YouTube. Neil Cavuto put the essence of the argument right out there on Fox News: "Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster." See! It's all the liberals' fault for insisting on social justice!

Conservatives are twisting the facts beyond the breaking point to support their revisionist history. But don't be fooled: the financial crisis was caused by conservative financial follies and bankers run amok and nothing more. Here are the basic myths they're trying to push about the CRA -- and the facts that will enable you to fire back.

1. The CRA was a liberal boondoggle designed to con banks into funding housing for undeserving, unqualified minorities.

False. The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 was the result of decades of disinvestment in poor and working-class neighborhoods. It was designed to put an end to "red-lining" -- a widespread practice in which banks refused to write mortgages for houses in certain neighborhoods, no matter who was applying or how creditworthy they were.

The Fair Housing Act of 1968 had made it illegal for real estate agents and banks to discriminate against homeowners on the basis of race. Red-lining soon emerged as a not-so-subtle way to continue this discrimination, by declaring, ahem, certain neighborhoods as unfit to invest in. By 1977, the results of this practice were becoming all too obvious, so Congress stepped and gave lenders a choice: if you want the FDIC to insure your deposits, you need to knock off the redlining.

The CRA didn't force lenders to make riskier loans than they would have otherwise. It simply required that they take each applicant on his or her own merits, and give people in poorer neighborhoods the same fair chance at a mortgage that everybody else in town was getting. It wasn't about preferential treatment. It was just about basic equality.

2. The CRA forced banks to lower their standards and make loans to all low-income families and people with poor credit -- and find banks that refused to comply.

No. The CRA has encouraged banks to lend fairly and responsibly for over 30 years. It does not impose fines. It does periodically examine FDIC-backed banks, and issues them a CRA compliance rating. A highly-rated bank must meet the financing needs of as many community members as possible, and must not discriminate against racial and ethnic groups or certain neighborhoods. However, a bank will not receive a high rating unless it is also maintains "safe and sound banking practices."

In other words, the CRA requires banks to lend to working-class families and people of color -- but only when those people have been deemed as creditworthy as anyone else.

3. The housing bubble burst when too many people with home loans mandated by the Community Reinvestment Act failed to make their mortgage payments.

False. The CRA only applies to FDIC member banks and thrifts. Back in the 1970s, these institutions were responsible for most of the country's mortgage lending. But starting in the 80s and on up to the present, we saw a huge boom in lending businesses-- such as finance companies like Countrywide -- that weren't banks, and didn't take deposits that required FDIC insurance. Thus, they didn't have any obligation to the CRA. And they were free to set their own lending standards, which were often far less cautious than those required of FDIC-insured banks.

"Four hostile newspapers are more to be feared than a thousand bayonets. "
Napoleon Bonaparte


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