It is standard operating procedure for the left to force change based on "good intentions" and then run like school girls when the bill for the consequences come due. It virtually guarantees that they never learn from history. As Jonah Goldberg has noted in discussing his very illuminating book Liberal Fascism, when Republicans are at the wheel it is for them to fully acount for misfortune, whereas when the left screws up these are um, American mistakes.
Perhaps a relevant example vis a vis our financial crisis is Lyndon Johnson's social programs in the 1960's. Nobody can ever take away from the left the fact that they were in the vanguard of the civil rights movement. Likewise, nobody can whitewash the fact that many on the right ranged from hostile resistance to ambivalence to being overly cautious about rapid change. But shining the light on injustice is a far different animal than understanding human nature or the market and blithely setting policy based on guilt and a vain willingness to engage in bold experimentation and social-engineering without regard to the consequences.
In urban renewal and the construction of massive housing projects we witnessed a devastating impact on the sense of community and connectedness in poor neighborhoods. And what Jane Jacobs referred to as "eyes on the street" which keep a community safe. For more insights from the inestimable Jane Jacobs I recommend The Death and Life of Great American Cities among her many fine works.
In the 1960's we saw the beginnings of the destruction of the black nuclear family. A cycle of dependence on government hand-outs. We saw the left further enable emerging pathologies in black communities by embracing radical chic and rebellion against the "American Dream" in the notion that academic achievement was akin to acting white. There were those who even celebrated graffiti as the artistic expression of the oppressed rather than a sign to everyone else in the neighborhood that nobody cared.
All told it amounted to fostering a culture of victimhood which enables progressives to feel morally superior to the rest of us but is hardly a message of inspiration and hope to those who need it. And they used their benighted world-view and racial guilt as a cudgel to browbeat others into complicity.
This is not meant to be an academic dissertation. Just some quick thoughts on an issue which I've been keenly attuned to since college because the black underclass has been a matter of great concern to me. And the basic insights which underscore just how pernicious the left's efforts in this regard have been is not a black/white issue either. Anyone who needs a good primer on the impact of such policies in Britain need look no further than the psychologist Theodore Dalrymple's book Life at the Bottom or seek out his various writings online.
[A good path to understanding all of this is reading books by Thomas Sowell as well.]
But that is is neither here nor there. What is salient is the fact that while for years conservatives had railed against the pernicious effects of public housing in terms of the absence of pride of ownership, building equity and the deleterious effects of sapping individual initiative, the left was in the throes of other benighted rationalizations. Having aided in the creation of the underclass, the new grand theory was that such slums existed because, among other things, the credit markets were racially biased. This, in spite of the fact that, as economist Thomas Sowell has painstakingly documented, there were negligible differences between black and white default rates. That, in economic terms, is as pure a demonstration of even-handedness in assessing credit-worthiness as you are ever going to find.
Thus we have the current crisis. An effort to fix the damage the left itself caused by bullying the market into making irrational decisions on behalf of people who were in a precarious financial position. It morphed into so much more, but that is pretty much always the case when the left does stupid things under the guise of good intentions.
This is the key video:
Hat tip: Red State
What is truly frightening is that the facts about all of this are in plain sight, the Republicans - and even Bill Clinton - have been blocked in their efforts to fix this for years and there was a time when the mainstream media seemed to understand the potential problems here. Now they are engaged in a huge whitewash as cover for Barack Obama and his Democratic cohorts. Media bias is real. But I've never been one to be paranoid about it until now.
Some additional nuggets:
Boston Globe op-ed
Commentary on a 1999 NY Times article about this.
A recent editorial in Investors Business Daily
op-ed from South Florida Times