Saturday, September 29, 2012

Blaming the Victims

Little more than a month before Election Day, Barack Obama today played yet another off-key rendition of Ronald Reagan's Welfare Queen Concerto. Crooning the tired old refrain of "Blame the Victims", he has feebly serenaded the ignored and still-ongoing American housing crisis.

While Mitt Romney is a ham-handed plutocrat stupid enough to shrill his hatred for the underclass in an unsecured fund-raiser, Barack Obama is more deftly circumspect in his disdain for poor people. Instead of placing the blame for the housing mess squarely where it belongs -- on the too big to fail banks and the complicity of his own administration and past administrations -- Obama spreads the guilt around like thin centrist gruel, ascribing it equally to fraud conspirators and banking thieves, lenders, borrowers and property flippers -- carefully dog-whistling to his backers his wink-nod belief in those largely mythical hordes of greedy, low/no-income, speculating McMansion addicts who went on an orgiastic binge of home-buying. Never once does he mention that even qualified buyers often had subprime adjustable rate loans foisted on them. Never once does he mention the Clinton-era enactment of Gramm-Leach-Bliley, which turned banks into unregulated gambling casinos. Mr. Clinton, after all, just gave the current president a huge bump in the polls. So let's just shove that little inconvenient factoid down the memory hole, shall we?

From Obama's address:

Millions of Americans who did the right and responsible thing – who shopped for a home, secured a mortgage they could afford, and made their payments on time – were badly hurt by the irresponsible actions of others. By lenders who sold loans to families who couldn’t afford them – and buyers who knew they couldn’t afford them. By speculators who were looking to make a quick buck. And by banks that packaged and sold those risky mortgages for phony profits.
When the party stopped, and the housing bubble burst, it pushed our entire economy into a historic recession – and left middle-class families holding the bag.

He then went on to the tout that sham of a Mortgage Fraud Task Force headed up by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, with its bank-friendly settlement that did not include one single criminal subpoena. And since "Congress" (including his own party)has selfishly gone on vacation, it's all their fault for not acting on his tepid legislation to help "responsible" homeowners in his voting demographic to save a few grand on their mortgage payments.

The latest Obama address is simply a classier, toned-down version of the infamous Rick Santelli rant of 2009 before the Chicago Board of Trade. That's the speech that blamed unqualified (read minority) people for the whole meltdown and launched the corporate Tea Party movement. Only a small fraction of the billions of dollars in Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money set aside for struggling homeowners was ever disbursed by the Obama Administration in the wake of pushback against the White House. Neil Barofsky, the inspector general of TARP, subsequently revealed that HAMP was simply a ploy to "foam the runway" to benefit the banks, spreading out foreclosures more evenly so as not to endanger Wall Street's bottom line.

From the transcript of the Santelli rant(or more likely, plant):

How many of you people want to pay for your neighbors' mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise their hand. (traders boo; Santelli turns around to face CNBC camera) President Obama, are you listening? (Trader goes to Santelli's mike and suggests "how about we all stop paying our mortgage? It's a moral hazard.")

Santelli's words must have never stopped ringing in our conservative president's head. Obama seems never to miss an opportunity to slam the victims of predatory lenders in the same breath that he pretends to slap the wrists of predatory criminal banksters. He implies that the subprime borrowers are sub-"middle class". He subtly uses the typical right wing ploy of pitting the lazy Takers against the hard-working Makers, when the real war is of the top .01% against the rest of us. It seems that the Occupy-inspired theme of gross wealth inequality no longer holds much attraction for the current occupant of the Oval Office. After all, he is pretty much running unopposed. The only mystery is why he is still only ahead by a relatively few percentage points.

This ongoing "blame the victim" mentality has a racist as well as classist origin. The prime targets of predatory subprime mortgage lending have been poor black and Hispanic people -- the "irresponsible" demographic of the president's self-serving phony centrist radio address.

President Obama himself is a master of the false equivalence he and his supporters so passionately declaim. In his centrist world, Goldman Sachs and the poor slobs who signed fraudulent documents on the dotted line and were kicked to the curb when the payment came due are equally guilty complicit partners in crime. The only blameless players reside in the increasingly dwindling monied burbs -- those fine folks who never lost a job, never missed a mortgage payment, never had to declare bankruptcy because of an illness or uninsured emergency room visit.

