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

It's a tradition. A weekend in September when dozens of major corporations sponsor public and private receptions, entertainment events, self-interested marketing, self-promoting seminars, and one “legendary” party --- I'm not exaggerating there, “legendary” is the title of this year's party --- all under the flag of the Congressional Black Caucus, through its Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, CBCF.

There was a time when the CBC used to call itself the conscience of the Congress. That however, was back in the days when black America still formed the reliable left anchor of US politics. Black constituencies were then and still are the most antiwar, the most interested in raising wages, in upholding the right to unionize and strike, the right full funding of decent housing, transit and quality education. But back then, corporations mostly kept their money out of elections and advocacy organizations in black and brown constituencies. So Latinos and blacks communities were able to elect officials on every level who actually stood on these principles. But since 2002, a tsunami of corporate dollars have bankrolled the careers of a new generation of black politicians, turned the heads and outlooks of some of the old ones, and now make up the main funding source for nongovernmental organizations from the NAACP to the National Action Network, the Urban League, and many, many more. Hence currently fashionable notions of corporate-friendly black leadership have little in common with that old “the conscience of the Congress” stuff.

We might be relatively poorer than any time in a generation, more unemployed than any time in two generations, and more incarcerated than anybody ever in history. But fighting austerity, cutbacks and privatizations are, for the black political class, off the table, especially with a black Democrat in the White House.

So most of the CBC Legislative Policy Conference's policy workshops, its networking sessions and its so-called “braintrusts” are the showcases, the mouthpieces and other orifices of the corporations on the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's advisory board. Individual caucus members are “honorary” co-chairs of each workshop, but sessions are generally delivered by entertainers, corporate execs, their lobbyists, their public relations stooges, and their astroturf organizations.

With vampire capitalists Goldman Sachs on the CBCF board, there are “braintrusts” in how to demand a moratoriums on foreclosures, or how to organize and promote resistance to evictions or gentrification or privatization. With military contractors like Lockheed on the board, giving voice to overwhelming black opinion that the wars should be ended is also out of bounds. If past conferences are any guide, you can however find multiple workshops and networking sessions to help you become a minority contractor with the Pentagon or Homeland Security. The Obama administration's privatizing Race To The Top is leading the assault on public education, so the single workshop given by the teachers union doesn't directly oppose those policies AND is balanced by multiple sessions of corporate charter-school propaganda.

With Fighting the Power off the table, what's left to do at CBC weekend but to Party Hearty? What else but to commemorate past victories, to celebrate past achievements and present prominence, to see and be seen. No doubt this year's black party at the Howard will indeed be “legendary.” That is what our self-interested, self-promoting, self-congratulating black political class is all about, and that's what they'll be known for, their permanent victory party, boasting, roasting, toasting and coasting.

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. He can be reached via this site's contact page, or at bruce.dixon(at)blackagendareport.com.

Direct download: 20120912_bd_boasting_roasting_toasting_coasting.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:33pm EDT

Why Is Barack Obama Holding Back Hundreds of Billions In Housing Aid?

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

The Obama administration refused to spend hundreds of billions allocated by Congress for housing relief, until the program expired in 2010.”

Protesters associated with the Occupy Wall Street movement charge the housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with refusing to lower the mortgage principles on 15 million homeowners who are underwater, their houses worth less than what they owe. The problem, say these activists, is Edward Demarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The protesters, including Occupy Our Homes and Right to the City, have been careful to frame Demarco as the problem; they’ve been calling for his head for many months. But Demarco is just a cog in a very big wheel, a career civil servant who is faithfully carrying out his president’s housing policies. Demarco deserves to be demonized, but President Obama is the real villain, here.

Although he oversaw the biggest bank bailout in U.S. history, Barack Obama has long rejected any bailout of homeowners. Before the financial meltdown, back in early 2008, candidate Obama opposed any form of moratorium on home foreclosures, putting him to the right of candidate John Edwards, who wanted a mandatory halt to foreclosures, and Hillary Clinton, who favored a voluntary moratorium. In the first two years of his presidency, it was Obama, not the minority Republicans, who stood in the way of a bailout of homeowners, even as his administration and the Federal Reserve funneled trillions of dollars to Wall Street. As reported in the New York Times, last month, the Obama administration refused to spend hundreds of billions allocated by Congress for housing relief, until the program expired in 2010. The money was just sitting there, unspent – no Republicans were blocking it – while five million families lost their homes.

Demarco deserves to be demonized, but President Obama is the real villain, here.”

According to the Times story, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told Obama that he would not spend money on housing even if another $100 billion was available. Geithner and Obama flaunted the specific will of Congress, refusing to come to the aid of those populations and regions most affected by the housing collapse. Almost $6.7 billion dollars set aside for the Hardest Hit Program sat idle in Treasury Department accounts for two years, because Geithner managed to spend only three percent of the money.

This was no accident or oversight, but deliberate and consistent Obama administration policy to leave the housing crisis for the banks to deal with in ways they saw fit. Federal intervention might upset the banks’ careful calibrations of how many families to dispossess, how many houses to put back on the market – and when – in order to keep the banks’ books looking healthy. It was never in the cards that the Obama team would support widespread reductions in mortgage principles. Their job, as they saw it, was to protect the bankers’ bottom lines, and to hell with the millions of Americans – disproportionately Black and brown – who got thrown into the street.

Yet, many activists, waving the Occupy Wall Street banner, insist that a bureaucrat named Edward Demarco is the devil behind all of this suffering. Even in protest, they can’t bring themselves to tell the whole truth – the truth that the people most need to know: that President Obama has callously allowed millions to be made homeless in his steadfast service to Wall Street.

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: 20120912_gf_Housing.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:27am EDT