Saturday, August 4, 2012

Weekend Blogging

Somebody asked me the other day if I had any figures or stats on the exact number of American foreclosures, as well as just how many underwater homeowners are shlepping along while the White House  pretends to be interested. Well, I couldn't give an exact answer -- and neither, it turns out, can anyone else. As Matt Stoller writes in Salon, no single government entity is even bothering to track foreclosures! Our housing policy is not only a complete mess -- it is functionally non-existent. 
(Under Dodd-Frank) the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (were authorized) to create a national database of foreclosures. The bill, however, did not provide the necessary funding mechanism for HUD to do so, nor did it include a deadline. The next Congress, not surprisingly, has also failed to appropriate the funds. According to Brian Sullivan at HUD, the agency also lacks “statutory authority to compel the reporting to HUD of information necessary to compile localized loan performance data.”
Blatant political malpractice of this kind is becoming more and more prevalent. Pass some reforms and kinda sorta forget to fund them and staff them. If we dream it, it will come. This is passive-aggression, pure and simple, on the part of our public "servants."

Forbes Billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg is inviting the unindicted criminals at Goldman Sachs to hedge their bets in a brand new casino game: wagering on recidivism at the world's largest penal colony, Rikers Island. The financiers are investing the relatively paltry (for them) sum of $1.9 million in an inmate rehabilitation program. If the mostly minority participants end up back in the slammer, the bank loses the bet. If they stay clean, Goldman somehow makes a profit -- apparently because we the taxpayers will reward them with interest for caring so much. This "scheme" as the Brits so aptly call things like this, has its critics: 
Mark Rosenman, director of the Washington-based Caring to Change organisation, said he was sceptical about the idea of a market-based solution to difficult and complex social issues. "My general concern is that when you open a portion of the non-profit sector to the profit motive, we find that it displaces concern about solving public problems with a concern for private profit. You see that with the healthcare sector and higher education."
He added that a particular problem was how success and effectiveness was accurately measured in any social impact bond scheme.
"How do you develop a metric to measure success that fully reflects the public purpose of the project?" he asked.
Indeed. And we also cannot put it past those clever banksters to devise a metric so that they can actually bet against troubled youths at the same time they invest in them. Maybe they can bundle minor drug offenders and hardcore gang bangers into Triple A-rated bonds and foist them on the public, knowing full well some of the chronics will re-offend and obligingly enrich the banksters.

Shades of the infamous Groveland Boys murder-by-police case from the 1950s: a young black man, arrested in Jonesboro, Arkansas on a minor drug charge, is frisked, handcuffed and placed in the back of a squad car. Somehow he manages to commit suicide by gunshot wound to the right temple. In cuffs. While left-handed. The local cops are bemused and baffled and bored by the whole thing. Charles Blow of the New York Times has more.  

Did you get your invite from Michelle for Barack's birthday bash-for-profit in their Chicago back yard? Well, if you didn't RSVP and enter for a chance to win, don't despair. She's not bothering to show up either. Ouch.


Patricia said...

You are so right. I tried to find accurate statistics on foreclosures and came up with nothing. I also have been trying to research the number of suicides since the crash, I can't find anything later than 2009. Maybe I'm paranoid, but I think that there is a purpose behind it and the foreclosure issue. Why don't we know how many people committed suicide? We know how many are murdered. Here's another thing we really don't know anything about, where do all the people who have been foreclosed on go? No one seems to care. Are they in their cars? tent cities or with relatives? It's so crazy that we might be examining these issues, but the government clearly doesn't care.

Jay - Ottawa said...

If you ever get curious about the “theatre of the absurd,” no need to buy a ticket to a play by Beckett, Pinter, Albee and the rest of those crazy playwrights. Just read the Salon article Karen linked about the administration’s lack of any comprehensive assessment “effectively measuring the single biggest weight on the American economy, the foreclosure epidemic that has claimed millions of homes.” The pervasiveness of absurdity is not a trope of crazed artists. It’s everyday in the USA while waiting for Obama.

