Rep. Matt Ritter 2014 Campaign News, Race for Governor: Urban Agenda Analysis Part I

This column appears in the October 9 – 16 edition of the Hartford News…
Community Update: The corporate media continues to ignore the poverty issue during the 2014 gubernatorial campaign. Neither Fox CT anchor/reporter Jenn Bernstein nor Hartford Courant Capitol Bureau Chief Chris Keating asked Gov. Dannel Malloy or Republican challenger Tom Foley about recently released U.S. Census data, which shows that child poverty, the poverty rate among families, the amount of people whose income is below the federal poverty level and the number of residents without health insurance in Connecticut have all increased since 2003.   Bernstein and Keating also both avoided questions about other core urban issues. (e.g. Black/Latino unemployment, racial wage/wealth gap, mass incarceration). This is an example of how racism also hurts white people. Poverty rates in rural areas are annually higher than in low income communities of color.  Suburban poverty is on the rise. Because the poverty issue has been racialized, it is ignored… ICYMI Check out Northend Agent’s for my July column on WFSB Face the State host Dennis House excluding North Hartford residents from his shows on the proposed Downtown North stadium complex.   Last Thursday Moody’s Investor’s Service downgraded the city’s bond rating from A1 to A2. See the Resources section at the end of this column for an explanation of bond ratings. City council member David MacDonald urged his colleagues to reject the proposed stadium complex because of the rating, while Mayor Pedro Segarra argued that the rating justified moving ahead with the plan. City council president Shawn Wooden was noncommittal, as he spoke in vague terms about the city needing economic development. A source told me that the bond rating would not impact the progress of the stadium deal. “You can argue it both ways. Some say this shows we need to grow the grand list, some say that the city is broke. It’s a chicken or the egg thing.” Stay tuned.
State Representative Matt Ritter is running for reelection in the 1st Assembly District. You can get updates from Rep. Ritter on the Connecticut General Assembly website, Twitter and Facebook. See below for links. Rep. Ritter has supported the Community Party’s Trayvon Martin Act racial profiling bill, our Safe Work Environment Act legislation aimed at stopping workplace bullying and our effort to bring a publicly owned bank to Connecticut. Election Day is November 4th.  Rep. Ritter will participate in a candidate forum on Tuesday, October 14, 7:00 pm at United Methodist Church, 573 Farmington Avenue in Hartford.
Last week Malloy, who is tied with Foley at 43% according to a Quinnipiac University poll (independent candidate Joe Visconti trails with 9%), joined with his Democratic Party colleagues in slamming Foley’s urban policy paper.
Malloy was throwing stones from a glass house, as his urban agenda consists of just a few paragraphs. Contrast that with the United for a Fair Economy plan for low income communities of color that I refer to in this column: the report is 32 pages long. (see Resources).  The complex plight of Black/Brown communities is obviously a mere afterthought for the incumbent.  Malloy’s plan does not come close to adequately addressing poverty or Black/Latino unemployment, doesn’t mention racial wage/wealth disparity, racial inequities in the state criminal justice system or police containment of low income communities of color. Malloy’s ConnectiCorps proposal is modeled after a federal program (AmeriCorps) that has done NOTHING to reduce Black/Latino unemployment in this country, currently at Depression-era levels.
The plagiarism issue regarding Foley’s plan is well documented. The reality is that the Malloy and Foley urban policy plans both fail at effectively addressing the socioeconomic problems which plague low income communities of color. Malloy ignored core urban issues during his first term: he did not mention the word poverty once during any of his State of the State addresses. This neglect is evident in the U.S. Census data.
The bickering between Malloy and Foley over urban policy is all about their battle for the Black/Latino vote, which was a huge factor in Malloy’s razor thin margin of victory over Foley in the 2010 election. The plight of urban neighborhoods has been a nonissue at the State Capitol for years.                                                                        
While Foley’s urban policy plan is much more detailed than Malloy’s, it’s basically a business deregulation and school privatization scheme disguised as an urban agenda. Privatization of education is an attack on public school teachers, and perpetuates segregation. Foley’s CNN op-ed on his urban agenda avoids specifics, while hinting at criminal justice policies that would contribute to continued disproportionate incarceration of Blacks/Latinos.
Foley’s urban job initiative includes a provision where his administration would ask large employers in Connecticut to hire people of color. “I will ask every large employer in Connecticut to fairly distribute their jobs among our varied communities. I will ask them if they are employing hundreds or thousands of people in a suburb to place a fair share of those jobs in a neighboring city.” This is not a realistic plan at all. I could go to work tomorrow and request that my employer reduce my work schedule to Tuesdays and Thursdays and triple my salary. That doesn’t mean they’re going to do it.