Obama is setting the stage for the Age of Austerity, in which unnecessary sacrifice is foisted upon the poor, and the rich may temporarily have to forgo a tax loophole or two to make everything seem even-steven. This is what our president means by a fair shot at a fair share, and everybody playing by the same rules.


spreadoption said...

Occasional bouts of second-guessing leave me questioning my resolve to vote for Dr. Jill Stein. What we need first, this time, I say to myself, is to smash the Republican Party and its politicians all the way back to Eisenhower. And so maybe I should just shut up, be pragmatic, hold my nose, and vote for the incumbent and his fellow Dems. (Yeah, I know, evil is evil, but the devil makes me think it.)

But then along comes Karen with ever more insight and understanding of what it all means in truth, and I have only one thought in my head right now: Mr. President, you bastard! There's no way in the world I'm gonna vote for you!

P.S. Of course, no amount of smashing, even an Obama landslide, is going to silence the Republicans. If anything, they'll only be worse than ever, no matter which way it goes. And finally, how much worse could RR be? Really. We're going down... either way.

Pearl said...

As I mentioned before in answer to previous columns of Karen's, my own personal experiences proves the misrepresentation of how the housing crisis came about.

In 2000, after my husband's death, in order to move into a retirement community in Florida where we had been wintering during his retirement, I sold the home he had died in and had a house built in another area of Florida which was for retirees. I could well afford the home even though I had lost some money on the one I sold. This was at the start of the real housing crisis which we could not foresee and when I found it too difficult to go down to Florida each winter anymore, I sold my retirement home, a few years ago after much difficulty, losing about 30% of its value. This was not due to any inability on my part to pay the mortgage, but mainly on the inability of our lawmakers to reign in the banks on their dishonest housing/mortgage practices affecting the worth of homes and creating difficulty in selling them or being able to continue to pay the high mortgage rates. During those years in Florida, house insurance and property taxes had almost doubled as well.

My friend whom I also wrote about, who lost a modest home built 9 years ago and could not sell it when prices plummeted and could not obtain even a small adjustment from the bank on her mortgage payments, is now living in very poor surroundings, deeply depressed, especially whenever she drives by her old home which is sitting empty among many others in a deteriorating community Although I was lucky not to have to rely on that one retirement house as my only dwelling, it showed what the private marketplace had been allowed to get away with.

Blaming others is the way that Obama and his ilk cover up their inabilities to handle the serious problems that exist, distracting from the real causes of these financial crises, while deliberately creating more dissension among the victims to keep them from presenting a united front. It's an old story unfortunately which will end badly.

Pearl said...

Spreadoption: I sympathize with your dilemma. But look at it this way - by voting for Jill Stein, you will have given a worthy contender a vote of confidence and she may well work her way into running for some lesser office in the future if there is a good turnout for her. As well, if your and my vote will make the difference to allow the Repugs to take over, the country deserves it and may create a much stronger opposition. As you put it, even if Obama gets in, especially if very close, the right wingers will continue to throw their money around and agitate. So if you feel nothing will change, at least you supported a decent fighter.

And as I mentioned before, if Romney makes it and runs the country, his fellow elitists will begin to see the writing on the wall very soon and rebel along with others. Don't throw your vote away or even by not voting you are doing that. I am appalled by all the liberals (especially many black voters) who are frightened enough to vote for Obama which is supporting his bankrupt agenda.

d12345 said...

It doesn't seem to come up here so often..but obviously the state you live in is a big part of this equation. If you live in a clearly blue or red state, any leftist vote is probably a good idea.

But to speak to Pearl's points...

I would not be so quick to see a good outcome from Romney victory. If there are more Supreme Court appointments it could have some very drastic effects.

The restrictive voting activities would become routine...(what is wrong with a poll tax... shows you have some skin in the game!)

Vast restrictions in reproductive rights...

on and on.

As for Ms. Stein...

