Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

Many Years Too Late, the Black Caucus Turns on Artur Davis

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The 14 Black Caucus members are incensed that Davis has turned officially Republican after having called Barack Obama his ‘model’ and ‘friend.’”

One-third of the Black representatives on Capitol Hill are pretending to be outraged that one of their former colleagues, Artur Davis, secured a speaking slot at the Republican National Convention, in Tampa. In a letter sent out, and probably composed, by the Democratic National Committee, the 14 congresspersons cite Davis’ “complete flip flop” on “core principles” that he supposedly once held, turning his back on his own “progressive record” as a member of the House from 2003 to 2011.

The fact is, Artur Davis was always among the worst, most right-wing members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Along with Harold Ford, Jr., of Memphis, and David Scott, of Atlanta, Davis consistently scored at the bottom of the CBC Monitor’s periodic Report Card. He was a Blue Dog Democrat, like Harold Ford, a magnet for bankers’ money, like David Scott, and a champion of corporate America – like Gregory Meeks, the New York congressman who signed this week’s letter denouncing Davis.

Like Georgia’s David Scott, Davis came to Congress with the class of 2002, the year the first tidal wave of corporate money flooded selected Black districts, defeating Cynthia McKinney, in Atlanta, and almost electing Cory Booker in his first run for mayor of Newark, New Jersey. Davis won by vastly outspending progressive congressman Earl Hilliard, but still managed to lose the majority of the African American vote in his Black Belt Alabama district.

He was a Blue Dog Democrat, like Harold Ford.”

In 2010, Davis lost his primary bid for the governorship because he, essentially, told Black Democrats – who make up the core of the party in Alabama – to kiss his butt.

The 14 Black Caucus members are incensed that Davis has turned officially Republican after having called Barack Obama his “model” and “friend.” But, they were political friends. Davis was picked by Obama’s alter ego and future White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, as co-chair of the southern region of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, in 2005. He was put there to recruit and finance other right-wing Black politicians like himself, and to silence Black southern progressive voices in the party. That’s what the Rahm Emanuel-Barack Obama wing of the party wanted – so, yes, Davis was a friend.

And it paid off for him. Every corporate media story on Black politics grouped Davis among the new crop of “business-friendly” young Black Democratic up-and-comers like Harold Ford, Jr., Cory Booker and, of course, Barack Obama.

If Davis had played his cards right, he could have landed a prestigious appointment in Obama’s administration, or found a plush job with the Democratic National Committee or a Wall Street firm, as did his soul mate, Harold Ford. But Davis thought he could run for Alabama governor as a Democrat while telling Blacks that he didn’t plan to do anything for them once he got in office. There’s only one Black man with those kinds of skills – and Artur Davis is no Barack Obama. However, politically, they’re from the same side of the barn. Obama wants to create a grand coalition with the GOP, while Davis has settled for a speaking date at their convention.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to Black Agenda Report.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20120829_gf_CBCArturDavis.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:59am EST

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

U.S. is the Worst Police State in the World – By the Numbers

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The American People of Color Gulag is as large as the entire prison population of China, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people.”

When U.S. corporate media operatives use the term “police state,” they invariably mean some other country. Even the so-called “liberal” media, from Democracy Now to the MSNBC menagerie, cannot bring themselves to say “police state” and the “United States” without putting the qualifying words “like” or “becoming” in the middle. The U.S. is behaving “like” a police state, they say, or the U.S. is in danger of “becoming” a police state. But it is never a police state. Since these privileged speakers and writers are not themselves in prison – because what they write and say represents no actual danger to the state – they conclude that a U.S. police state does not, at this time, exist.

Considering the sheer size and social penetration of its police and imprisonment apparatus, the United States is not only a police state, but the biggest police state in the world, by far: the police state against whose dimensions all other police systems on Earth must be measured.

By now, even the most insulated, xenophobic resident of the Nebraska farm belt knows that the U.S. incarcerates more people than any country in the world. He might not know that 25 percent of prison inmates in the world are locked up in the U.S., or that African Americans comprise one out of every eight of the planet’s prisoners. But, that Nebraska farmer is probably aware that America is number one in the prisons business. He probably approves. God bless the police state.

