The Conservative War on Working People
By Tom Sullivan
November 30, 2008 - 10:12pm ET
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Based on chatter from conservative talking heads, they have someone to blame whenever things in America go south.
When New Orleans flooded, people crammed into the Superdome and the Convention Center. We watched in horror as no one came to their rescue. Conditions worsened. No food, water, sanitation or medical help appeared for days. Conservative pundits found the culprit.
The government’s failed response to Hurricane Katrina was the fault of the working poor. Residents of New Orleans slums were to blame for not evacuating when they were told. They should have bundled their kids and dogs into the Escalade and driven north to hang out by the pool at a Days Inn next to a Denny’s for a few weeks.
Now, the free-market gospel preached since the Reagan years teaches that there are really only six deadly sins. This year’s financial meltdown? It just happened. The financial services industry organized and negotiated the elimination of “burdensome” regulations that infringed their freedom. (You don’t hate freedom, do you?) Their lobbyists won concessions that allowed them to create mortgage-backed securities they could market to overseas investors wanting investments as safe as T-bills, but with a better return. Moguls made bundles of cash selling bundles of mortgages they bought as quickly as banks and mortgage brokers could make, bundle and unload them.
Banks and mortgage lenders competed fiercely for new mortgage business. In a race to the bottom, subprime NINA (No Income, No Assets) and “liar” loans multiplied. To further incentivize prospective buyers, some even paid cash to anyone breathing – and a few who weren’t – to sign on the dotted line above the fine print.
When this International House of Ponzi collapsed, taking down Bear Stearns, AIG and Lehman Brothers (with its $17,000-an-hour CEO), pundits knew who to blame.
Irresponsible working people. The sliver of buyers who defaulted on loans they received from federally insured banks and thrifts under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). See, pundits explained, the government threw mortgage brokers up against the wall and made them write bad loans for bad people. Working people took out mortgages they couldn’t afford for houses, you know, to live in – mortgages approved by people who didn’t care that the loans were bad. Because while Americans watched Flip This House, middle men made fast money playing Flip This Loan. They flipped them to an unregulated investment industry to be turned into derivatives by people who invented, but didn’t understand them. Nobody really knew what they were worth or who owned what, but published numbers looked good, so nobody cared.
Like Enron, it finally came crashing down. Deregulating and taking cops off the financial beat resulted in financial titans behaving like scoundrels. Libertarian champion Alan Greenspan was “shocked.” And before you could say Lower Ninth Ward, government came to Wall Street’s rescue with billions in working people’s taxes.
Now the Big Three U.S. automakers are on the brink of bankruptcy, weakened by a summer of $4-$5 per gallon gasoline. As the financial crisis deepened, hoovering up billions of bailout dollars, we watched unemployment spike as consumer confidence fell. The number of families using food stamps is expected to hit a record. Nobody wants to buy anyone’s cars, and many couldn’t if they wanted to, because the credit crunch means they can’t get loans anyway. The Beltway’s wise men knew just who to blame for the Big Three’s troubles.
Say it with me.
Working people who build things with their hands every day – tangible things. Working people who build the cars management tells them to build. Union members who organized and negotiated (where have you read that phrase recently?) for better benefits so they could raise families and just maybe send their kids to college and have some kind of health care along the way, and a retirement.
Working people, it seems, are a public nuisance. So, first thing we do, let's kill all the unions. Because unionized auto workers get paid decently, financial markets are in chaos, credit has dried up, consumer demand is down, the Big Three face bankruptcy, and Joe the Plumber won't be able to get a loan to buy American trucks for his new business.
Good thing Joe wants to be management. Wouldn't want him palling around with the wrong kind of people.
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