Trump’s Cult of White Victimhood

The Progressive
By Orson Aguilar

In recent days, the Trump administration has removed all doubt about its desire to escalate a war on Americans of color while appealing to a cult of white victimhood.

As August began, word filtered out about a planned Justice Department attack on university affirmative action programs that supposedly discriminate against white applicants. The White House scrambled, and argued that the story was overblown. But there was nothing surprising about it. Indeed, the president’s press secretary stressed the White House’s determination to  “always review credible allegations of discrimination on the basis of any race.”

Let’s be clear: The limited use of race still allowed by the courts in college admissions at best barely makes up for the systemic advantages whites have because of America’s long history of discrimination and redlining.

African Americans and other minorities are more likely to attend underfunded, struggling schools, are less likely to have a parent or other close relative who’s been to college, and on and on.

The idea that these programs discriminate against whites is ludicrous. But it’s par for the course from a race-baiting administration that wants to crack down on legal immigration and has assembled a “voting integrity” commission that seems mostly interested in suppressing the votes of people of color and the poor. Trump’s team also appears bent on reversing police reforms intended to curb racist practices, even as the president recently seemed to encourage police violence against suspects, who tend to be disproportionately black and Latino.

Clearly, our president has staked his political future on stoking racial divisions so that he can emerge as the hero of “victimized” whites. Words barely exist to describe how dangerous this is, and how easily it could lead to more divisions in our country.

It’s also a complete fraud, an old trick long used by wealthy elites to keep working-class Americans fighting each other rather than taking on the big-business interests ripping them off.

It’s easy to forget now, but the South was not nearly as racially segregated right after the Civil War as it became in later decades. The race-baiting push for Jim Crow laws was consciously stirred by white business elites in reaction to populist movements in which working class whites and blacks began to come together for their own economic interests.

It worked, resulting in a South that was both racially segregated and economically backward, with severe poverty, low wages and a weak labor movement.

Now, Trump and his allies are again stoking racial tension, even as they seek to cut taxes on the rich by shredding health care for everyone else, dismantle protections for workers and consumers, and tear down environmental protections that stop wealthy corporations from poisoning our communities.

Trump’s Budget Escalates His War On People Of Color

Huffington Post
By Orson Aguilar

58 percent of the Medicaid population is non-white.

“Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for ‘the least of these.’” —Martin Luther King Jr.

Some readers thought I went too far by calling policies pushed by the Trump administration and Congress a war on Americans of color. But the president’s new budget proposal shows it’s even worse than I thought.

Even some Republicans have been rightly horrified at how the administration’s proposed budget cuts so much of what’s good, decent and useful that the federal government does, from food assistance (cut by a staggering $193 billion over 10 years) to Medicaid. But we can’t forget that this budget targets some groups more than others, and the attack on Americans of color has never been more overt.

Those massive Medicaid cuts, for example, will hurt millions who depend on the program for basic health care. Because people of color are less likely to have employer-provided health insurance and, thanks to America’s ongoing racial wealth gap, have less money with which to buy insurance, 58 percent of the Medicaid population is non-white.

But Trump’s proposed health cuts go far beyond Medicaid. They target disease prevention efforts at the CDC as well as vital programs that help train young people from diverse backgrounds to work in health professions. This not only cuts off a pathway out of poverty, it also means that blacks, Latinos and Asian Americans will be less likely to see a health provider who understands their community and culture, leading to worse care.

Massive cuts to affordable housing and other programs run by the Department of Housing and Urban Development would also disproportionately hurt low-income communities of color. When these cuts were first floated back in March, housing advocates called them “unconscionable,” and nothing has changed that situation. For example, Community Development Block Grants, which help struggling neighborhoods with needs ranging from infrastructure improvements to housing assistance, would be wiped out completely.

On the financial front, the Trump budget would gradually defund the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was created largely because of predatory lending that targeted black, Latino and Asian communities in the run-up to the 2008 crash. The budget plan also attacks a number of programs that have been crucial to small, minority-owned businesses.