For the American media, including lots of media that claim to be of the Left, it is axiomatic that China is a police state. And maybe, by some standards, it is. But, according to United Nations figures, China is 87th in the world in the proportion of its people who are imprisoned. China is a billion people bigger than the United States – more than four times the population – yet U.S. prisons house in excess of 600,000 more people than China does. The Chinese prison population is just 70 percent of the American Gulag. That’s quite interesting because, non-whites make up about 70 percent of U.S. prisons. That means, the Black, brown, yellow and red populations of U.S. prisons number roughly the same as all of China’s incarcerated persons. Let me emphasize that: The American People of Color Gulag is as large as the entire prison population of China, a country of nearly 1.4 billion people.

Solitary confinement beyond 15 days at a stretch crosses the line of torture.”

However, police states must be measured by conditions behind the bars, as well as raw numbers of inmates. And, by that standard, the American Gulag is even more monstrous.

Civilized people now recognize that solitary confinement is a form of torture. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, reports that solitary confinement beyond 15 days at a stretch crosses the line of torture, yet, as Al Jazeera recently reported, it is typical for hundred of thousands of U.S. prisoners to spend 30 or 60 days in solitary at a stretch. Twenty thousand are held in perpetual isolation in so-called supermax prisons – that is, they exist in a perpetual state of torture. Studies now show that, all told, 80,000 U.S. prisoners are locked up in solitary on any given day. That’s as many tortured people as the entire prison system of Germany, or of England, Scotland and Wales, combined.

If that is not a police state, then no such thing exists on planet Earth.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to Black Agenda Report.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20120829_gf_PoliceState.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 8:53am EST

Why We Don't Spend As Much Time Denouncing Republicans As We Do Democrats

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by BAR managing editor Bruce A. Dixon

We know who and what the Republican party is. Back in the mid 1960s, when Democratic president Lyndon Johnson, under relentless pressure from the Freedom Movement embraced enforcement of the Voting Rights Act in the South, Republicans opened their doors wide to welcome the exodus of white supremacist voters and politicians who'd been Democrats until that time. The modern Republican party re-made itself into the permanent white man's party not just in the South, but across the country, the party whose brands are rancid racism, pretentious piety, monstrous misogyny and shameless  warmongering.

 

When you match Republican brands against those of Democrats, who claim to stand for tolerance on racial and sexual fronts, who cloak their imperial wars in the garb of “humanitarian interventions,” but who agree with Republicans that wealthy corporations do have the right to rule over us, that presidents possess the right to imprison, torture or kill us at a whim, the difference isn't black and white, but it's clear enough. The Republican brand is odious and deeply scary, easily more frightening than that of Democrats.

In today's political ecology, the job of Republicans is to provide political camouflage to right wing Democrats like the last two Democratic presidents Clinton and Obama, by moving still further rightward, even past the boundaries of lunacy. When Bill Clinton was busy passing NAFTA and ending welfare as we knew it, both measures tried and failed at by Bush 1, Newt Gingrich provided covering babble about taking poor children from their homes. While Barack Obama offered to put Medicare and social security for the deficit cutting and enacted a so-called “Affordable Care Act” first passed by Massachusetts  Governor Mitt Romney in 2004, Republicans threaten the piecemeal repeal of Rove V. Wade and cuts to unemployment compensation.

 

On the one hand, 120% evil Republicans offer the only justification for our support of 100% evil Democrats. And with the dissolution of what used to be the black consensus for equality, civil liberties, full funding for public education, and opposing war spending and corporate privilege, Obama-era Democrats continue to flee rightward toward war, privatization and austerity.

This deformed puzzle is not the political logic of free and responsible people. It's the cramped and twisted reasoning of someone trapped in a box urgently trying to convince himself that it's not really a box, that pragmatic acceptance of the box as the whole of the great and free universe is really all that can be hoped, struggled and strived for. It's not. Only a beaten, cowed and enslaved people can imagine their forbears sacrificed and struggled for them to choose among greater and lesser, but both still monstrous evils.