I live in Brooklyn: I have never seen a Green Party poster, a meeting, a demonstration, a leaflet...nothing. I'm sure they are somewhere, but they sure aren't here.

Karen is right when she gets back to Occupy. Only
mass organization can deter the octopus. Jill Stein will not think "oh I did pretty well in the presidential race, next time I will run for City Council..." she will keep on in a marginal way.

The elite will not see writing on the wall....they see massive profits...better than ever. They see the undoing of the Marxist, socialist qualities of the 20th century. Camden is firing its police force to start a new non-union one.

Whole cities in Michigan are under the rule of a single appointed autocrat.

It can get a hell of a lot worse.

I am not really weighing in on who to vote for. We will not change the outcome one way or the other.

But to underestimate what the far right can do with more power....

James F Traynor said...

Stop struggling. It's over - a fait accompli. Habeas corpus is gone. The Greens are a mirage; there but not there. The Big O is as contemptuous of us as the Rom.What to do? I'm going to buy a Benelli and go back to shooting skeet. Extravagant, but what the hell. You only have one of them.

Anonymous said...

Ever notice how everyone points the finger at the finger pointers? The president had it right but could have stated it more plainly: Lenders and home buyers were both caught up in the American dream (free lunch). As always, the ones with the corporate connections came out on top.

I refuse to help re-elect this unrepentant killer. But it's ludicrous to blame the government for the financial demise of folks too lazy to do the arithmetic at time of mortgage purchase. At least these poor Americans don't have to live with drones buzzing overhead (yet).

Pearl said...

For so many of you who feel we're all going down no matter who we vote for nor what we do, let me bring in a ray of hope. If we go down (meaning those who are fed up with the status quo no matter who rules), remember we ALL go down including the l% ers who will not be able to invest and profit forever when the markets for sales of commodities start drying up as they have begun to do.

It may take awhile or maybe suddenly, depending on world events, crises that cannot be ignored, a severe global warming trend to affect everything, etal. We are watching a system collapsing, mostly through greedy and shortsighted behavior by those in control and perhaps it is time to change the system which was not made for the long run especially without regulations. I don't mean bring on socialism (which properly administered I would like), but a combination of possibilities which countries like Denmark, Sweden, as welfare states are wrestling with. Of course the U.S. is a very large nation with many states and people which is at best difficult to manage. But in order to survive, once the handwriting on the wall and written large everywhere, perhaps will cause better minds to prevail.
It may take a dangerously long while which is why I think a Republican victory could hasten things and create a shortcut to institute change. Or maybe China or the like could begin buying up the U.S. by calling in debts or other financial shenanigans to take over control or threaten to. That is why I am not afraid to abandon Obama even to Romney in order to hasten catastrophe which will lead to real basic change.

Maybe I am a dreamer and know I will realistically not live to see the possibilities but who knows? Stranger things have happened throughout history which have changed its course. So the only thing to do is to live as long as you can and keep speaking up, educating others and hang together.

Regardless there will be much suffering and I only hope it will lead to something better. And don't downplay people like Jill Stein - she is not going away as many others who are waiting for the opportunity to be heard. We may not be as alone as we think we are, hopefully.

Pearl said...

It is interesting that I recently had trouble with my computer. Due to the obsolescence of technical instruments when I renewed my Norton anti-virus on my 4 year old computer, things started to unravel: e-mails in the junk box, vice versa, etc. I was referred to a technical organization specializing in resolving such problems (in India of course) and communicated by a chat box on my computer thank god as when on the telephone with people explaining things rapidly with accents was very difficult. Hour after hour over a week now, each time with a different technician, no one could properly figure out how to deal with this until losing patience I called the phone number of the organization and was connected to a supervisor who seemed to know what I was complaining about and began zeroing in on the problems. It took several more "discussions" until we are now close to solving things and I am amazed how much I learned about the technical aspects of my machine.
The point of this is to say that nothing was being solved until someone with understanding and obviously a higher level of intelligence and/or education luckily appeared on the scene. I was ready to give up in disgust and demand my money back for the service and am very hopeful that I won't have to purchase another computer.
This correlates with my feelings about resolving issues politically (much more complicated, of course) and we have to have the patience to connect with the truly knowledgeable and committed ones and work and support them, rare as they may be these days.