For example, the budget proposal caps the Community Development Financial Institution Fund, a vital lifeline for community development banks, credit unions, and mission-based lenders – institutions that are often the only feasible source of capital for minority-owned small businesses. It would also wipe out the Minority Business Development Agency, which runs programs and services to better equip minority-owned firms to expand and create jobs in their communities. Because these firms tend to be smaller in size than white-owned firms and have less access to conventional sources of credit and capital, CDFIs and the MBDA have played a crucial role in strengthening this sector of our economy. Cutting them will cost jobs, and most of those jobs will be in communities of color.

Environmental cuts will also disproportionately hurt communities of color, as these communities – too often used as toxic dumping grounds ― consistently suffer from the worst pollution problems. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice program would disappear completely, Native American pollution control programs would be slashed by nearly a quarter, Superfund toxic waste site cleanup would be cut by $330 million and grants to state and local air pollution control districts would be cut by 30 percent.

Also facing complete elimination is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps low-income families keep the lights and heat on. Until Americans of color catch up with their white counterparts in levels of employment, income and wealth, cuts to programs that alleviate poverty will always hit them the worst.

And, in one final bit of pointless cruelty, Trump’s proposed budget contains a provision that would make it far easier for the administration to withhold funds from sanctuary cities. Trump administration officials justify this as a crackdown on crime, but research shows that sanctuary cities – in which officials follow the law but don’t go beyond it in assisting with deportations – have lower crime rates than cities without sanctuary policies.

While the Trump administration budget literally contains something to hurt every American, it’s our communities who will be hurt first and worst if this atrocity passes.

Trump Wants to Make Redlining Easier

The Progressive
By Preeti Vissa Kristipati

The administration is moving to cut public access to information on how, and to whom, banks loan money.

Redlining – the practice of denying loans to home buyers and others based on their race or ethnic background – has been illegal for decades.

But, last year, the investigative news outlet Reveal published a massive investigation strongly suggesting that redlining continues today. Now, the Trump Administration is moving to cut public access to the information that helped Reveal produce its report.

Reveal’s reporters spent a full year analyzing 31 million records collected under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA), a law passed in 1975 to give policymakers the information needed to identify and combat lending discrimination. Under HMDA, banks and other mortgage lenders must report information like the type of property, the loan amount, and the sex, race and ethnicity of borrowers.

Reveal found that African Americans and Latinos—and in some locations Asian Americans and Native Americans, too—were far more likely to be turned down for conventional mortgages than white borrowers. That pattern remained even after controlling for factors like household income and the amount of the loan in relation to that income.

Reporting requirements under HMDA were updated by the Dodd-Frank financial reform act and again by the Obama Administration to give regulators a clearer picture of what’s happening. The updated rules required lenders to report every loan’s interest rate and the relationship between an applicant’s income and total amount of debt the would-be borrower was taking on. They also required more detail on ethnicity—like whether an Asian American borrower, for example, was of Chinese or Cambodian heritage.

Now the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—formerly a tough consumer watchdog that’s fast becoming a bankers’ lapdog—has proposed new rules that would roll back the information requirements added by the Obama Administration. The bureau says it will close a web portal that has allowed easy public access to this information, giving vague promises to eventually develop a new tool for this purpose.

The proposed updates would exempt some lenders, such as smaller banks and credit unions, from having to report at all—even though some of them make more loans to low-income borrowers than do major banks. The administration claims these changes will provide “much needed relief” from supposed regulatory burdens.

But this makes no sense. Banks had already begun collecting and reporting the data that was required under Obama. The systems and procedures to do it are in place and working. Changing the rules now won’t relieve any regulatory burdens; it will make lenders rewrite their procedures yet again.

Redlining produced an enormous racial wealth gap, in which the median white family has roughly twenty times the wealth of the median black family. While lenders no longer draw red lines on maps to mark off non-white neighborhoods as no-mortgage zones, Reveal found they often still either declined loans entirely to black people and Latinos or steered them into the sort of high-cost subprime loans that sent millions of people into foreclosure a decade ago.