We at Black Agenda Report spend more time denouncing Democrats because they act like and enable Republicans. We don't spend as much time denouncing the party of white supremacy because Republicans rarely bother to pretend to be anything else. African Americans haven't voted Republican in 50 years. But we're more unemployed than we've been in seventy years, and more imprisoned than we've ever been.

That's what choosing “lesser evils” has earned us. It's time to chuck the fake choice between evil Republicans and slightly less evil Democrats. It's time not just to think, but to climb outside the two-party, lesser-evil box, to breathe the free air and get ready for something new.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at www.blackagendareport.com.

Bruce A. Dixon is managing editor at Black Agenda Report, and a member of the state committee of the Georgia Green Party. Contact him at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com or via this site's contact page.

Direct download: 20120822_bd_lesser_evilism.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:58pm EST

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

President Obama’s game is to move inexorably into Republican territory, putting his own brand on austerity, militarism and the growing police state.”

The Republican presidential primaries drew on the metaphor of the Etch A Sketch, that 1960s children’s plaything that allowed kids to instantaneously erase what had been drawn or written on a page. American presidential elections, stage-managed by money and refereed by the corporate media, produce a kind of Etch A Sketch effect: in an instant, history is erased, and the sheet is wiped clean for the candidates to write on.

Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats under her leadership have a lot of Etch A Sketching to do, to keep pace with the steady rightward movement of their party and their president. They are immeasurably assisted in these maneuvers by the Republican troglodytes, especially vice presidential pick Paul Ryan, whose damn-the-government-to-hell budget makes President Obama appear like a friend of working people. It provides a perfect camouflage for Democrats to adopt positions they had only yesterday rejected as unthinkably rightwing. This, of course, has always been President Obama’s game: to move inexorably into Republican territory, putting his own brand on austerity, militarism and the growing police state, until the Republicans have nowhere to go but off the cliff, like Wiley Coyote.

Nancy Pelosi, who in a long ago time was co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, and who opposed the recommendations of President Obama’s Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Commission as “simply unthinkable” two years ago, now says she supports it.

Simpson Bowles was really Obama’s vision all the time.”

The evolution of her thinking is quite simple. With the Paul Ryan budget now indelibly stamped onto the Mitt Romney campaign, the way is clear for the Democrats to move another step to the right and embrace Simpson-Bowles $4 trillion in spending cuts that will eviscerate what’s left of the social safety net. Which is what President Obama offered the Republicans, last summer. The Republicans didn’t take Obama’s offer, because it included modest tax increases and cuts to the military.

The current speculation – and I think it’s correct – is that Obama will again offer the deal to the GOP right after the election. And, why not? Simpson Bowles was really Obama’s vision all the time: the austerity plan he had in mind when he announced, two weeks before taking the oath of office, in 2009, that Social Security and all other entitlements would be on the chopping block. Back then, the Republicans were in no shape to do any pushing, having just suffered a whopping electoral defeat.

It was Obama who put austerity on the Democratic agenda. He has always been determined to forge a Grand Alliance with the GOP. The trick has been to make his war against the poor appear to be a “compromise” necessitated by Republican meanness and intransigence. Nancy Pelosi and the rest of Democratic leadership act as magician’s helpers in this performance, edging ever further to the right side of the stage. At the end of the show, the audience thinks they’ve witnessed some kind of victory for the little guy. The President will once again pull Simpson-Bowles out of his hat. The flim-flam man does it again!

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20120822_gf_Pelosi.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:45pm EST

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

They are ‘anarchists,’ say these two allies of the South African state, and guilty of fomenting ‘dual unionism’ – which is now, apparently, a capital crime.”

When thousands of miners went on strike at South Africa’s largest platinum mine, in Marikana, they were confronting not only the London-based owners, but the South African state, which since 1994 has been dominated by the African National Congress (ANC); COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions; and the South African Communist Party. This week, the full weight of the state was brought down on the Black miners, 34 of whom were massacred by police gunfire. Many of the survivors face charges of murder in the earlier deaths of two policemen and eight other miners.

