Ezra Klein, Cheap Date:
Head Juiceboxer Ezra Klein climbs on the Spitzer Rehab wagon
, finding a muddled 2004 attack on "predatory lending" in the New Republic
"pretty prescient stuff."
Unfortunately, our belief in the importance of equal opportunity and nondiscrimination is too often forgotten when it comes to the debate over whether and how to police the market for home mortgages. In poor and working-class communities across the nation, predatory mortgage lending has become a new scourge. Predatory lending is the practice of imposing inflated interest rates, fees, charges, and other onerous terms on home mortgage loans--not because the imperatives of the market require them, but because the lender has found a way to get away with them. These loans (which are often sold as refinance or home improvement mechanisms) are foisted on borrowers who have no realistic ability to repay them and who face the loss of their hard-won home equity when the all-but-inevitable default and foreclosure occurs. ...[snip]
In these circumstances, government must step in to curb predatory lending and encourage the flow of fairly priced capital to sectors where it is needed and will be well-used. Filling a gap left by federal inaction, state enforcement efforts in this arena have centered on identifying the valid economic criteria considered in mortgage underwriting and compelling lenders to focus on those factors--not on preconceptions, prejudices, or predatory instincts--in determining how to price home mortgage loans. The point is not to protect people from their own bad decisions or, conversely, to guarantee that mortgages be granted to specific persons or groups on specific terms--that would violate the principle of market freedom. The point is to support equal opportunity and to ensure that borrowers are charged rates and fees based upon their status and qualifications as economic actors in the mortgage market, not upon their diminished access or market savvy or their race.
You make the call ... but I say Klein's easily impressed. What's Spitzer saying here? Is he saying the lenders shouldn't make these loans or that they should make these loans on more favorable terms--in which case the loans would have been even bigger money losers, leading to a bigger meltdown, no? Spitzer invokes the threat of action against "race" discrimination without any sense that official pressure toward affirmative-action style lending would help cause the subsequent mortgage collapse....
I'm not saying Spitzer shouldn't have an official, public role. Prosecuting bailed out Wall Streeters who take more money than they're entitled and won't give up their fancy cars would be a good fit, for example--Spitzer's bitter resentment, his self-promoting, accusatory, legalistic bent and his antipathy toward New York financiers
would work in the public interest. But Klein seems to be suggesting New York take him back as a general political leader-- e.g., mayor, governor. It's not as if Spitzer's tenure as governor before
Ashley Dupre was a huge success--unless you count as a success almost derailing b oth
Dem frontrunners for president with an ill-conceived plan to give drivers' licenses to illegal immigrants. ...
Bail us out again, please! ... Also:
Maybe this means Obama really is seeking significant bankruptcy-style sacrifices from the UAW. Or maybe this is just a campaign the UAW was always planning to stage at crunch time. ... P.S.:
Why are the labor concession negotiations focused on reducing payments to the health care fund that pays for UAW retirees' medical needs? Isn't it fairer to save money by cutting the base wage of those still working (currently about $29/hour
)? The retirees are hapless sitting ducks who arguably have earned their benefits. UAW members still working, on the other hand, have at least some
ability to adjust to lower wages over time--by seeking other work, once the economy recovers, or working more hours, or building better products, etc. ... Update:
Of course, it's possible that the goal is to ultimately stick the government with the bill for the health benefits--as suggested by Peter Boyer's
evocative-but-inconclusive New Yorker
. That would explain why the union would prefer to tap that form of "savings" first. ... More:
Boyer also suggests vaguely that Obama's task force wanted to dismiss the UAW's Ron Gettelfinger but "believed it didn't have the option of firing" him. ... The UAW may not quite have lost the New Yorker
, yet, but
they've lost Tina Brown's Daily Beast
("How the Unions Killed Detroit")
Former Mexican foreign minister (and Slate
contributor) Jorge Castaneda's recent
-- claiming that two officials removed by Raul Castro "were apparently involved in a conspiracy, betrayal, coup ...to overthrow or displace Raul"--was met with widespread skepticism
, to say the least. Castaneda bolstered his case by saying
"I have no way to substantiate any of this ... I have no evidence of it."
But Castaneda challenged his critics to "offer a better explanation." ... How about that Raul was, in the manner of strongmen everywhwere, simply removing two popular officials who might pose a threat to his power? ... 7:03 P.M.