National issues

Another voice against the attack on the Community Reinvestment Act

On October 3 Bill Moyers interviewed Emma Coleman Jordan about the mortgage meltdown and the latest cries that the Community Reinvestment Act is to blame. Coleman adds her voice to those of us who reject this nonsense.

Coleman teaches commercial law and economic justice at Georgetown University. She’s a former White House Fellow and assistant to the Attorney General, and has served as president of both The Association of American Law Schools and the Society of American Law Teachers. One of her latest books is “Economic Justice: Race, Gender, Identity and Economics.”

BILL MOYERS: There’ve been a lot of voices on cable channels recently blaming this bubble, this crisis, the cause of all of this catastrophe we’re in right now, on poor people who took out mortgages that they couldn’t afford to buy home they wanted. They shouldn’t have. Watch these clippings and tell me what you think about them.

LAURA INGRAHAM: 1995 when Bill Clinton decided to tell, you know, Robert Rubin to rewrite the rules that govern the Community Reinvestment Act and push all these institutions to lend to minority communities, many very risky loans, that was a noble idea, perhaps, but that certainly wasn’t following free-market principles.

NEIL CAVUTO:I don`t remember a clarion call that said, Fannie and Freddie are a disaster. Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster.

LARRY KUDLOW: It’s time for the Congress, Republicans and Democrats, to stop encouraging, exhorting, and forcing banks to make low income loans with no documentation. Stop that. The community reinvestment act which was passed in the mid nineties, which was extended in the early 2000s, literally pushed these lenders to make low income loans.

BILL MOYERS: Lending to minorities and risky people. Do you see this, are they seeing this as issues of race and class?

EMMA COLEMAN JORDAN: Absolutely. And it’s a cynical manipulation. It’s reprehensible. And, in the worse tradition of Lee Atwater, and the-

BILL MOYERS: Lee Atwater.

EMMA COLEMAN JORDAN: -Willie Horton ad, to use race as a wedge issue to make people who pay their mortgages believe that the people who are getting the benefit of the 700 billion dollars, that we’re being asked to pay, are poor, minority people who caused the crisis.

This is unconscionable. This problem is not a problem that was caused by the Community Reinvestment Act. The data is very clear that the Community Reinvestment Act loans were being offered in a way to people that were much more responsible and had none of the characteristics of default that are being attributed in this discussion. And what this does is to say, this problem is a problem that was caused by black people.

And it means that it gives an opportunity to bring up that old wedge. But I think the people in the country are smarter today. I just don’t think it’s going to fly. I think that people understand that the enemy is not a person who got a home loan and was tricked into getting that loan by a fast-talking broker who originated the loan but that the problem was the securitization process, the high leveraging that Wall Street was doing, the lack of regulation.

I hope, but am not sure, she is right about people not buying cynical ploy.

I started my commitment to housing justice for people and communities with low incomes in 1975 in Austin's Clarksville community. These years of working side-by-side with dedicated community leaders to find solutions to housing and community development challenges have taught me some things and I’m learning new things every day.

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