Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Obama's Other Legacy: "The Greatest Disintegration of Black Wealth in Recent Memory"


(Source, and a good read on its own)

by Gaius Publius

"Nothing is sadder than a man who disclaims his power to preserve his reputation."

I've been writing a lot lately about outgoing President Barack Obama's legacy, especially on climate issues (example here). This is another piece in that series. I want to quote something from David Dayen's recent response to Ta-Nehisi Coates' widely read "My President Was Black." Coates praises Obama. Dayen adds, in short, "Yes...but."

Here's Dayen. After recounting a conversation he had with a person named Andy who was going through the hell of defending himself from foreclosure during the mortgage crisis, Dayen comments (my emphasis):
Should Andy exhaust his appeals, he’d join over 9.3 million American families who have lost their properties since the housing bubble collapsed, either to foreclosure or an associated transaction. Given the average household size in the United States, that likely represents more than 20 million people, forced to uproot their lives and find shelter. This had a particularly gruesome effect on people of color, who stored more of their wealth in home equity and were targeted for subprime loans. Coates points out that white households now hold seven times as much wealth as black households; he doesn’t mention how that statistic grew worse under President Obama, mostly because of foreclosures. Former Representative Brad Miller calls the crisis “an extinction event” for the black and Latino middle class.

I agree with Coates that “there is nothing mere about symbols,” and Obama’s meaning to black America looms large. But that achievement must contend with Obama’s culpability for the greatest disintegration of black wealth in recent memory.

If Obama ever reads this critique, I suspect he’d mutter under his breath, as he disclosed to Coates he does habitually when confronted with activist demands. “Where I got frustrated at times was the belief that the president can do anything if he just decides he wants to do it,” Obama grumbles.

Nothing is sadder than a man who disclaims his power to preserve his reputation. The presidency is subject to countless veto points and constraints, but the foreclosure disaster was unique; Congress had already given the incoming president the authority to act.
Your takeaway in three bullet points:
  • Over nine million families — more than 20 million people — lost property during the mortgage crisis and had to find shelter or remain homeless.
  • Obama already had congressional authority to act, and didn't. 
  • As a result, Obama is culpable for the "greatest disintegration of black wealth in recent memory."
That's his legacy too. 

And for what did he do this? Dayen supplies his own answer in the quote I reprinted at the start of this piece, and I agree — "to preserve his reputation," his legacy. These simply the facts and must be acknowledged, despite the praise Obama's been lavished with lately. The homeless black man in the image above may owe his condition to the first black president.

A personal comment — Occasionally, when there's justice in the world, one is not just branded by the manicured and curated image one tries to project. One is branded instead by what one actually does in the sight of others.

Will Obama see more justice than the millions whose homelessness he caused? I guess that part of the story is still being written.


Labels: , , , ,


At 10:28 AM, Blogger Jesse Scott said...

I am curious what exactly you expected him to do?
congressional authority to do what exactly that would have instantly solved the housing crisis?

At 10:39 AM, Blogger Gadfly said...

Per my piece on Obama's legacy, there's even better responses to some major things Coates got wrong, from other African-American writers, than what Dayen said, which itself is not bad. Frankly, I think Coates was engaging in some psychological projection.

At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obamanation didn't TARGET blacks. His philosophy has always been to give good speeches but let the market fix itself. His half-measure STIM was a third of what it should have been, so he should have asked congress for double THAT. But he started at a number he could get and then bargained away a third of THAT to be more tax cuts for the wealthy.

His approach to banking was to take care of the bankers first, rich investors second and homeowners last.

His approach on ACA was to let the insurance and Rx companies write it with the precondidion that no PO would be part of it.

and so forth.

Congress had largely given a blank check to the executive BEFORE obamanation took his oath; and obamanation HAD nominated several Goldman-Sachs alums to run the treasury and economy for him; and bankERS had his oath to not prosecute in their pockets, so he COULD HAVE done something. He and his team and banks came up with HARP and HAMP, but never disseminated them well, so americans going through the sausage grinder remained ignorant. And of the few who tried to capitalize on them, most were run through the rube Goldberg maze created by banks to the point that very few people actually got a thing out of these programs. And obamanation never shamed or forced the banks into playing fair.

