Friday, October 9, 2009

The US Commission on Civil Rights Strikes Again! - This time they're taking on the mortgage crisis



As early as 2007, I began writing about the US Commission on Civil Rights and their tragic decline from a once powerful fact-finding and investigative agency into an ironic caricature of its former self. ( See HERE, HERE and see HERE) Through a series of Bush-era politically motivated appointments, the 8-member Commission is now composed of 4 staunch conservatives who are absolutely ideologically opposed to the goals and precepts of the American Civil Rights movement and 2 right-leaning 'quasi-independents'.

They have been particularly busy as of late; urging the Senate to vote against the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill, and inviting windbags like Ward Connerly to brief the commission on why he feels Racial classifications should be eliminated from the 2010 census.

Sidebar: Ward Connerly was asked by Commissioner Melendez how we would measure discrimination if the collection of Race data was eliminated. To which Ward Connerly responded by saying that 'Racial Discrimination was a low priority'. 

But the Commission's new report on the origins of the Mortgage crisis is a classic, even by their standards. The Commission reports that there were NO issues with Predatory Lending, NO issues with steering people into sub-prime loans, and NO failures in enforcing discrimination laws. They Also stated that there was NO evidence that programs designed to encourage homeownership among minorities (such as the CRA or HUD goals for GSE's) even contributed to the mortgage meltdown YET the Vice-Chair went on to recommend that any future Federal Assistance utilize more conservative underwriting standards. The report was passed out of commission with a 4-0 vote with both Democrats and both Independents abstaining. Of the report and the Vice-Chair's recommendations, Commissioner Melendez stated:
The Commission did not try to evaluate whether federal regulators were adequately enforcing lending discrimination laws (it just describes their jurisdiction and some of the few cases initiated in recent years). The Commission did not try to independently verify the conclusions of the 2007 Federal Reserve study about credit scoring (it just repeats its findings). Finally, the Commission did not try to collect evidence or evaluate whether minority groups were targeted by predatory lending schemes(although it describes some instances of fraud and lending discrimination that federal enforcement authorities investigated). Consequently, I disagree with the Vice-Chair’s characterization that the Commission “did not find” problems with enforcement, credit scoring, or discriminatory predatory lending. In truth, the Commission never seriously looked into these questions at all.

Commissioner Melendez was joined in his dissent by Commissioner Yaki, who wrote of the report and the commission:
It is our mission to explore, understand, find facts and make recommendations where disparities in our society on the basis of race and ethnicity may persist. It does not mean, as some of the Commission majority doubtless fear, that it will necessarily result in more programs, regulations, or laws that would benefit a specific racial or ethnic group. But it may, but if so, that is for Congress and the Executive to debate and decide whether to enact a new law. Nevertheless, it does not serve our charter, does not benefit any group, nor does it contribute to our nation to ignore a potential issue and pretend it does not exist. Yet, sadly, the current Commission would rather direct its resources to destroy extant programs such as affirmative action, rather than to research current and persistent problems that affect our nation’s commitment to equality and prosperity for all.

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