FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
Did black folks cause the mortgage crisis and ruin the economy, and should Sarah Palin step aside for the good of the GOP? We've got these stories and more right now on our Bloggers' Roundtable. Here to weigh in, Carmen Van Kerckhove, she blogs at Racialicious and heads the anti-racism training company New Demographic, Jim Collier who writes the blog Acting White, and Shay Riley who writes the blog Booker Rising. Hi, guys.
So, you know, some folks are now saying that black people caused the mortgage collapse. Academic John Lott wrote a piece for Fox News Online saying, among other things, quote, "The changes in underwriting standards were pushed to accomplish what many called a noble goal, an increase in home ownership among poor and minority Americans, but the changes created a time bomb that was set off as soon as property values began to decline." But journalist and blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates fired back with a commentary for The Atlantic that said, there's a subset of conservatism that doesn't just oppose diversity and affirmative action, but will use virtually anything as a club to make their point. So, that's going back and forth, and back and forth. Jim, what do you think of this idea that black folks, and other people of color were, you know, in essence disproportionately responsible for the bad loans that they got, and for the economy's troubles?
Mr. JIM COLLIER (Blogger, Acting White): Well, Farai, I was, frankly, surprised at the comment. I mean, I guess I'm not so dismayed, I'm sort of used to these things. But I think it's really key that, you know, when people drive their neighborhoods, and no matter what neighborhood you drive, you see the signs out. And so if you live in a million dollar neighborhood, you see million dollar signs out, and if you're middle income you see that, and even if you're low income you see that as well. So, I mean, there's enough empirical evidence around to see that it actually does not fall on a single group.
I think what people are really missing, though, is way back in 2000 at the end of the big stock boom, some money left Wall Street, it left the stocks and it was pushed into the real estate market. And that money was trying to jump hurdle rates that it was used to for the roaring '90s, and they got loose and goosey in how they loaned it out. And now they're trying to put it on the backs of poor people when the reality is the friends of mine who are in trouble, are in trouble with over two million dollars of real estate each. And those are not poor people.
CHIDEYA: And, this is something that also is becoming a media issue. I mentioned the commentary from Fox News Online, but also on the air, Neil Cavuto who hosts Fox News's "Your World," also made a very sharp version of that statement which a lot of people got angry about. A sharp version of the whole statement that giving home mortgages to minorities really was the cause of this crisis. Carmen, how do think this is playing out as a media issue and a diversity issue?
Ms. CARMEN VAN KERCKHOVE (Blogger, Racilicious): Well, this is a really classic blame the victim strategy, so instead of blaming the people who actually have the power to make these decisions, you're blaming the victims of the fallout of this. And I think one of the key issues, to me, is the lack of visibility of stories of people of color in the media. I mean, when we talk about who's affected by this economic crisis, we hear about Wall Street and Main Street. You know, we see the Lehman Brothers bankers leaving their offices with, you know, their stuff in cardboard boxes, we hear about, sort of, the white suburban homeowner who's being put in jeopardy, but rarely do you actually see the stories of people of color who are affected by this crisis. And I think that, you know, arguably, in any kind of tough economic time it's often people of color who are disproportionately affected by that. And yet those stories are rendered completely invisible by the media.
CHIDEYA: Shay, do you think that this is a case where, you know, regardless of who - the manipulation sometimes of consumers that if you crunch the numbers, well, yeah, disproportionately blacks and Latinos did have mortgages that failed, and that we should just face up to that? How do you make sense of this?
Ms. SHAY RILEY (Blogger, Booker Rising): Well, I need to actually see the figures to see if that is indeed the case. And I don't believe that there was manipulation because there is also consumer responsibility to know what you're signing and to make sure you can afford the mortgage. But black people did not create this financial mess. It was big government which created this mess, whether it's tax breaks for homeowners, whether it's the de facto and now potentially actual government bailout guarantee, encouraging collaterization and sale of mortgages to investors, or even the Federal Reserve's monetary policy.
The government has its hands all over this mess. And in terms of inflating housing prices, and creating incentives for companies to give loans out to people who couldn't afford the mortgages in the first place because they know that if there's any risk, any downside, government, i.e. the taxpayers, will bail them out. And I don't think Democrats or Republicans should be for this, but yet both parties want to try to solve the problem with even more big government, which is ridiculous.
CHIDEYA: Well, Shay, let me stick with you on another topic. You've got some conservatives raining on Governor Sarah Palin's parade, George Will, David Brooks writing and criticizing her, and the conservative pundit Kathleen Parker saying that John McCain has to dump Palin from the ticket. She wrote a piece for the National Review, and she said that she was supporting Palin, but after seeing the interviews she said, quote, "If B.S. were currency, Palin could bail out Wall Street herself." That is pretty harsh. What do you think, Shay? Is there any chance that the GOP itself will start mounting a revolt and saying that Sarah Palin needs to go?
Ms. RILEY: I don't think so. I don't think that John McCain or the Republican National Committee will, you know, tell Sarah Palin to step down. I just think that's a politically untenable position for both of them to do. But, you know, there's been this - there's long been this cultural divide between I guess you would call them the conservative pundits, like George Will, et cetera, you know, who focus more on fiscal and national security issues as the thrust - the main thrust of their conservatism, versus people like Rush Limbaugh or Reverend James Dobson, who are cultural conservatives and who are more populist in nature, and who view the pundits as elitists. So, there's long been that tension within conservative, you know, the conservative movement.