If the Trump Administration succeeds, that discrimination will continue and be much harder to detect.

Trump Team Limits Internet Access for Those Who Need it Most

Miami Herald
By Paul Goodman

In today’s tech-powered economy, functioning without a reliable, high-speed internet connection, known as broadband, is almost impossible. But the Trump administration and the Republican Congress are waging attacks on nearly everything that keeps broadband affordable and protects those of us who communicate online.

The ability to access the internet has become essential in many areas of life. More and more companies only advertise jobs and accept applications online. College and trade school applications have moved online as well. Information on things ranging from business opportunities to essential government services to life-saving emergency alerts often reaches us via the internet first.
But roughly one third of Americans still don’t have access to a broadband connection at home, and in rural areas, it’s nearly half. Those with annual incomes above $75,000 are twice as likely to have broadband access as those earning below $30,000. Latinos and African Americans lag behind other ethnic groups.

In some places, broadband infrastructure simply doesn’t exist. In rural areas and in communities facing economic challenges, broadband companies may not see any profit in building out their networks.

The federal government has helped expand broadband networks via the Connect America Fund — similar to programs that brought electricity and telephone service to rural America. But new Federal Communications Commission Chair Ajit Pai has indicated that he wants to put impossible new conditions on this program in soem casesmaking the build-out requirements so high that companies would stop participating — leaving millions with no broadband access.

Cost poses another challenge. The Obama administration spurred real progress in making broadband affordable to the less fortunate. Last April, the FCC expanded the Lifeline program — which for years has made telephone service affordable to low-income Americans — to include broadband access as well.

This simple reform had the potential to bring broadband to millions who most need it for things like education, job searches and applications. Late last year, the FCC approved nine broadband providers to start participating.

And then, last month, in a stunning move, Pai — who opposed the Lifeline expansion — reversed course and blocked those companies from participating.

Pai has yet to make his long-term plans clear, but things look bleak for poor and working-class Americans missing out on the tech revolution. Pai and his congressional allies also want to gut rules on net neutrality that keep your internet provider from giving preferential treatment to the wealthy and big corporations while leaving ordinary Americans to fend for themselves. And they’re moving to shred privacy protections that let people control what personal data internet provider can collect and how they can re-use or sell this information.

These changes may not get headlines, but they have a huge impact on people’s lives.

Trump Seeks to Neuter Financial Watchdog

The Progressive
By Orson Aguilar

The Trump administration would like to make it easier for shady Wall Street firms to rip you off. To this end, it is working to undo one of the smartest things that Congress ever did.

Recognizing that dishonest lending practices led to the 2008 financial crash, Congress created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to crack down on such financial sleaze. It wisely designed the CFPB as strong agency with built-in independence from political pressures and big-bucks lobbying.

Now, President Donald Trump has tapped one of the CFPB’s leading opponents to run it, a move that will absolutely harm literally every American who uses money—to the delight of shady subprime lenders, payday loan firms and credit card companies that gouge their customers.

Trump’s pick, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, has called the CFPB “sick, sad” and “the very worst kind of government entity.”As a member of Congress, he co-sponsored legislation to eliminate it. He arrived on the job Nov. 27 with donuts for staff, proclaiming that his charge was to make the agency stop “trampling on capitalism.”

Under just-departed Director Richard Cordray, the CFPB has defended ordinary Americans from rip-offs in mortgages, credit cards, student loans, payday lending and more, securing $12 billion in relief for Americans gouged by shady financial firms. It has forced banks and other financial businesses to make clearer disclosures so that those getting mortgage loans, for example, can actually know what they’re agreeing to.

Before leaving, Cordray appointed his chief of staff, Leandra English, as deputy director. The law that created the CFPB specifies that the deputy director shall act as director in the event of a vacancy at the top, and the law’s legislative history makes it clear that’s exactly what Congress meant. And English unmistakably has the capacity, experience and skills to serve as acting CFPB director and keep the bureau running effectively.