The National Union of Mineworkers, whose representation the strikers rejected, and the Communist Party head in the region claim the strikers are at fault, that they have committed the sin of choosing an alternative union to argue their case for higher wages and, therefore, deserve severe punishment. They are “anarchists,” say these two allies of the South African state, and guilty of fomenting “dual unionism” – which is now, apparently, a capital crime. With a straight face, the Communist Party had the gall to call on all South African workers to “remain united in the fight against exploitation under capitalism.”

That is precisely what the Marikana miners were doing – the struggle they gave their lives for. However, since the peaceful transition to state power to the ANC and its very junior partners, the COSATU unions and the Communist Party, in 1994, the South African state has had different priorities. The “revolution” was put on indefinite hold, so that a new Black capitalist class could be created, largely from the ranks of well-connected members of the ruling party and even union leaders. It is only logical that, if the priority of the state is to nurture Black capitalists, then it must maintain and defend capitalism. This is the central contradiction of the South African arrangement, and the massacre at Marikana is its inevitable result.

The central truth is that South Africa did not complete its revolution.”

The 1994 agreement between Nelson Mandela’s ANC and the white South African regime was a pact with the devil, which could only be tolerated by the masses of the country’s poor because it was seen as averting a bloodbath, and because it was assumed to be temporary. But, 18 years later, the arrangement has calcified into a bizarre protectorate for foreign white capital and the small class of Blacks that have attached themselves to the global rich. Apologists for the African National Congress regime will prattle on about the “complexity” of the issue, but the central truth is that South Africa did not complete its revolution.

The fundamental contradictions of the rule of the many by the few, remain in place – only now, another layer of repression has been added: a Black aristocracy that has soaked itself in the blood of the miners of Marikana.

South Africa remains the continent's best hope for a fundamental break with colonialism in its new forms. But, as in all anti-colonial struggles, the biggest casualties will occur in the clash between those who truly desire liberation, and those who are intent on an accommodation with the old master.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20120822_gf_SAfricaMassacre.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 11:34pm EST

Black Is Back Coalition Examines the Question of Elections

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Why is it that so many Black people have come to believe that elections are the only political game in town?”

Elections – what are they good for? Well, for a people who were deprived of all human rights for most of their almost four centuries on this continent, full participation in American elections might have seemed like Promised Land. Of course, by the mid-1960s, Blacks in some northern states had been voting continuously for a century and a half. But they held only five seats in the U.S. Congress, and had elected no big city mayors. Only about 70 Blacks occupied elected office of any kind in the South in the mid-60s, when the Voting Rights Act was passed.

The first African American elected mayor of a sizeable city was Robert C. Henry, of Springfield, Ohio, a town of about 80,000 not far from Dayton. But Springfield was mostly white, so Mayor Henry’s rise to City Hall was not a product of the Black community’s political power. The era of Black big city governance is usually dated to January, 1968, when Carl Stokes became mayor of Cleveland. The demographic changes that had been wrought by the Great Black Migration and white flight found electoral expression in the Seventies, when the words Black and urban became almost synonymous. Suddenly, the Black metropolis was a central fact of American life. In quick succession, other major cities joined Cleveland as citadels of Black electoral power. (See “List of First African American Mayors.”)

Who decided 40 years ago that mass grassroots movements were passé?”

Forty years later, Washington DC, the quintessential Chocolate City, has lost its Black majority, Atlanta and Newark are headed in the same direction, and Black Harlem is shrinking like a raisin in the sun, as are the Black populations of New York City as a whole and most other African American population centers. Gentrification, which is the most visible expression of finance capital’s determination to reclaim the cities for those with money, and the deindustrialization of America, have brought the beginning of the end of the era of the Black Metropolis.

Therefore, it is really quite late in the game to conduct an analysis of what Black people did during those decades when they wielded overwhelming electoral power in the big cities, since that historical window is now closing. Nevertheless, the period must be honestly evaluated, because it provides real answers to the real problems that Black people confronted in the quest for self-determination. What did African Americans do correctly during this period of African American power at the polls in urban America, and where did we go wrong?