And movement conservatives love Sarah Palin because they view her as non-elitist, she's kind of come up and had some struggles, both in her past and with her pregnant daughter. And they love her religious perspective. Whereas the pundit conservatives, who are more from the upper East Coast, you know, don't think she cuts the intellectual mustard, and just don't like her on the fiscal and national security issues.
CHIDEYA: Well Jim, you're blogging about some of the dump Palin issues. What are your thoughts on it?
Mr. COLLIER: Well, I mean, I actually - I appreciate this sort of dissention on the - in Republican partisan politics, because, you know, it's too easy for each of the groups to get into their sort of monolithic lockstep. And it's important to see that either group, whether it's Democrats or Republicans, can actually get to a point in their rhetoric where they actually believe that the country's health and welfare is at stake, and not just them winning.
And I think that this is what we're seeing with Republicans. And it's actually sort of refreshing. I hope that if the case was the same on the Democratic side that that's what we'd see. But personally, it's why I'm an independent, and because I try to make my own impartiality as opposed to sort of, again, walking in lockstep.
CHIDEYA: Carmen, when you think about what's going on, I mean, let's put this in context. There's really only one person who has ever been on and off the ticket. We're talking about vice-presidential candidate for the Democrats Thomas Eagleton in 1972. It was revealed he had gone through shock therapy for mental illness, for depression. That's a very specific case and a very specific time. Do you think that there is anything that, you know, aside from an actual crime that was proven at the last minute that can get someone off a presidential ticket?
Ms. VAN KERCHOVE: I think it's highly unlikely that we'll see Palin being asked to step down. You know, I wish I remembered where I read this, but either on someone's blog or Twitter feed, they said that, you know, we really need to stop calling this anti-intellectualism and start calling it dumb loving or stupid embracing. And, you know, I just really feel like Palin is just the epitome of this trend in the U.S. where especially, you know, when it comes to politics, there's, you know, this focus on, well, I want to vote for the person who's just like me. I want to vote for the person who I would want to grab a beer with.
This is not the time to vote for the person you want to have a beer with. You know, that's what happened - that's what got us eight years of George Bush. This is really the time to vote for the smart person who's going to be able to get us out of this mess. And clearly, from the awful, you know, cringe-inducing interviews that Palin did with Katie Couric, she has no idea how to do that. So, I just think it's, you know, as much as I would like to see it happen, I do think it's unlikely.
CHIDEYA: All right. What do you think about the debate tomorrow night, then, Carmen? Do you think that it's going to be a train wreck, either one side or the other, or both?
Ms. VAN KERCHOVE: Well, as a lot of commentators have pointed out recently, at this point, the expectations are so low that it's very unlikely Palin could possibly, you know, perform worse than people are expecting. So probably, it'll just seem OK.
CHIDEYA: Isn't that good for her?
Ms. VAN KERCHOVE: I mean, she'll just come off as seeming, oh, not quite as inept as maybe we had hoped, or expected.
CHIDEYA: All right. Shay, we touched on this earlier in the show with our political analyst, but PBS's Gwen Ifill is moderating the debate, and some conservative bloggers including Michelle Malkin are saying that she's pro-Obama, she's got a book that's going to come out on inauguration day, January 20th, 2009, called "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama." Should that disqualify her from being a moderator?
Ms. RILEY: Yes, it should, because she has a conflict of interest. Because, of course, if Obama should win the presidency that helps her book, so it's in her interest to, you know, push the Obama ticket. And she has, you know, been a supporter of Obama. At the very least, if she's not removed from tomorrow's debate, she should note her conflict of interest up front.
But, you know, on a larger note, I think we should just get rid of this pretense of moderation, because there's, to me, there's no such thing as objectivity when it comes to these debates. You know, whereas other people looked at the different debate moderators and noticed the lack of race and gender diversity, I noticed that too, but more importantly what I noticed was the lack of ideological diversity. And what I would prefer is just have a debate and let the two candidates go at it with very minimal moderation. So, I don't even like the entire set up. All right, yes...
CHIDEYA: Let me give...
Ms. VAN KERCKHOVE: She is biased.
CHIDEYA: All right. Jim, the final word, what do you think?
Mr. COLLIER: Yeah. I mean, yeah, I think that her reputation and history is one where she deserves the benefit of the doubt. I think where she has really crossed the line, and where she should step back though is this release of the product or the book on inauguration day. I think that's a promo gimmick designed to benefit her pocket and the publisher's pocket. And that's what really pushes the conflict of interest. And she should back away from that.
CHIDEYA: All right. Thanks, guys.
Mr. COLLIER: Thank you.
Mr. RILEY: Thank you.
Ms. VAN KERCKHOVE: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: We've been talking with Jim Collier who writes the blog Acting White. He was at the studios of the University of California - Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. Carmen Van Kerckhove, who blogs at Racilicious, who was at our New York studios, and Shay Riley, who blogs at Booker Rising. She was at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. You can find links to their blogs and ours at nprnewsandnotes.org and the conversation doesn't stop here. Our online series Speak Your Mind gives you a chance to sound off on the issues you care about. To find out how go to our blog nprnewsandviews.org, and click on speak your mind.