Denis Neville said...

“Just like a scientist must set aside all empathy for the mice, monkeys, birds, etc. used in their studies, people like me don't give a rat's @$$ about you or your family. Hell, we have enough antipathy for the other families in our own social strata who are competing with us to last a lifetime. We don't even think twice about doing anything within our power to royally screw you and your family over.” - Baritt Obomney

Working for Wall Street! Barritt believes that good, responsible governing begins at the bank.

Baritt Obomney for President - The Elite Choice for 2012!

Patricia said...

Like Pearl, I am also a widow. I lost my husband when I was very young. I was a substitute teacher and worked in retail. I have teaching certification, but could not get a job teaching art. I did NOT subprime my house, which had a reasonable mortgage, without 2 incomes I could not afford to keep my house when my social security ran out, this was part of Reagan's cuts for his Star Wars programs. Saint Ronnie took benefits from widows and orphans. I sold my house, in the worst housing market in modern history.Leaving me even more impoverished thanks to a glut of foreclosed homes. What happened to me was not my fault. There must be millions like me. It is so much easier to make judgements and blame others, while the bankers run free to rip off Americans over and over again.

Neil Gillespie said...

When Rick Santelli made his rant on CNBC, it was part of NBC, which was owned by General Electric, a corporate tax deadbeat and welfare moocher. Santelli forgot to mention that in his rant.

"In March 2011, The New York Times reported that, despite earning $14.2 billion in worldwide profits, including more than $5 billion from U.S. operations, General Electric did not owe taxes in 2010. General Electric had a tax benefit of $3.2 billion. This same article also pointed out that GE has reduced its American workforce by one fifth since 2002."

"In December 2011, the non-partisan organization Public Campaign criticized General Electric for spending $84.35 million on lobbying and not paying any taxes during 2008–2010, instead getting $4.7 billion in tax rebates, despite making a profit of $10.4 billion, laying off 4,168 workers since 2008, and increasing executive pay by 27% to $75.9 million in 2010 for the top 5 executives."

General Electric, Corporate Tax Deadbeat & Welfare Moocher, by Dissenting Democrat, Dave Zeifel

"I found myself asking earlier this week exactly who Mitt Romney is including in that 47 percent of Americans he says aren’t paying any income taxes and are expecting the government to take care of them"

"Is he including, for instance, the General Electric Corp., which routinely finds a way to weasel out of paying any taxes yet basks in a ton of government services that help support it, and all-too-much of the rest of corporate America, which likes to complain about high taxes but seldom pays any?"

Kat said...

"Fair shot", "play by the rules", "responsible homeowners" blah blah blah. he has made this speech probably dozens of times.
What exactly, dear leader, are the rules? They seem to be constantly shifting and there is one set for one group of people and another for the rest of us.

Denis Neville said...

d12345 said... “to underestimate what the far right can do with more power....”

In Kansas, far right Republican Governor Sam Brownback has gained complete control of the Kansas Legislature.

The Kansas Republican Party was cleansed of its few remaining moderates in this summer’s primary election. It reflects the lack of respect in today’s Republican Party for “moderation” in government.

This Kansas Republican Party has an extreme rightwing ideological agenda. They now have the green light to pursue their austerity agenda – massive tax cuts; devastating cuts to education; privatization of social services; elimination of aid to the working poor.

Tony Judt described it as "The Cult of the Private,"

“The reduction of ‘society’ to a thin membrane of interactions between private individuals is presented as the ambition of libertarians and free marketers...Governments that are too weak or discredited to act through their citizens are more likely to seek their ends by other means: by exhorting, cajoling, threatening, and ultimately coercing people to obey them. The loss of social purpose articulated through public services actually increases the unrestrained powers of the over-mighty state.