This weekend, August 18 and 19, in Newark, New Jersey, the Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations will dedicate much of its annual conference to the question of elections: who pays for them, who makes the rules, who dominates the conversation – and, most importantly, why is it that so many Black people have come to believe that elections are the only political game in town? Who was it, representing what social strata in Black America, that decided 40 years ago that mass grassroots movements were passé, and that running for office in the Democratic Party was the road to genuine Black empowerment? And what good are Black politicians who are answerable to rich people outside of the Black community?

For information on the Black Is Back national conference in Newark, go to BlackIsBackCoalition.org.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20120815_gf_BlacksElections.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:40pm EST

The African American Achilles Heel

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

President Obama has proven even more effective than George Bush in his assault on public education and teachers unions.”

I recently had a telephone conversation with an African American woman functionary of one of the Blackest, and historically more progressive, unions in the country. I had never met the young woman. She'd seen a You-Tube of a talk I’d given on how private school vouchers and, later, charter school advocates were financed by corporate forces to drive a wedge between Blacks and teachers unions, two of the main pillars of the Democratic Party. The person I’d originally been conversing with had suddenly put the union official on the phone, and she thanked Black Agenda Report for its insights on the issue. I thanked her in return, and said that President Obama had proven even more effective than George Bush in his assault on public education and teachers unions – something she did not want to hear.

Was I supporting Romney, she asked? No, I support public education, I replied, and Barack Obama has been a more effective champion of privatization of schools during his three and a half years in office than the Republicans could ever have dreamed of.

The conversation turned cold as ice. There was nothing – nothing! – she said, that could shake her faith in this president. What about preventive detention, I asked? Didn’t it upset her that Obama had signed into law a bill, the National Defense Authorization Act, that gutted the Bill of Rights, allowing the arrest by the military of American citizens without trial or charge on the say-so of the president – Barack Obama or any president, Republican or Democrat, that succeeds him?

She cannot see the Devil – the corporate demon – when he appears in the perfect camouflage of a Black icon.”

She had never heard of the preventive detention law, she said, in a tone that clearly indicated she believed I was making the whole thing up. Quickly, she repeated that there was nothing that could alter her dedication to Obama’s reelection.

Of course, she did not know of Obama’s careful shepherding of preventive detention through Congress, last year – because she did not want to know. Like tens of millions of African Americans, she filters out any and all information that might shatter the illusion that Obama is all that stands between Black folks and the Devil, himself. She cannot see the Devil – the corporate demon – when he appears in the perfect camouflage of a Black icon. She is intelligent, and a union activist who understands the evil intentions of Republican school privatizers and union busters. But, when The First Black President builds on the same corporate game plan to put the full weight of the federal government behind massive school charterization and the de-professionalization of teachers, she is willfully blind, deaf and dumb.

Our Black female trade unionist is a descendant of a people who have, of historical necessity, been the staunchest defenders of civil liberties. Yet, for her and millions like her, the Black president and preventive detention cannot coexist; it simply does not compute. And so it goes for Obama’s expanding wars, especially in Africa, his wholesale shredding of international law, his servitude to the banks. Black consciousness, itself, succumbs to a fatal illusion. In Barack Obama, our enemies have found our Achilles Heel.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20120815_gf_AchillesHeel.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:26pm EST

Where Will the U.S. Strike Next in Africa?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Eritrea’s real sin is to be one of the very few nations in Africa that do not have military relations with AFRICOM, the U.S. war machine.”

Under the direction of the United States, the UN Security Council recently extended sanctions for another year against the northeast African nation of Eritrea. The country of 6 million people, nestled against the Red Sea, is on America’s hit list. In the imperial double-speak of Washington, Eritrea is described as a “destabilizing” force in the region – which simply means the government in Asmara has refused to buckle under to U.S. military domination of the Horn of Africa.

