They bail themselves out. Then they prepare to repeat what caused the need for a bailout in the first place. Of course. They are a late-imperial overclass that stopped listening to anything but their own cant 30+ years ago.
From the latest Business Week comes a report on how this is happening in the housing(-bubble) sector, in which the big players are now apparently buying up land thinking they’ll get back to 1995:
An additional boost came last year when Congress passed a law allowing companies to get refunds on past years’ tax payments by applying their recent losses to earnings dating back five years. Many sold land at big losses to boost their refunds. The result was a windfall of $2.3 billion for the builders as a group, including $800 million for No. 1 Pulte Homes.
The result of those balance-sheet heroics? Builders have more than $12 billion in cash they can use to replenish their land inventory. Pulte and D.R. Horton each had $1.9 billion in cash and near-term equivalents at the end of December, Toll Brothers had $1.6 billion at the end of January, Lennar had $1.3 billion, and KB Home had $1.2 billion at the end of November.
[These corporate builders’] interest in unfinished land usually comes later in the housing cycle, says Thomas E. Lucas, senior vice-president of operations for DMB in Scottsdale. “We didn’t think we’d sell raw land for three to four years,” Lucas says. That’s a striking vote of confidence considering the threats to housing from high unemployment, rising mortgage rates, and foreclosures.
Can you imagine non-capitalists ever being allowed to rewrite their income tax returns to minimize what they owe?
In any event, it’s clear that, in yet another economic sector, capital has been restored, but has no idea what to do with itself. So, despite their unwillingness or inability to lift a finger to help their own potential customers, they nonetheless presume something, somehow will return them to “normalcy.” Probably their own glorious entrepreneurial spirit, I suppose…
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:
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:
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.