Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thoughts on McDonald v. Chicago

I am disappointed at the Supreme Court’s decision to expand gun ownership in Chicago and across the nation. The McDonald v. Chicago ruling calls into question the right of U.S. citizens to enact sensible gun regulation and may gut reasonable gun control. Supreme Court decisions always have broad application. We would do well to remember that the 2nd Amendment protects the right of the people to form militias, not vigilante squads.

Ironically, the ultimate losers may be gun owners, many of whom will lose their lives or the life of a loved one with the guns they cherish. Gun manufacturers win, funeral parlors win. Emergency rooms will be more crowded. Where are the limits to this sweeping ruling protecting the right to bear arms? Apparently assault weapons are now legal. What about a howitzer? It is more important now than ever before to do everything we can to prevent gun violence. Other nations without widespread gun ownership are safer and less violent than the U.S. Guns must be kept out of the hand of felons, gun traffickers, domestic violence offenders, mentally ill individuals, and youth.

In a weird turn, Justice Thomas traced the origins of gun control to post-Reconstruction terrorism in the South propped up by Black Codes prohibiting blacks from owning weapons. It was wrong for the Klan and other terrorists to intimidate blacks in 1880 and it is wrong now to assume that guns can make us safer in 2010. Now, the states and locales are free to enact legislation as mindless as the new Georgia statute permitting concealed weapons at airport check points and in churches. At a time when state and local budgets to hire and train police are constrained, the Court has authorized putting millions more guns on the nation’s streets. This is short-sighted, unwise public policy. For months, I have been calling for an urban policy. I had in mind jobs and education, not more guns and more violence.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Causes of the Crisis

June 3, 2010

Early this morning I watched a replay as the Oracle of Omaha testified before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which is charged with investigating the cause of the global financial crisis. It was very interesting. One of the questioners attempted to get Mr. Buffet to blame Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for the mortgage meltdown. He refused. Instead he indicated that Fannie and Freddie were doing what the Congress charged them to do. From the perspective of civil and human rights advocates who supported expanded home ownership, this is a very important point.

Some (mostly arch-conservative Republicans) in Congress and (laissez faire capitalists in) the marketplace have tended to blame efforts to expand home ownership for the meltdown. Instead, Mr. Buffet indicated that with mortgage loan payments reaching 50% of homeowner income, marketers and regulators should have known that the mortgage boom was not sustainable. He also cited sudden and drastic credit tightening as an important contributing factor to the credit crisis.

Because the conclusions of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission will be used to inform public policy for decades to come, it is critical that we get the right answers now. Today, we take the FDIC for granted. Just as the FDIC was created in 1933 in response to the thousands of bank failures that occurred in the 1920s and early 1930s, the Great Recession will also have a legacy. Whether that legacy will be permanently tightened credit for consumers or more robust regulation of capital depends largely upon how we interpret the causes of the crisis.

It is not surprising that the mainstream financial media will focus on Mr. Buffett’s ideas about compensation of credit rating agencies (they should have some skin in the game to keep them honest) but glosses over his opinions about the culpability of individual homeowners. The Street is not known for its concern about Main Street. But those of us who know Main Street well must make sure that the voices of everyday Americans are not drowned out as we search for causes and cures.

We need your help to make sure the policy makers and pundits hear your voice. Donate to Rainbow PUSH today. Visit www.rainbowpush.org. $25.00 will help us make the voices on Main Street heard.