Rocky Anderson, the Justice Party’s 2012 candidate for president, included in his platform a job creation initiative modeled after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal Work Progress Administration program. Anderson described his plan during the Democracy Now! Expanding the Debate special, which aired in conjunction with the October 3, 2012 presidential debate between President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney.
 “During the last 43 months we have had more than 8% unemployment. It is the only time in this nation’s history that we have had a president that has presided even over three years of over 8% unemployment. There are things that have been proven in our history to work. We could have put in place, and it needs to be put in immediately, a WPA Works Progress Administration kind of program where we are investing in the future by building up our nation’s rapidly deteriorating infrastructure, putting people to work. In the WPA project they put 8.5 million people to work. We could be putting 20 million to 25 million people to work and making that kind of investment in our nation’s future.”
The UFE State of the Dream report found that funding from Obama’s 2009 job stimulus initiative did not reach urban areas and focused on industries that mostly employs
white people.
“Most of the job-creation projects in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) and other federal initiatives are investments in infrastructure and transportation, ‘green’ building retrofits, and pass-through funds that help states maintain schools and other important programs. All are worthy, but there is no evidence that the jobs these initiatives create are going to the communities most in need. In some cases, the opposite is true.
• The Associated Press found that, across the U.S., stimulus money for transportation was directed away from where the economic conditions are most dire. More money went to areas with higher rates of employment.
• The New York University report Race, Gender and The Recession reported that federal recovery money is creating more jobs in construction and retail than any other industries. These are industries that traditionally have not been major job sources for African American communities.
If the rain falls on relatively well-watered areas of economic opportunity, it does little to revive the driest economic landscapes in our country. Targeted approaches are much more likely to be effective. Prioritizing our nation’s highest-unemployment communities is precisely the way to end the downward economic spiral in those places and start a real, broad-based recovery for the entire nation.
Congress must identify communities with the highest unemployment rates and target job-creation initiatives toward those communities, whether by census tract, zip code, or other method. This policy direction will lift up working-class white communities while narrowing the racial income gap. Congress should also ensure that as many of those jobs as possible pay a living wage. This report shows that broad-spectrum, universal solutions to the economic crisis will neither solve the pervasive racial wealth divide nor end gaping racial differences in income. We need job-creation and foreclosure-prevention programs that are targeted to communities most in need, including those with the highest unemployment and foreclosure rates. Such focused strategies will not only help close the racial wealth divide, but will lift up working-class families of all races.”
A federally funded, state WPA kind of program monitored through equity assessments would ensure that program dollars would reach low income communities of color in Connecticut. UFE explains how equity assessments would function.
“To ensure that stimulus funds reach working class and disenfranchised communities, equity assessments should be required for all federal spending. A proper equity assessment will track where funds go, what jobs are created and in what communities. Demographic data on race, ethnicity, gender, class, and geography will be required for an equity assessment. This information will help future government programs reach the disenfranchised and the working class, the communities who must be at the center of an economic recovery.”
                                                                                       Racial Wage/Wealth Disparity
Blacks/Latinos currently earn about 60 cents for every dollar whites make, and possess about 10 cents of net wealth for every dollar whites have. Houses are the primary wealth asset for Blacks/Latinos. The toxic mortgage scam that contributed to the 2008 economic collapse disproportionately targeted people of color, who subsequently have lost their homes at a higher rate than whites. UFE recommends a plan to build wealth in low income communities of color.
Foreclosures – Draining the Wealth Reservoir:
Foreclosures continue to rise alarmingly. There were an estimated 3.4 million foreclosures in 2009 “Due to the rise in homeowner walk-a-ways, lack of forced bank modifications, growing unemployment figures… Housing Predictor forecasts foreclosures will now top 17 million homes through 2014.”