But Trump has instead installed his designated hatchet man as acting director to dismantle consumer protections. English has filed a lawsuit to block this power grab. A federal judge appointed by Trump has refused to block the appointment, but English’s attorney says he is determined to continue the fight.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is some obscure legalistic squabble. It will affect all of us.

The American economy works better when financial markets work to serve, not harm, ordinary Americans. We saw in 2008 what happens when abuses run rampant. The American people, particularly low-income Americans and people of color who have been historically targeted by unscrupulous financial firms, deserve to have their pocketbooks protected by a strong consumer watchdog led by a director who genuinely looks out for regular folks.

That’s precisely what we won’t have if Mick Mulvaney is allowed to run the CFPB despite the legal clouds over his appointment. Watch your wallet.

Trump Puts Housing Crash Foxes in Henhouse

By Debra Gore-Mann
The Progressive

The 2008 housing crash wiped out the savings of millions of people and sent America’s homeownership rate crashing to its lowest level in 50 years. But a few tycoons made out like bandits — and some of them are now guiding economic policy in the Trump administration.

This shocking and underreported history is laid out by award-winning journalist Aaron Glantz of the investigative news outlet Reveal in his new book, “Homewreckers,” published Oct. 15.

In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, I was working on Wall Street when investment banks bought residential home loans from commercial banks, bundled them into mortgage-backed securities, and sold them off. At first, regulations from the Glass-Steagall Act separated investment banks and commercial banks, and homeowners had some protection. But a variety of predators began chipping away at consumer protections until the whole industry came crashing down.

I left investment banking because I couldn’t see what value it provided. All the banks did was generate more transactions, more fees, and churn the same securities over and over. And the most frequent victims of these predatory lending practices were communities of color and working families.

Glantz, in his book, looks at how a few financiers scooped up piles of foreclosed properties at fire-sale prices, often with help from taxpayers. While many groups — including the Greenlining Institute, which I now lead — pleaded for more relief for struggling homeowners, federal agencies made sweetheart deals that turned former homeowners into renters and made some very rich people richer.

Worse, several of those who got richer on others’ misery ended up with plum jobs in the Trump administration, where they have weakened the rules set up to protect consumers and try to avoid another crash. They include Joseph Otting and Steve Mnuchin of OneWest Bank, now serving as comptroller of the currency and secretary of the Treasury, respectively, and Wilbur Ross, now secretary of Commerce.

Otting, for instance, is leading an effort to weaken the Community Reinvestment Act, the essential anti-redlining law passed in the 1970s, seeking to undermine the law’s goal of ensuring that banks invest in long-redlined communities.

Mnuchin, meanwhile, is working to dismantle the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the consumer watchdog put in place after the crash. As Sen. Elizabeth Warren, one of CFPB’s original architects, put it, “It comes as no surprise that Donald Trump and Steven Mnuchin — two men who were deeply involved in companies that cheated thousands of customers — would want to gut the agency that’s held cheaters accountable.”

The administration weakened protections against predatory lending — for example, by slashing the rule designed to curb the worst practices of the notoriously abusive payday lending industry, infamous for trapping borrowers in cycles of debt. A rule that would have made these lenders confirm that borrowers are able to repay their loan went out the window.

As Glantz explains, the very people who profited from the misery of the housing crash are now setting the rules of the financial system in ways guaranteed to create more victims. “Drain the swamp” has turned into “invite the thieves to update your burglar alarm.”


Transportation Planning: People First, Not Cars

Capitol Weekly
By Hana Creger and Alvaro Sanchez

If you’ve ever sat in traffic crawling at 5 miles per hour or been late to an appointment because of inadequate public transportation, I don’t need to tell you that transportation represents a constant challenge in California. Too many of those problems stem from a planning process that has consistently failed to put people first. California can do better.

And let’s not kid ourselves about which people are most likely to get left out of transportation planning decisions: Low-income communities of color. Go to almost any major urban area and you’ll see freeways built to whisk drivers from wealthy areas to the airport or downtown business districts, slicing through and disrupting low-income neighborhoods.

