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New York Times Finds Most Logical Defender of Michael Bloomberg

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Bloomberg’s comments about redlining were fine, says a column in the NYT:

Community organizers and fair-housing advocates accused him this week of embracing a “myth” that blames minorities for bankers’ misdeeds. But that accusation is unfair. True, Mr. Bloomberg goes easy on bankers: Complex derivatives, swaps, “tranching” and opaque offshore deals play no role in his account. But blaming minorities is the last thing he is doing. He is blaming Congress. Certainly there were many elements that brought on the finance crisis, but Mr. Bloomberg correctly identifies the major one: a flawed attempt to use credit markets to broaden access to housing. Studies bear that out.

The problem is that this isn’t correct:

Bloomberg was hardly alone in his conviction that unqualified minority homebuyers triggered the financial crisis by being so susceptible to predatory lenders: That idea took root on Wall Street even as the meltdown was in process, according to historians.

The facts of the financial crisis, however, don’t fit an account that puts the blame on minority buyers or fair-lending reforms. More than half of the subprime mortgages originated between 1998 and 2006 were loans for refinancing, according to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a grassroots organization working to end discrimination in lending. Fewer than 10 percent of subprime loan originations went to first-time homebuyers.

“When people were looking for answers for why mortgages seemed to be falling into default at the rate they were, there were corners of the financial community that had a ready narrative about creditworthiness,” says Nathan Connolly, director of the Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship Program at Johns Hopkins University.

The foreclosure crisis dealt tremendous damage to black and Latino neighborhoods. But white investors were disproportionately responsible for foreclosures in minority neighborhoods, according to a 2011 paper from John Gilderbloom at the University of Louisville and Gregory Squires at George Washington University. Their research shows that, in Louisville, there were approximately 2,000 foreclosure sales each year in 2007 and 2008. This figure breaks down to roughly 39 foreclosures in black communities (measured as census tracts) compared to about 20 foreclosures in white communities. Yet on average, 15 of the foreclosures in black communities happened on properties owned by non-occupant white investors, while white communities saw on average just two foreclosures on investor properties.

So who is the New York Times publishing as an authority to defend Bloomberg’s pro-redlining comments?

Yup, that Christopher Caldwell: the guy who has literally just written a book arguing that the passage of the Civil Rights Act was a catastrophe. You don’t have to take my word for it — here’s a description of his book in a positive review in the Claremont Review of Books:

One of the most astute observers of contemporary politics, Caldwell argues that the United States now has two constitutions. The first is the one on the books. The second arose in the 1960s and replaced the old liberties with new, incompatible ones based on group identities. “Much of what we have called ‘polarization’ or ‘incivility’ in recent years is something more grave,” he writes. “[I]t is the disagreement over which of the two constitutions shall prevail.” More bracing still, he puts the blame for this crisis on the most sacred totem in American politics: our civil rights legislation.

This argument — that had Jim Crow just been allowed to continue we wouldn’t have had any of these problems — is so racist it is quite literally the argument that forced Trent Lott to resign as Senate Minority leader. The review continues:

“Just as assuming that two parallel lines can meet overturns the whole of Euclidean geometry, eliminating freedom of association from the U.S. Constitution changed everything,” Caldwell writes. The Civil Rights Act passed under President Lyndon Johnson was meant to address an emergency situation that most Americans, even most white Americans, recognized as a national disgrace. Over the following decades, those emergency measures would be revealed as a permanent apparatus combining “surveillance by volunteers, litigation by lawyers, and enforcement by bureaucrats.” Civil rights offered “new grounds for overruling and overriding legislatures and voters on any question that could be cast as a matter of discrimination. That was coming to mean all questions.”

Leaving aside the racism, and the ridiculous idea that the Civil Rights Act ended “freedom of association” — as if this described a situation in which African Americans were routinely denied access to public accommodations and entire professions — is his surreally wrong description of the current state of constitutional law. The idea that the Roberts Court is enforcing a rigid egaliatraianism when it is in fact destroying the Voting Rights Act and denying the ability of local school boards to take even the most modest measures to address segregation is about as divorced from reality as it’s possible to be.

So, in short, the authority the Times brought in to defend the racist comments of a racist presidential candidate is a guy who thinks the Civil Rights Act was a horrible mistake and wrote a book premised on howlingly wrong anti-history to defend this claim. Cool, cool.

Here’s a good antidote.

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