Housing Policy? Obama Leaves It To The Bankers

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford


President Obama is pulling the same stunt with the housing crisis as he did with health care: packing his public policy events with corporate operatives while excluding the grassroots and progressives. "Only the bankers, the stock speculators and the academics that are paid by the rich, qualify as stakeholders at Obama's housing conference."

Obama Leaves Housing Policy to the Bankers


A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford


"No one that could plausibly be described as representing community, consumer, or tenant groups was invited."


It would be a great day if President Obama called a real national summit on housing.  The administration held a half-day conference purporting to be about housing this week, at the Treasury Department, but it was really a bankers' conference, with people like National Urban League president Marc Morial and a bunch of corporate-friendly academics thrown in for show. No one that could plausibly be described as representing community, consumer, or tenant groups was invited. But, of course, Wells Fargo, a bank that devastated whole Black neighborhoods from coast to coast, was there, as was fellow corporate criminal Bank of America.  There was even an economist from Moody's, one of the stock ratings companies that vouched for trillions in toxic securities, before the whole house of cards came tumbling down. These are the kinds of people that are invited to make public policy by the Obama administration.


A U.S. housing official at the conference said it provided "an opportunity to engage stakeholders and experts with broad knowledge and many perspectives." Apparently, communities groups, consumers and tenants - the people that actually live in the nation's housing stock - are not considered to be "stakeholders" by this administration. Only the bankers, the stock speculators and the academics that are paid by the rich, qualify as stakeholders at Obama's housing conference. Only they are deemed to have the "broad knowledge and many perspectives" necessary to make public policy.


In his opening remarks to the gatheirng, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner did not once utter the words "tenants" or "renters" - as if people that pay rent do not count for anything in the housing equation.


"Foreclosures have been above 300,000 every month for the last 17 months in a row."


No one was there to represent the millions of families that have been foreclosed on by the president's friends at Wells Fargo and Bank of America. Foreclosures have been above 300,000 every month for the last 17 months in a row, with no let-up in sight.


Obama is rigging the housing discussion in exactly the same way he rigged the debate over health care, packing the event with corporate executives and corporate-designated think tankers and totally excluding everyone that might not join the corporate consensus. Just as the drug and insurance companies were the only voices heard at Obama's health care summits, so it is only finance capital that talks at his housing discussion. Obama's modus operandi is little different from when the Bush-Cheney regime allowed the oil, coal and nuclear companies to write national energy policy. The only difference is, Bush was denounced for running a rich man's government, while Obama gets a pass. This special dispensation encourages Obama to complete the privatizing mission begun by Republicans.  In league with oligarchs like billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Obama administration caused the sale of 13 New York public housing complexes to the bankers at Citigroup. His vision for public housing is to deliver it to the banks. His vision for the millions of foreclosed homeowners is to make sure their bankers are not harmed. This is an administration of the bankers, by the bankers, and for the bankers. A private, and privatizing, affair.


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


BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].