People of color breathe disproportionate levels of toxic smog from transportation-related emissions, which contributes to higher rates of asthma, cancer, and other illnesses than their white counterparts. In addition, low-income people—who are disproportionately people of color—spend a greater proportion of their income on transportation costs compared to wealthier people. The poorest 20 percent of Americans spend 40.2 percent of their take home pay on transportation (mostly for private vehicle expenses), while those who make $71,898 and greater only spend 13.1 percent.

Meanwhile, officials keep pushing for new and wider freeways, car-centric bridges and other projects that ultimately just increase traffic and worsen pollution.

Enough. It’s time for California to rethink transportation planning and establish a planning process that puts people first. And that process must clearly and specifically take into account the needs of those whose needs have traditionally been marginalized or ignored altogether, particularly communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. We have some ideas about how to accomplish this.

With the help of a technical advisory committee with multifaceted experience in transportation planning and environmental justice, The Greenlining Institute has put together a Mobility Equity Framework that lays out a new path.

We propose that transportation planners follow three steps:

1. Conduct a community needs assessment. Start by asking, “What are the most pressing, unmet transportation needs of a particular underserved community?” But don’t just pose that question to a room full of politicians and bureaucrats. Instead, reach out to the community that’s impacted via community meetings, surveys, online forums and other mechanisms, following a process known as participatory budgeting. You don’t have to invent the wheel: A wealth of guides and toolkits can be found in the Participatory Budgeting Project’s Resource Center.

2. Do a Mobility Equity Analysis.
Not all modes of transportation are created equal, particularly in their impact on communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. For our Framework, we’ve identified 12 crucial equity indicators. Looking closely at these 12 factors forces planners to consider issues like affordability, reliability, effects on pollution and health, as well as other factors that might lead to particular harm in under-resourced communities. A systematic, community-based review of these factors (which can, of course, be augmented based on individual community needs) can help clarify who benefits and avoid unintended negative impacts

3. Elevate community decision-making power. It’s not enough to make a show of listening to the community but then shut the public out of the actual decision-making process. Public participation throughout the processes of identifying needs, brainstorming project ideas and voting can take place in the form of town halls, community meetings, mail-in ballots, or other formats best suited to the community.

This all may sound rather radical. It’s not. Some agencies have already started putting some of these ideas into practice. For example, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission just became the first transportation funding agency to utilize participatory budgeting, and will now fund pilot projects in disadvantaged communities.

What we propose does represent a major shift away from how California and its cities and counties have traditionally done transportation planning. But look around. Look at the snarled traffic, the overwhelmed public transit systems and stubbornly wretched air quality in so much of our state.

Isn’t it time to try something new?

Ed’s Note: Hana Creger is Environmental Equity Manager and Alvaro Sanchez is Environmental Equity Director at The Greenlining Institute.

Transfer Day Assumed Credit Unions Are Virtuous

American Banker
By Preeti Vissa

It’s hard to pin down precise numbers, but anecdotal reports in news outlets across the country suggest that hundreds of thousands of Americans responded to “National Transfer Day” campaign by switching their deposits from major banks to credit unions.

But did those consumers accomplish what the campaign’s supporters wanted — to vote with their dollars for institutions with more concern and responsibility for their communities?

Continue reading “Transfer Day Assumed Credit Unions Are Virtuous”

Tipo De Buses Que Comprará LA Metro Afectará Los Ángeles Por Años

La Opinión
By Joel Espino y Dr. Jimmy O’Dea
La inversión de Metro en buses eléctricos le daría un empujón a la economía regional.

Esta semana, LA Metro, la segunda agencia metropolitana de tránsito más grande de los Estados Unidos, decidirá qué tipos de buses comprará durante la próxima década. La decisión afectará los esfuerzos de Los Ángeles para limpiar el aire, combatir el cambio climático y crear oportunidades económicas.Hoy en día, Metro cuenta con una flota de 2,200 buses operados exclusivamente con gas natural. Hace 20 años cuando Metro empezó a reemplazar sus buses de diesel, el gas natural era una mejor opción de combustible, pero comparado con otras tecnologías disponibles actualmente, ya no merece el título de combustible limpio, o clean, impreso sobre los buses de Metro. Gracias a los avances tecnológicos los buses eléctricos ahora son una opción más limpia y más viable. Es hora que Metro continúe su liderazgo en la lucha contra la contaminación del aire e inicie la transición a la tecnología más limpia que existe, o sea, buses eléctricos.