In addition to rampant unemployment, communities of color experience higher foreclosure rates due to racially targeted predatory lending, in which virtually every sector of the mortgage industry participated. A 2006 study that controlled for income and credit worthiness found that non-whites were significantly more likely than whites to receive high cost loans.

Revisiting the State of the Dream 2008: Foreclosed

The wealth-stripping effects of the recession and foreclosure crisis were documented in UFE’s 2008 State of the Dream: Foreclosed, which showed that predatory lending practices were stripping wealth from communities of color. People of color were more than three times more likely to have subprime loans than whites. Commonly, lenders gave people of color loans with less advantageous payment rates, even when they qualified for better ones. Lenders failed to provide those applying for a home loan with information on the strenuous repayment schedule. Lenders inserted stiff fines for people to pay to get out of a subprime loan if they discovered it was too expensive. Since homes are the main form of wealth for working-class families and especially for communities of color, these practices drained their wealth reservoirs to dangerously low levels.

Source: RealtyTrac reports, with NCRC projecting foreclosures for December 2009 (see Endnotes in report for full citation).
2007 2008 2009
In three years, there have been more than 7.1 million foreclosures in the U.S.

3,400,000 (estimate)

Over half of the mortgages to African Americans in recent years were high-cost subprime loans. This predatory lending formed the epicenter of the first stage of the foreclosure crisis. Significantly, more than 60 percent of those subprime loans went to borrowers whose credit ratings qualified them for lower-cost prime loans, according to a 2008 Wall Street Journal study.
The disproportionate damage from foreclosures compounds the economic challenges that communities of color face and makes their economic recovery more difficult. A recent study shows that workers laid off in an economic downturn can take up to 20 years to replace their lost earnings. Replacing the wealth stripped from communities by predatory lending and foreclosure could take even longer. And while some economic indicators are improving, unemployment and the foreclosure crisis continue to do long-lasting damage to the nation’s economy.
Are we narrowing or widening the racial wealth divide? Arresting the foreclosure crisis is a critical first step toward restoring health to the national economy. The housing industry employs millions of workers and provides the property tax base of cities across the country. Housing is also a main pillar of the nation’s credit markets; while that pillar remains shaky, credit cannot fully recover.
The irresponsible and predatory lending practices of our nation’s financial institutions directly led to the current foreclosure crisis that is stripping wealth from communities of color at alarming rates. The Obama Administration and Congress missed opportunities in 2009 to stop foreclosures, stabilize the economy, and start rebuilding wealth in the communities that the predatory mortgage industry targeted. Our government has an important role in protecting communities from the destructive actions of any party, be it the breaking and entering of a common burglar or the deceptive actions of the
mortgage industry. On this front, the government has failed.
While the Administration and Congress set up several programs to stem the tide of foreclosures, these efforts have been largely ineffective in getting the mortgage industry to renegotiate most mortgages.
Actions that could have been taken include:
• Declare an immediate moratorium on foreclosures. This would have stabilized housing markets, stopped the vicious spiral of wealth stripping in communities of color, and given the financial industry an incentive to renegotiate predatory loans.
• Give bankruptcy judges the power to lower mortgages for insolvent homeowners. This would have kept millions of families in their homes.
• Make mortgages more affordable by requiring cooperation from financial institutions with the affordability programs, including loan modifications, set up by the Administration.
• Strongly regulate financial markets and protect consumers. This would prevent future financial market failures that strip wealth and jobs from all communities and take down the nation’s economy.
Next week: Part II.
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Explanation of bond credit rating:
United for a Fair Economy urban policy plan:
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Jackson Plan:
David Samuels
Community Party

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