John Stewart Nails It

Changefest ’09 – Obama’s Inaugural Speech

Let Them Own Ideology!

I’m usually against Bush-bashing. Sure, he’s a utter boob, an unadulterated moron who was always patently unqualified to hold any public office, and, yes, pretty clearly (it’s a very stiff contest) the worst President in US history. But little W also isn’t nearly as far away from either other Presidents or the current toiletful of “major” Democrats (the Great Black Non-Hope definitely included) as many liberals tell themselves.

And yet, a story in today’s New York Times does raise an important point about Bush’s central role in the present housing disaster now punishing the upper part of the US working class, a social stratum that is, like the US working class in general, disproportionately non-white.

Remember Bush’s “Ownership Society” agenda? Mainly, it was his plan to privatize/kill Social Security, back when that insane idea could be safely released from the closet of “entrepreneurial” wishes, that storehouse of takebacks and rip-offs that all “major” candibots stand ever-ready to fling open yet again.

But the “Ownership Society,” launched in 2002, also included this now quite remarkable (and, hence, rarely mentioned) element:

Expanding Homeownership

The President believes that homeownership is the cornerstone of America’s vibrant communities and benefits individual families by building stability and long-term financial security. In June 2002, President Bush issued America’s Homeownership Challenge to the real estate and mortgage finance industries to encourage them to join the effort to close the gap that exists between the homeownership rates of minorities and non-minorities. The President also announced the goal of increasing the number of minority homeowners by at least 5.5 million families before the end of the decade. Under his leadership, the overall U.S. homeownership rate in the second quarter of 2004 was at an all time high of 69.2 percent. Minority homeownership set a new record of 51 percent in the second quarter, up 0.2 percentage point from the first quarter and up 2.1 percentage points from a year ago. President Bush’s initiative to dismantle the barriers to homeownership includes:

* American Dream Downpayment Initiative, which provides down payment assistance to approximately 40,000 low-income families;

* Affordable Housing. The President has proposed the Single-Family Affordable Housing Tax Credit, which would increase the supply of affordable homes;

* Helping Families Help Themselves. The President has proposed increasing support for the Self-Help Homeownership Opportunities Program; and

* Simplifying Homebuying and Increasing Education. The President and HUD want to empower homebuyers by simplifying the home buying process so consumers can better understand and benefit from cost savings. The President also wants to expand financial education efforts so that families can understand what they need to do to become homeowners.

Guess what, happy campers? The whole thing has now crashed onto the heads of the very people alleged to have been its intended beneficiaries:

WASHINGTON — Driven largely by the surge in foreclosures and an unsettled housing market, Americans are renting apartments and houses at the highest level since President Bush started a campaign to expand homeownership in 2002.

The percentage of households headed by homeowners, which soared to a record 69.1 percent in 2005, fell to 67.8 percent this year, the sharpest decline in 20 years, according to census data through the end of March. By extension, the percentage of households headed by renters increased to 32.2 percent, from 30.9 percent.

The figures, while seemingly modest, reflect a significant shift in national housing trends, housing analysts say, with the notable gains in homeownership achieved under Mr. Bush all but vanishing over the last two years. Many of the new renters, meanwhile, are struggling to get into decent apartments as vacancies decline, rents rise and other renters increasingly stay put.

If you have an honest understanding of what the “access to housing” issue really is, you see that all this was not just predictable, but pre-ordained. That’s because “access to housing” is not at all a technical issue. It is about something simpler than pie: c-l-a-s-s, a.k.a. “access to money.” Those with stable, well-paying jobs enjoy lovely houses. Those with unstable, poor-paying, or no jobs are stuck in dumps, or in the streets.

Of course, just as the Civil Rights movement finished taking away their ability to trade openly in the older, plainer versions of racism and Social Darwinism, our overclass, scared to the bone by Martin Luther King’s growing efforts to raise the issue of social class in America, quickly turned to assholes like Daniel Patrick Moynihan, who did his job by building new, supposedly more intellectual ways to blame the victims and excuse the masters. Moynihan’s legacy in this vital endeavor? The notion that it’s culture/attitudes, rather than jobs/cash, that leads people into poverty and attendant difficulties like bad “access to housing.”

According to Alexander Cockburn, here’s how Moynihan summarized this now quasi-official claim to Carl Ginsberg:

‘It’s beyond economics… we can’t help them.’

Bush’s “Ownership Society” was an ideological ruse squarely founded on this preposterous bi-partisan “culture of poverty” garbage. Instead of changing “access to money,” it proceeded instead by (in the words of today’s New York Times story) “encouraging lenders to finance more home purchases.”

Say, “ownership” fans, how’d that one turn out?

To the extent it was more than a straight hand-out to the housing-industrial complex, this vicious foolishness was founded not just on market fetsihism, but also on the Moynihanian belief that home ownership itself, even when financially suicidal, would do what “the market” cannot, will not, and (if the truth be told) is designed not to do: help those who need help, create decency and equality for all.

The inevitable results: A huge transfer of money from those now more-burdened-than-ever commoners presently being foreclosed upon into the hands of construction contractors and apparently criminal “mortgage lenders.”

Ownership society? Well, some folks did indeed get owned: the usual ones, in the usual way.

Ideologues and Murder

This one is more about how the “major” politicians maintain the conditions for the marketing-driven American Nightmare (and its metastasis to other societies) than directly about big business marketing itself. But the connection between the larger methods (ideology and murder) and the smaller (deception and studied manipulation) is real, so this one is just too important to pass over without a post:

“Ideologues can’t stand free societies — that’s why they try to kill innocent people.” — George W. Bush, February 20, 2008

How true! Just think of all the recent proof: Vietnam, Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Argentina, Chile, etc. — not to mention Iraq x2. And also not to mention the inconvenient little fact that, despite their own criminal, self-defeating methods, the Russians were actually right about Afghanistan, weren’t they?

Not uninterestingly, the 2.5 million people who have died in automobile collisions since the full and final imposition of auto-centric suburban sprawl on the United States shortly after WWII very much also prove the unwitting profundity of President Bush’s admission.