He could also have worked with the FED to backstop certain defrauded accounts, like insurance and pensions, instead of backstopping the big investors and banks. He/they should have insured the pensions for cops and teachers instead of guaranteeing investors (all the QEs); let the insolvent banks either go poof or be nationalized, broken up and sold off. Put Jamie dimon and Lloyd blankfein in jail with a few hundred more of their brethren. Presumably, a nationalized citigroup could have sold off the insurance and investment pieces and the commercial bank could have made loans/investments in jobs and infrastructure instead of even more speculation on markets and treasuries. And goldman-sachs should have been shuttered as the biggest crime syndicate in history.

But that's obamanation in a nutshell. He says a lot of progressive shit, but does none of it. He is equally indifferent to the plight of everyone who does not donate to his campaigns (5 figure minimum) regardless of race, creed, persuasion and heritage.

And, in order to not appear too black, he is extra indifferent to blacks being oppressed and killed.

He was, arguably, openly hostile to labor regardless of race also. For instance, when scott walker unilaterally stripped unions of all power in WI, obamanation forbade the DOL from going there to help the unions out.

He *IS* among our whitest presidents ever.

At 12:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where's your link to what Dayen wrote?

At 1:26 PM, Blogger Gaius Publius said...

Where's your link to what Dayen wrote?

Thanks for the catch, Anon. Fixed. Link also here:


At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Hone said...

Yes, Obama did not go after the bankers and Wall Street for what they did to so many Americans, especially blacks. All they got was a slap on the wrist and millions in earnings and bonuses. They were laughing their asses off while many Americans were foreclosed out of their homes.

And don't forget the lying, corruption and violation of the Geneva Conventions that led us into the Iraq War and wastes hundreds of millions (trillions?) that could have been used to help people who were screwed in the crash. Obama let all that slide, too. Bush et al. should have been held accountable but Obama did nothing.

Yet Obama is a decent man, erudite, and moral. He is a great speaker. We will soon, very soon, yearn for him. Now look at what we got. An ignorant, corrupt, impulsive, vindictive, disturbed man who has no class and never reads a book. He cares NOTHING about helping anyone. He only cares about enriching himself and he is proceeding just like he did during the campaign. He is basically saying, "Fuck You, America" - I am the President and I can do whatever I want and get away with it!." We will see, won't we, Mr. Trump? His brazenness and mental disturbance may well catch up with him. Oh, to see him shamed and embarrassed! How red in the face he will be when he is thrown out of office. Its looks more and more likely that that will happen. He cannot possibly get away with all of this shit, can he?

At 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I subscribe to the old saw (from that thing that so many call scripture -- the bible -- no less) that the measure of someone is not what they say nor what they think nor what they say they think. It is *ONLY* what they do.
(From their fruits shall ye know them)

Using that yardstick, I cannot call obamanation decent or moral (unless his morals are his devotion to killing and money). I'll give you erudite. Compared to his predecessor and successor, he's friggin Shakespear.

Seeing as how obamanation was the midpoint on the vector between cheney and der fuhrer, I will never yearn for him. Given time, he'd have led us to the same place drumpf will take us. He'd have taken longer is all.

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never once called Obama "President", for he never did anything to earn it. Neither did Bush, Bill Clinton, Poppy Bush, or Reagan. Carter was the last occupant of the Oval Office whom I did so address, but he lost that once his corporatist leanings emerged and his lack of action with the power he had showed he was out of his element.

I hope to live long enough to again bestow the honorific of President upon a worthy official, but once Trump gets done wrecking the nation, I doubt there will be such an honoree.

At 7:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

to Jesse Scott:

What he should have done, bound by oath in fact, was to put bank fraudsters in prison so that their crimes would not be repeated and their crimes would be ... frowned upon in the future.

What he DID was to promise these criminals ($20 trillion in wealth lost) that nobody would be indicted in order that they support his campaigns to the tune of a half billion or so.

Again, not specifically targeting blacks/minorities. But the facts are that the dodgy mortgages targeted poorer consumers disproportionately. The fraudulent securitization and marketing of bonds defrauded investors like pension funds and insurance investments. The effect of the collapse of the bonds torpedoed the value of those things which affected the middle class' designed safety nets.


Post a Comment

<< Home