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Conservatives Race Bait the Economic Meltdown

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As the US economy continues to crater, there's plenty of blame to go around. Apparently, way around.

Over at Fox news, punditator Neil Cavuto claimed the current crisis could be put on financial institutions "lending to minorities and other risky folks." While Neil is making this assertion there's B-roll of Barack Obama playing for no other reason than to make sure the Fox audience knows exactly what minorities and risky people look like.

Click here to view this delightful video.

Meanwhile, over on her blog, conservative pin-up girl Michelle Malkin has got an idea at whom we should wag our collective fingers:

"Illegal immigration, crime-enabling banks, and open-borders Bush policies fueled the mortgage crisis. Half of the mortgages to Hispanics are subprime (the accursed species of loan to borrowers with the shadiest credit histories). A quarter of all those subprime loans are in default and foreclosure."

Michelle, of course, does not substantiate or attribute those figures in any way, nor does she differentiate between legal and illegal Hispanic borrowers.

I'm sure in Michelle's mind they're all the same.

So, let's look at some facts. Over at the Heritage Foundation -- a conservative think tank -- Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D. wrote a prescient article in June of 2005 with the no-beating-around-the-bush title: Time to Reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Fannie and Freddie being two lenders at the heart of Wall Street's financial reckoning. In the piece, Dr. Utt notes that the government must act to "reduce financial market risk and taxpayer exposure."

Where is that risk coming from? According to Utt:

"Despite its claims to the contrary, Fannie Mae's basic operating procedures do not target any particular type of buyer/borrower....Nine percent of the conventional conforming loans made by the private mortgage market were to first-time minority homebuyers. By contrast, only 4.7 percent of Fannie Mae loans and 3.5 percent of Freddie Mac loans over the same period were to first-time minority homebuyers."

Bear in mind the minority population in America is 34 percent.

Again, for clarity: According to a conservative writing for a conservative Think Tank (I would add, using stats from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, "New Housing Goals for Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac in 2005-2008"), at the head of this crisis only nine percent of loans in the greater market place went to minorities. Four-point-seven and 3.5 percent of the "risky" Fannie and Freddie loans went to minorities.

In both cases more than ninety percent of available loans went to good, old-fashioned, non-minority white folks.

So, despite the claims of Neil and Michelle, if minorities are not the primary recipients of bad loans, from where did we hatch our Lex Luthorian scheme to bring down America? From the boardroom of Lehman Brothers? From the corporate headquarters of Bear Stearns? I think you'd be hard pressed to find anything like 34 percent representation of minorities at those or most other major financial institutions.

Were we somehow secretly manipulating John McCain when, in 1995, he screamed that banking regulations were "destroying the American family, the American dream" and voters "want these regulations stopped." Though he was pushing for a culture which bred risky loans, he is certainly by no means a minority (that I know of). And it would have been far more appropriate to run B-roll of McCain behind Neil's rant rather than Obama.

As I've noted previously, with Election Day drawing closer, the far right has dialed their race baiting up to eleven. Under ordinary circumstances it's to be expected.

These are not ordinary times.

Despite this fact, agents of intolerance seek to demonize for the sake of demonizing.

Or worse, merely to game an election.

If reactionary conservatives wish to play their exclusionary games, well, the Republican convention wasn't one of the least diverse in recent history for nothing. But to openly race bait when hard times are coming is not only irresponsible, it is deadly dangerous.

For more minority news and opinion, check out That Minority Thing.

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