Back in 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threatened to “take action” – and, by that, she meant make war – against Eritrea if it did not stop supporting the Shabab resistance fighters in Somalia. There was no evidence that Eritrea was, in fact, arming the Shabab, and there is no evidence that Eritrea is doing so, now – as the UN Monitoring Group on Eritrea and Somalia admits.

The monitors, who are, in effect, tools of U.S. policy, reported that they found “no evidence” of Eritrean aid to Somali fighters over the past year, and concluded that, if such assistance exists at all, it is “negligible.” Yet, the UN Security Council, under U.S. pressure, extended the sanctions, anyway. Washington claims that Eritrea’s alleged support for the Shabab has only halted because of the sanctions, and it’s, therefore, too early to lift them – which amounts to punishing Eritrea for having the wrong intentions, whether it acts on them or not.

In the imperial double-speak of Washington, Eritrea is described as a ‘destabilizing’ force in the region.”

It is, of course, not little Eritrea that is destabilizing the Horn of Africa, but the United States, which has made the region a front line in its so-called War on Terror. Washington's closest ally in the neighborhood is Ethiopia, from which Eritrea won its independence in 1993, after a 30-year war. The U.S. instigated, armed, financed and gave logistical support to Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, in 2006, plunging that country into what United Nations observers called “the worst humanitarian crisis in Africa.” Under American direction, Kenya also invaded Somalia, in the midst of a great famine, last year. The U.S. bankrolls, arms and trainsthe nominally African Union force that occupies Somalia’s capital, and has turned neighboring Djibouti into the main base for the U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM.

And there sits Eritrea, surrounded by warring American puppets, interfering in no one’s affairs, yet determined to defend her sovereignty – accused by the world biggest and most aggressive power of destabilizing the region.

Eritrea’s real sin is to be one of the very few nations in Africa that do not have military relations with AFRICOM, the U.S. war machine. That puts a bulls-eye on her back, along with Zimbabwe and Sudan, which U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice demanded be blockaded and bombed back in the George Bush administration. Barack Obama’s Africa policy is an extension and expansion of Bush’s aim to militarize the continent, and the much older U.S. policy to create chaos and horrific human suffering in those regions it cannot directly control. In practice, Obama’s doctrine is the same as Bush: “You are either with us or against us.”

Eritrea rejects that doctrine; that’s why it is a target. For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20120808_gf_Eritrea.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:44am EST

How Obama Helps the Banks Rig the Housing Market

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

They are attempting to stretch the crisis out over time to spare themselves from catastrophic lose.”

Mike Whitney, an economics writer that we at Black Agenda Report trust, wrote a piece recently that answers some questions about how the banks are dealing with the housing catastrophe that they created. Plus, the article provides some clues to why President Obama has so doggedly refused to intervene in the housing market to save more than a token proportion of homeowners from foreclosure.

Whitney wonders how home prices could be rising, as they are, at the same time that housing sales are dropping, which they are. On the face of it, the two phenomenon should not coexist. Falling sales means declining demand, which is supposed to result in lower prices. But average home prices in the 20 biggest cities are rising faster than at any time in the last ten years. And yet, we know that huge numbers of homeowners are technically in default, and many millions more are stuck with under-water mortgages that they’d like to walk away from.

What Mike Whitney concludes is happening, is that the banks, acting as a cartel, are manipulating the housing market to force prices higher, for the sake of their own bottom lines. They have slowed the foreclosure process – not out of concern for the families that live in the houses, but to avoid flooding the market with newly foreclosed homes, which would further undermine housing prices and devalue trillions of dollars in mortgages held by the banks. Whitney, and others, believe that if the actual value of those mortgages were known, most, if not all, the big banks would be declared insolvent. Therefore, the banks carefully calibrate the foreclosure process, to make sure not too many delinquent homes are put back on the market at one time. They are attempting to stretch the crisis out over time to spare themselves from catastrophic lose. This is not a kindness; it’s called rigging the market, and requires a high level of orchestration among the top players. But that’s not so difficult, since all the big banks share the same interest in artificially inflated assets.

If the actual value of those mortgages were known, most, if not all, the big banks would be declared insolvent.”