A principios de este año, una coalición de pasajeros del transporte público, sindicatos, y grupos de salud pública lanzaron una campaña pidiéndole a Metro que liderara la transición a una flota de buses eléctricos alimentados por energías renovables. Para las comunidades más afectadas por la pobreza y la contaminación del aire, la electrificación de los buses de Metro traería beneficios directos como mejor calidad del aire y más y mejores trabajos. El alcalde Garcetti recientemente instó a Metro para que finalizara la transición en el 2030.

A pesar de años de trabajo y mejoras, Los Ángeles continúa siendo una de las ciudades con peor calidad del aire en los EE.UU. Los vehículos de carga pesada, como los buses, son una de las principales fuentes de esta contaminación del aire. Residentes de comunidades como las de Wilmington o Bell Gardens que viven cerca de vías con altos niveles de tráfico y cerca de corredores de tráfico pesado, hoy por hoy, sufren las consecuencias de la contaminación del aire, tales como mayor riesgo de cáncer de pulmón, enfermedades coronarias y muerte prematura.

El año pasado investigamos este tema y encontramos que los buses eléctricos producen menos emisiones y contaminan el aire mucho menos que los buses de gas natural. Los buses eléctricos no producen emisiones por combustión, reducen el calentamiento global y traen nuevos trabajos. También son mejores para sus pasajeros y conductores, y para las comunidades que viven cerca de vías transitadas y en donde la contaminación del aire es severa.

Nuestro análisis reveló que la manufactura de buses eléctricos, y la construcción y mantenimiento de la infraestructura de recarga que estos buses necesitan, tienen el potencial de crear mejores empleos y traer beneficios económicos a las comunidades más necesitadas.

Existen dos tipos de buses eléctricos que Metro podría comprar; los dos tipos conllevan beneficios significativos. Los buses de batería eléctrica resultan en 70% menos emisiones relacionadas al calentamiento global que los buses de gas natural. Los buses cargados con hidrógeno resultan en 50% menos emisiones que el gas natural. Adicionalmente, los dos tipos de buses producen 50% menos de las emisiones conducentes a la formación de smog que los buses de gas natural.

Los buses eléctricos tienen un rango de 200 millas o más de distancia. Con menos partes y motores eléctricos más duraderos, los costos de mantenimiento son más bajos para los buses eléctricos. Además, los buses eléctricos pueden acelerar y remontar igual de bien o incluso mejor que los buses de diesel y de gas natural.

La inversión de Metro en buses eléctricos le daría un empujón a la economía regional, incluso al menos ocho fabricantes de buses y camiones eléctricos en la región de Los Ángeles, e incentivaría el entrenamiento de mano de obra en comunidades de bajos recursos para suplir estos puestos.

Metro no puede cambiar toda su flota a buses eléctricos de la noche a la mañana, pero a medida que descarta buses de gas natural debería reemplazarlos con los limpios y silenciosos buses eléctricos. Casi 20 agencias metropolitanas de tránsito en California han asumido su responsabilidad, han empezado a electrificar sus buses y se han comprometido completamente, o significativamente, a operar sin producir emisiones. Las comunidades más pobres y contaminadas de California dependen de este cambio.

Time to Control Crippling Health Insurance Rate Hikes

Our Weekly
By Earl “Skip” Cooper

Legislation requires regulators’ approval

An important piece of legislation aimed at protecting our families and small businesses from astounding increases in health insurance costs is moving ahead in the state legislature.

All of us need to tell our representatives to pass this important bill right away.

Continue reading “Time to Control Crippling Health Insurance Rate Hikes”