So read that piece in Salon about foreclosure numbers. Now tell me, who’s in charge? Right, nobody, otherwise defined as our chief executive, who is now asking for four more years in office as the new decider. To do more of the same, otherwise defined as nothing much – or even less than that – for the average American.

Well, our go-to guy sure does make nice speeches, I must admit. And he's no longer against gay marriage, unless of course any one of the states thinks otherwise. Think of those pronouncements as frosting intended to distract us from the bitter absurdity of the way things work lately in Washington. For you, baby. And, unless we're in total denial, we must know it's Absurdity By Design.

There was a nifty cartoon recently in the New Yorker (July 9/16, p.60). I can’t drag it here for wholesome sardonic laughter, so please put up with my description of the scene. The beach. A lifeguard sits easy under an umbrella way up in her highchair while instructing a guy in the water who is waving his arms and screaming frantically. The problem? Well, about five shark fins are seen circling this poor soul. The lifeguard’s advice is as follows:

“Visualize yourself not dying and then be that reality.”

That pretty much amounts to what Obama, his vast agencies and his powerful allies in Congress are telling the people under threat of foreclosure by the sharks of banking. They are not whistle-stopping around the country against foreclosures. No pounding of the table for the little guy. Just hope -- and smile through adversity, er, absurdity.

By all means, let’s vote that lifeguard and his friends another four years in office. Then people will know we are “pragmatic” or “realistic.”

On the other hand, if you’re one of those armchair purists or just plain furious because you lost your home, go with one of the sharks. Yeah. What’s the difference? Both options are absurd. At the same time, Romney might be your tool for revenge against indifferent lifeguards, as well as a last chance for the Democratic Party to reform itself while licking its wounds following a big loss on November 6.

Oh right, instead of the Supremes going 8-1 or 7-2, our lifeguard, given another four years, just might appoint someone to make it 6-3 or, with lots of luck, a close 5-4 to save Roe while the country gets pulled under on virtually every other front with one of his really big deal grand bargains.

mac gordon said...

Another statistic, I have been completely unsuccessful in locating are the number of Emmigrants from the US, since the 'crash'. Immigration numbers are easily found, but of Emmigrants, we apparently know nothing.
And, on another subject entirely, the latest mass shooting in Oak Grove, Wisconsin, produced the usual emoting from Obama, and Romney. Of course, neither uttered a peep about gun control!

Denis Neville said...

Jay said, “The pervasiveness of absurdity is not a trope of crazed artists.”

"Crazy playwrites"?

We live in a time that has created the theater of the absurd.

"What do I know about man's destiny? I could tell you more about radishes." - Samuel Beckett

Where are our once comfortable truths, as we face today’s harsh realities? Does anyone see any tidy, acceptable solutions or resolutions?

“The Theatre of the Absurd has renounced arguing about the absurdity of the human condition; it merely presents it in being—that is, in terms of concrete stage images. This is the difference between the approach of the philosopher and that of the poet…The hallmark of this attitude is its sense that the certitudes and unshakable basic assumptions of former ages have been swept away, that they have been tested and found wanting, that they have been discredited as cheap and somewhat childish illusions… It is a challenge to accept the human condition as it is, in all its mystery and absurdity, and to bear it with dignity, nobly, responsibly; precisely because there are no easy solutions to the mysteries of existence, because ultimately man is alone in a meaningless world. The shedding of easy solutions, of comforting illusions, may be painful, but it leaves behind it a sense of freedom and relief. And that is why, in the last resort, the Theatre of the Absurd does not provoke tears of despair but the laughter of liberation.” - Martin Esslin

“Absurdism, like methodical doubt, has wiped the slate clean. It leaves us in a blind alley. But, like methodical doubt, it can, by returning upon itself, open up a new field of investigation, and in the process of reasoning then pursues the same course. I proclaim that I believe in nothing and that everything is absurd, but I cannot doubt the validity of my proclamation and I must at least believe in my protest.” – Albert Camus, The Rebel

Get curious about the theatre of the absurd, buy a ticket to a play by Beckett, Ionesco, Genet, Pinter, Albee. If you are in Chicago, see “Smartphones: A Pocket-Size Farce,“ theater of the absurd for the digital age.

Pearl said...

The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them.
Karl Marx