As the country sits on the precipice of financial disaster, and people in Washington and on Wall Street are trying to explain what has happened, there is a slow growing chorus rising from the right that is beginning to parrot the idea that the true source of the financial meltdown was the effort to help minorities and the lower classes become homeowners. Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann made this claim amid the hearings that took place on the Hill last week (the article erroneously identified the hearing as having taken place in the Senate. It was actually in a House Financial Services Committee hearing where Rep. Bachmann made her comment). As is discussed in the link, the Congressional Black Caucus (through Minnesota Representative Keith Ellison) is asking the House Republican leadership for clarification on this issue.
This is an age old tactic used by those who see the progress of the African American community as a problem, simply because government has played a role. These "conservatives" (note that I did not identify a political party) generally see any governmental assistance to help provide a more even playing field for African Americans as "handouts." These folks pretend that "the market" will do its job, and provide African Americans (who traditionally have been red lined out of the marketplace) with the tools they need to move forward. This argument is absolutely ahistorical and specious. The historical record is clear that if left to its own devices, the market would have ignored the African American desire to secure the American dream of home ownership. It took governmental intervention and oversight to help actualize that component of the dream.
That someone actually would have the gall to dismiss the millions of people who joined in the game of "Flip that House," and suggest that it was because financial institutions made a modest attempt to reach out to minorities and the working and lower classes that we are now experiencing this financial crisis is outrageous. I know people who jumped into the real estate game with the hopes of a quick turnaround. Most of them did well. Many tried to get me into the game. But my guess is that most of the working and lower class and minorities that bought homes intended to live in them, not flip them. And unfortunately, too many of them may be on the brink of losing their homes, because of predatory lenders who sought a larger profit at expense of the ill informed.
I am tired of those who have unfettered faith in the marketplace. It is flawed. It is biased toward those who already fall into the category of the "haves." And quietly, I am happy to see those true fat cats panic. Unfortunately, it's the rest of us who have to foot their bills. And the last time I checked most of those players, most of those perpetrators of this financial crime, are white guys. So Rep. Bachmann, and those who support her perspective on this issue, can kiss my ass.
UPDATE: Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic adds his perspective on this issue. Check it out here.