The banks are not saving homeowners from ultimate foreclosure; they have resisted writing down mortgages as if that would violate all the laws of Heaven and earth. But rigging the markets so that the impossible occurs – that is, rising housing prices in a low-demand market – requires fine-tuning. To succeed, the banks must collaborate with one another to keep too many distressed houses from flooding the market. Government intervention in the housing market and schemes to lower the principle on large numbers of homeowners’ debts could upset the bankers’ careful calculations. And that’s why the bankers’ great friend in the White House, Barack Obama, has refused to intervene in housing in any meaningful way. As a candidate, he rejected any type of moratorium on foreclosures or mortgage rate increases, and has maintained that position as president. His administration refused to spend more than $6 billion in funds provided by Congress to help the hardest hit homeowners in the country, almost certainly because that kind of intervention might upset the bankers’ delicate calibrations on how many foreclosed homes to dribble into the market at any given time, in order to boost prices. By doing next to nothing on housing, Obama allowed the banks free reign to continue rigging the market. They owe him, big time.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20120808_gf_Housing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 10:35am EST

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

New data on poverty testify to the bankruptcy of U.S. corporate party politics. The most successful years in the fight against poverty are 40 years behind us, while the future promises nothing but decline. Neither Democrats nor Republicans offer even the slightest reason to hope for an economic turnaround. However, “there’s really nothing wrong with the world that a social revolution can’t fix.”

 

The Poverties of a Decaying System

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

This crisis of capitalism will be full of drama.”

A preview of new Census figures indicates that poverty in the United States will likely soon reach the highest levels in 50 years. Now, some of you optimists out there are saying: Well, there’s nowhere to go but up. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily true. What I think is so depressing to many people about this particular historical juncture, is that there is absolutely nothing on the economic horizon on which even optimists can pin their hopes. There are no new industries on the verge of some huge explosion, no scientific breakthrough just around the corner. With education costs soaring, people can’t even hope to study themselves out of hard times.

It’s not a good time to be a child, because there is nothing sadder than growing up around adults who have themselves lost hope that our world will become a better place. It’s not a good time to be middle-aged, knowing that the Golden Age was 40 years ago, when the proportion of Americans in poverty was the lowest ever: only 11.1 percent. It’s expected to hit 15.7 percent under a president elected as an agent of Hope and Change.

But actually, there’s really nothing wrong with the world that a social revolution can’t fix. The fact that the two corporate political parties have no ideas worth listening to, simply means that the Democrats and Republicans can no longer even pretend that they can serve the 1% and take care of the rest of us at the same time. There’s no need to despair – just direct your political energies, elsewhere.

The intricacies of speculative hyper-capital become moot when you remove the speculating class.”

In times of crisis – and capitalism is in terminal crisis – political decisions may come more easily. In recent months, we have experienced two “scandals of the century” – the mortgage robo-signing debacle, and the unfolding Libor rig-the-whole-world scheme. If these actually were scandals of the century, we could look forward to 200 straight years of clean banking. However, when systems are in collapse, they produce an accelerating cascade of crises and scandals and emergencies of all kinds, each arriving more quickly than the last, and with greater severity. Like the old song said, We’ve only just begun. This crisis of capitalism will be full of drama. At the end of the story, we either get rid of the capitalist class or they bring the whole planet down with them. Along the way, the political choices get easier as the crisis becomes more acute. The Lords of Capital will make the process even simpler by their behavior; they’ll get meaner as their universe implodes.

One thing we do know: the Lords of Capital will never go broke, in the way normal people understand it. That’s because they don’t own things the way the rest of us do. Otherwise, how could there be hundreds of trillions of dollars in derivatives in a world that is only worth $75 trillion a year. Who owes what to who, and where did it come from? The intricacies of speculative hyper-capital become moot when you remove the speculating class.

Once the Lords of Capital are no longer the lords of anything, humanity gets another shot at rational development of the species and the planet. That’s the idea, anyway – to make a world in which its always a good time to be a child.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20120801_gf_PovertyCensus.mp3
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