Mind The Wealth Gap

The writer Harlan Ellison once commented, “The two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” I cannot offer much input today regarding hydrogen, but I can discuss stupidity with the help Capitol Hill’s favorite emetic virago, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the ranking member of House Financial Services Committee.

Prior, Rep. Waters introduced something in the House of Representatives called the “Wealth Gap Resolution,” with the goal of addressing what she saw as the widening wealth disparities in the United States. The resolution is designed to accomplish three things: to acknowledge that a wealth gap exists, to acknowledge that nonwhites have it worst when it comes to this situation, and to blame this problem on public policy, with a vague suggestion that legislative changes are required.

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“President Barack Obama has already recognized inequality as the ‘defining challenge of our time,’” said Congresswoman Waters. “Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have acknowledged just how harmful inequality and the wealth gap are for many middle class families. The time is now to meet words with actions. We have a moral obligation to address this crisis with substantive solutions.”

A press statement issued by Rep. Waters’ office placed a heavy emphasis on the racial elements of this issue, especially in regard to homeownership.

“The median wealth of white households is 20 times that of Black household and 18 times that of Latino households,” the statement said. “Additionally, White households have $100,000 more in liquid retirement savings than both African-American and Latino households. Such disparity leaves communities of color with no conceivable path to ensure their families don’t fall victim to intergenerational poverty. To these populations, wealth is principally derived from homeownership, an idea often hailed as the quintessential American Dream. But after finding themselves on the receiving end of decades of predatory lending and other discriminatory practices, the 2008 financial crisis sent these families’ wealth – and their hopes of obtaining that American Dream – plummeting.”

The fact that the wealth gap has widened considerably since Barack Obama became president was curiously missing from Rep. Waters’ resolution – indeed, the idea that Black unemployment would be substantially higher during the years when an African American is in the White House is an inconvenient fact that rarely gets mentioned when the racial element gets included in this discussion.

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But Rep. Waters, not unlike another prominent revisionist – Sen. Elizabeth Warren – is trying to rewrite recent history by putting the blame solely on the private sector. There is no mention of finagling with federal housing policy in the years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, which loosened underwriting and lending standards that resulted in toxic efforts to artificially pump up minority homeownership rates. Nor is there mention of how members of Congress benefited from extravagant lobbying by the government-sponsored enterprises, resulting in Capitol Hill consenting to the reckless policies that drove Fannie and Freddie into federal conservatorship and pushed the economy off a cliff.

Rep. Waters’ resolution is stupid at so many levels: it solves no problems, assigns blame where it doesn’t belong, absolves current leadership in the Executive and Legislative Branches of government of failing to create a successful economic environment for all Americans, and only continues the strident efforts by a shrill political corner of trying to divide people along financial and racial lines. Too bad we can’t stick this silly congresswoman in a hydrogen balloon and float her out of Washington.

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