January 24, 2008

People of Color Sacrificed on the Altar of Predatory Capitalism

By David A. Love
Published By The Black Commentator
January 24, 2008

It should come as no surprise that free-market capitalism — predatory, unchecked, unregulated, and like any other hustle, dependent upon winners and losers for its bread and butter — chooses to prey on the most vulnerable members of society. We were aware that homeowners of color, steered into unconscionable subprime mortgages and targeted for economic exploitation, are bearing the brunt of America’s foreclosure crisis.

But a new report now tells us exactly how much damage has been done to these families.

According to a report by United for a Fair Economy entitled, “Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008,” the subprime lending debacle is causing the greatest loss of wealth to people of color, primarily African-Americans and Latinos, in modern U.S. history. In dollars, the loss amounts to somewhere between $164 billion and $213 billion over the past eight years.

To be sure, White Americans are also being devastated by subprime mortgages, an inherently flawed, expensive and predatory product with exploding adjustable rates, balloon payments, and penalties for early repayment that cripple their victims and make it unlikely that they will repay. And in some cities, foreclosures have increased as much as 300 percent since 2000. Over half a million borrowers in the U.S. have lost their homes since 2006, and up to 1 million could lose their homes by the end of 2008.

There is clear evidence that there is racial discrimination (and gender discrimination) on the part of mortgage lenders, those who steer their victims into these horrible loans. People of color are more than three times as likely to have subprime loans. These loans account for only 17 percent of loans to Whites, but 55 percent of loans to Blacks. Given people of similar financial circumstances, Whites are steered into safer, less expensive loans. If subprime loans were distributed equally, losses for Whites would increase 44.5 percent, while losses for people of color would decrease 24 percent. Before this economic crisis, Blacks were 594 years behind Whites in terms of Median Household Net Worth. The subprime crisis will only worsen this gap. And at current rates, parity in home ownership between people of color and Whites will not be reached for another 5,434 years.

Institutional racism is costly, and the home foreclosure mania is destroying families and communities, eroding the tax bases and revenue streams of American cities, leading to an increase in crime, and causing cuts in government services. A number of cities, including Cleveland, Baltimore and Buffalo, are suing mortgage lenders for the damage caused by their predatory and discriminatory practices.

Meanwhile, as hundreds of thousands of families lose their homes, and millions more are affected by a chronic financial crisis in which their wages are dropping, the five largest Wall Street banks awarded themselves a record $39 billion in bonuses in 2007. This, despite the fact that 2007 was the financial industry’s worst year since 2002, and a year in which shareholders lost more than $80 billion. These corporations have caused great destruction, and yet have not been held accountable for their actions.

The answer to this problem lies with public policy decisions. American history is rife with the promulgation of bad public policy in the name of the unbridled free market: slavery, genocide, land stealing, wage exploitation, sweatshops, union busting, child labor, health and environmental hazards, etc. Then, as now, predatory capitalism has benefited a chosen few at the expense of the many. If the federal government can promote policies that benefit the rich and the corporate conglomerates, then certainly we can adopt policies which eradicate systemic economic inequality and racial discrimination, mandate corporate responsibility, encourage low-income home ownership, and repair the victims of subprime lending.

America, resist your antidemocratic tendencies. The subprime crisis is the tip of the iceberg in a nation which touts equality and fairness, and yet hustles its people with a game of loaded dice.


Liberal White Boy said...

I saw this article over at BC. Good stuff stay at it.

DAL said...

Thanks for reading! Stay tuned...

}astro{->mytho<-losophy said...

Hi David,

I'm doing a very brief 1-credit research paper on subprime lending and low income communities. There is virtually no case law on the matter and no statutes that are really directed at the issue, so I was wondering if you had any suggestions on where to look for information, sources. I think Im going to try to focus on Philly specifically, just to keep it as brief as needed. Thank you, and great article as usual.