“There is nothing mysterious about this process: it was described by Edmund Burke in his critique of the French Revolution. Any society, he wrote in Reflections on the Revolution in France, which destroys the fabric of its state, must soon be ‘disconnected into the dust and powder of individuality.’ By eviscerating public services and reducing them to network of farmed-out private providers, we have begun to dismantle the fabric of the state. As for the dust and powder of individuality: it resembles nothing so much as Hobbes's war of all against all, in which life for many people has once again become solitary, poo, and more than a little nasty.” - Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land

And so it will be for many Kansans, because of the zealotry of the powerful right.

Kansas now resembles the way it was before abortion was deemed legal by making it impossible to practice that legal behavior.

Many of these Kansas legislators are members of ALEC. Is your state legislator a member of ALEC?

Pearl said...

Denis: your comments on what is happening in Kansas and how others view it are very useful. Unfortunately many well meaning citizens, even when hit over the head personally by events do not know where to turn. Before long,
the decisions in Kansas and elsewhere will create bankruptcy in many ways
and that is when more accurate information about the results
have to be forthcoming. Karen's columns and the responses by her readers should become more widely known.

Each of us, in our communities, hopefully, are or will become involved in some way which will educate others about the facts when such information will become vital in making choices even more than now. I try and send in comments pro and con to columnists and lawmakers and Karen writes wonderful comments to N.Y.Times writers and others. For example, I am convinced that
she, along with many others including myself have encouraged Paul Krugman
in recent years to become more aggressive and open about his concerns and judging from the response to his columns is encouraged more and more by his readers to continue his struggle to speak truth to power. I think were he not so popular, his job might be in jeopardy as it was when he first
starting writing for the paper.

We all have ways of making our concerns known to others besides our
Sardonicky gang and I know that many well meaning citizens are looking for
answers from people that have the knowledge and ability to do so.
So when we feel hopeless, this is when we have to reach out to others about our possibly mutual concerns.

When I was living in the retirement development I mentioned above (Sun City Center, Fl.) populated by many air force retirees from McGill Air Force base in Florida, all the cars had bumper stickers calling for support for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. I put one on my car saying, "War is not the Answer". One day a neighbor saw my car in the open garage and she turned to
me and whispered, I agree with you Pearl, we have no business in these wars.
I was astonished as she was the wife of a very senior Air force Officer whom I am sure would not have agreed with her comment.

One never knows when something we say or do could leave a lasting

Karen Garcia said...

Pearl, funny you should mention Professor K. After a long campaign season of Romney criticism columns and essentially leaving Obama alone, he has finally written a piece basically warning the president that if he is re-elected, it will be a referendum on NOT cutting the social safety net via another Simpson-Bowles type grand bargain. My comment:

"Now, I'm still eager to reach an agreement based on the
principles of my bipartisan debt commission. No party has a
monopoly on wisdom. No democracy works without compromise. I
want to get this done, and we can get it done."

The president uttered those nostalgic words about the Catfood Commission during his acceptance speech. His pledge that he won't turn Social Security over to Wall Street? Meh. Raising the retirement age and lowering lifetime benefits will please Wall Street no matter who does it.

Only 29 Democratic senators have dared sign a letter to the president demanding that he make no cuts to the program. Bernie Sanders, who seems to be the lone staunch defender of the New Deal still standing, notes that Obama seems all too anxious to negotiate with the GOP in another misguided "Grand Bargain". Sanders said that while it's nice that the president has promised to "look at" raising the current cap on FICA contributions, he needs to be pressured on the issue. Right now.

"I think we've got to make sure" said Sanders,"that we reduce the wiggle room for the president, and he has got to make a very simple statement that, 'If reelected, I will not cut Social Security.'"

Meanwhile, beware the "balanced approach" and "crushing debt" and "fiscal cliff" and "shared sacrifice" jargon being spun in order to alternately frighten and anesthetize us. They're euphemisms for protecting the elites and imposing austerity on everyone else.

Valerie said...

I just saw this clip on Democracy Now - it is from the Republican Convention - with Rocky Anderson. If I wasn't going to vote Third Party, I certainly would after this very short interview. It confirms what we already know - both parties working for the Plutocracy do everything they can, with their swarms of lawyers, to keep anyone from giving them a REAL run for their money and getting the REAL issues out and into the political discussion.