Public Racism is now a Hope for Voters’ Rights

clippers-donald-sterlingNew Orleans    Maybe in a weird, crazy way we are going to end up being able to find a silver lining in the dark cloud of the stark racism expressed recently by the Nevada rancher’s slavery bear hug and the Los Angeles Clippers’ owner’s snarling slurs to his mistress.  How could progressives have picked more outstanding representatives of the dug-in nature of racism than a 20-year law breaking squatter refusing to pay the government for grazing his cattle on Bureau of Land Management property or an 80-year old billionaire with a record of racial discrimination settlements for discrimination in his apartment empire giving racist advice to his multi-racial Mexican and African-American girlfriend?  You couldn’t order a present this good from Amazon even if you agreed to pay the shipping or find this on any aisle at Walmart’s among the 50,000 choices. 

            Almost as if it were planned rather than a coincidence, a federal judge in Wisconsin has now struck down the voter identification law there because it violates the 14th Amendment and also because it violates the Voting Rights Act as racially discriminatory.  In a 90-page opinion, he based his decision that voter ID’s are not only illegal because they were a solution looking for a non-existent problem, but also because he argued that 300,000 citizens in the state or 9% of the population, disproportionately made of racial minorities, were the people who lacked IDs and would therefore have voting obstacles.  Wisconsin will no doubt appeal, and the Supreme Court will have trouble not taking such a case.

            Supreme Court Justice Roberts is making his living claiming that racism and discrimination are so yesterday, over and done, that we no longer need affirmative action, voter protections or much of anything else in his lilywhite imaginary world.  But, now on the front pages day after day we have proof positive, way past all of the pretending, that there are deep veins of racism both among the high and mighty and the far flung and isolated, continuing to poison American life.

Too many of the big whoops have been lured into believing that they can buy a safe pass to conceal their hate.  One of the most tragic side stories in the Clippers’ saga is the role of the Los Angeles NAACP in giving multiple awards, whitewashing the owner in what one columnist called a “cash for karma” exchange. 

The fantasy of current racial harmony may be over thanks to these bums.  They make the reality of racism harder to ignore.  Justice cannot be based on a Beltway myopia, but an understanding of what exists everywhere across the country.  It also cannot be based on the way people pretend to operate, but what they really think, which is what determines what they really do.

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Bad Math and Foreclosures are Twin Towers of Banking

zzbofaNew Orleans  I know you are sick about hearing about foreclosures.  I sure am!  This has all gone on so long and so painfully, and now even the so-called settlements and cleanup of the mess is extending the tragedy.

            What do we have now?   Bank of America makes an accounting error and the miscalculation adds $4 billion in assets that don’t exist, so, big whoops, there goes the stock buyback program, a whooping percentage of its stock price, and any discussion of improving the dividend.  You know how much their big brass at the top of the financial pyramid are paid?  Do this at home on your tax returns or loan applications, then plead that the rules were confusing and you didn’t get, it and you could be facing fraud charges, brothers and sisters.   I think we can agree that the strengths of big bankers may be sitting on their paychecks, but clearly it is well proven now that math is not one of their close friends.

            Now new government reports on the mess banks made in mismanaging the foreclosure modification program for their friends at the Treasury Department are once again proving what we already knew about banking math mayhem.  Remember the tragic problem where the Federal Reserve and the Office of the Comptroller found that overly burdensome and lengthy reviews by bank-hired consultants were costing hundreds of mega-millions and needlessly dragging out compensation for borrowers who had been victimized by banking errors, often forcing them into needless foreclosures, while the bank buddies ran up the bills.  Sure you do, even if you don’t want to admit it.

            Correctly figuring that this crony self-regulation was going to make the bill for finding the mistakes almost as high as the bill for correcting the mistakes, the regulators figured the preliminary error rate at 6.5% and made a deal with 15 banks for $10 billion to give some, and frankly too few, foreclosure victims a modicum of relief.   Well, now it turns out that an unnamed bank that had completed more reviews found an error rate of 24% compared to a look at borrowers’ files for 11 banks having done less.  Controversially, of the $10 billion only $3.9 billion was going to involve cash payments to 4.4 million victims, which was small potatoes for big pain anyway you look at it.

            What if real investigators had been doing the work, and getting it done quickly, rather than bank buddy consultants milking the process?  What if the rate was really closer to 24% than to 6.5%, which is to say 3.7 times higher?   Well, then, everything being equal, which we’re finding out in the US is never true anymore, the settlement should have been $37 billion and 4.4 million victims would have shared almost $14 and a half billion within the terms of the deal. 

            I know we’re not supposed to deal with math and banking in the same breath anymore, but your average foreclosure victim might have noticed the difference in one check that was $3295 dollars versus the one they got which was only $886 bucks.  None of which seems enough for losing your house, but one seems more like a rounding error than justice to me.  Either way, it’s time to stop believing any math coming from banks that has to do with foreclosures or anything other than the accuracy of their own paychecks and what they pay their buddies.

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