Monday, October 20, 2008

To Bail Or Not To Bail, Is It A Question?

Lately, there’s been a lot of talk among the candidates about what THEY would do to resolve the housing foreclosure crisis. John McCain, in his second debate against Barack Obama, made the “off the cuff” statement that he would have the Government purchase mortgages directly from homeowners and mortgage servicers, and replace them with manageable, fixed-rate mortgages that would keep families in their homes. [The idea] is that by purchasing the existing, failing mortgages, the McCain plan would eliminate uncertainty over defaults, support the value of mortgage-backed derivatives and alleviate risks that are freezing financial markets.” The plan would be available to mortgage holders who live in one home as their primary residence, and had good credit at the time of the loan. The mortgage would be a fixed-rate loan the homeowner could afford. McCain Proposes Bailout for Homeowners

It’s no doubt that African Americans households, have been particularly targeted by subprime mortgage lenders, are bearing the brunt of the housing crisis. Planetizen points out that, "predatory lenders have been steering blacks toward subprime loans for years, even when they could afford prime rates. I know this is true because my finance company tried it with me.

Interestingly, first-time homebuyers make up only a small percentage of subprime loans. According to Kai Wright, over half of all subprime loans were refinances of exiting home loans. This is a real tragedy because so much of black wealth is dependent on home equity. So as the housing market collapses, much of the trumpeted new wealth that has accumulated in black communities in recent decades will go with it.

Now, I’m not sure if McCain’s plan would work. In fact, I’m not sure that even if it could, I would want it to. After all, is it fair to bail out approximately 10 percent of the homeowners who got in over their heads? How would the Government distinguish between the folks who bought the property as an investment (i.e. to flip) and those who bought it to live in for the long term? Is it fair to give them a better interest rate than me, just because they couldn’t live up to their commitments? Is it fair that when values do go up, the folks who were “bailed-out” stand to make even more profit than me because they have less in the home? Or worse, they can undercut my price exactly because they have less to loose? And if my next door neighbor sales his or her home based on the new “value” which is lower than what we both originally paid, will that really help my home's value?

So yes, the crisis in the black community is real, and we need real solutions. However, every time I pay my house note and my taxes, I just can’t shake the feeling that if something like this is passed, it would be unfair to me and others like me who are struggling to hold on. I guess the old adage just keeps ringing in my head, “who’s going it bail me out?”

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Black Conservatism - An Oxymoron?

A few nights ago, a young man stood up at an election rally and begged GOP candidate John McCain to "take it to Obama." Now, normally this would hardly raise an eyebrow and would be seen as a person expressing their opinion or simply politics as usual. However, the comment apparently set off a firestorm of outrage in the black community. Why? Because the person making the desperate plea, James T. Harris, is black. Mr. Harris says that since making his nationally televised comments, he has received an outcry of “threats” and insults from black folk who just can‘t understand how a black man could make such comments.

So, who is James Harris? A visit to his web page proved interesting:
  • He is Republican and self-proclaimed “conservative."
  • He hosts his own radio show, the National Conversation, WTMJ 620 in Milwaukee.
  • He taught history at Brown Deer High School.
  • He has traveled abroad--Western and Eastern Europe, India and West Africa.
  • He graduated from Cardinal Stritch University, studied history and sociology at the University of Nottingham.
  • He is a national motivational speaker and owner of the company IllumiNation.
From the looks of it Mr. Harris is doing alright, he has a college education, a good job, and owns his own business. So what’s so wrong with him being conservative?

I looked up the definition of “conservative” and found this one most applicable, “favoring traditional views and values, tending to oppose change.” Let’s break it down.

Hmm…“favoring traditional views.” So, what “traditional” views does Mr. Harris favor? Those that oppose blacks even going to college, yet alone going to school with whites? What about segregated schools? Maybe its the "old boy" network that still prevents many minorities from having a high paying job or owning their own business? Could be being able to travel, period, or having to ride in the back or eating in a “blacks only” area. Surely, being a black man, Mr. Harris does not favor these viewpoints, yet many conservative whites do. So why would any black man be conservative?

And what change does Mr. Harris oppose? Does he not want to change the fact that a black man, no matter how rich, well spoken, educated, well-dressed, or morally conservative can’t catch a cab in most cities? Or, does he object to the fact that many whites don’t want to live in the same community as a person of color? Perhaps he feels it appropriate that many whites feel blacks are inferior and are spreading negative stereotypes abroad? Indeed, does he support the negative stereotypes of blacks in the media? Could it be that he considers it fair policy that we spend more money on prisons than schools? Or that the sentence for drug crimes are horribly unequal? Is he comfortable that white women cross the street when they see a black man, including him? Or doesn’t he want people to stop beating up other people just because they are not white, or are gay? Perhaps its women wanting equal pay for equal work that bothers him. Maybe its the fact that because of Barack Obama, voter registration among people of color is the highest in history. Is he unnerved by the fact that a black man is so close the Presidency? And should the practice of racial profiling not change? And how could anyone not support changing the predatory lending practices that have ruined the lives of so many? Changing these negative policies would not only help people of color, they would help America--and him. So how could he not want change?

Which begs the question: Can a black person truly be conservative in America?

Mr. Harris has obviously carved out a niche for himself and I praise him. He has found a life that eludes many people of color: a good education, a good job, business ownership, and a political voice. I submit what he really does not want to change is his life. But brother, if that’s the case, he's on the wrong side!

Your thoughts?