Rep. Matt Ritter 2014 Campaign News, AFSCME Meet & Greet November 13, Race for Governor: Urban Agenda Analysis Part II

This column appears in the October 16 – 23 edition of the Hartford News…

Community Update: Rest in Power, Hartford firefighter Kevin Bell, who was laid to rest on Monday. This North End resident gave his life serving his community! Condolences to his family, loved ones, friends and colleagues at Engine Company 16… Mayor Pedro Segarra’s absence from city council meetings on the Downtown North stadium plan (approved Tuesday night with six votes and three abstentions) is proof that this has always been a “done deal”, as Segarra described it. The question remains as to how North Hartford residents will gain access to the Downtown North supermarket on days that the stadium is in use.
State Representative Matt Ritter is running for re-election 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’s next campaign event will be Monday, October 20 at 73 Vine Street, where he will be providing free pizzas to seniors. Next week we’ll present Rep. Ritter’s essay on his objectives for the 2015 legislative session, including a major announcement about the racial profiling issue.  http://www.housedems.ct.gov/RitterM/   https://twitter.com/MattRitter308  https://www.facebook.com/RepresentativeMattRitter
AFSCME members, check out CP’s No Sellout blog for info on the Local 318 Safe Workplace Committee Meet & Greet Thursday, November 13 in Rocky Hill. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/10/09/afscme-safe-workplace-committee-meet-greet-november-13/ Stay tuned for updates on CP’s Safe Work Environment Act, coming in 2015. https://hendu39.wordpress.com/2014/04/06/coming-in-2015-safe-work-environment-act/
Last week we analyzed the inadequate urban policy plans of Gov. Dannel Malloy and Republican challenger Tom Foley. Our report included job creation strategies by Justice Party 2012 presidential candidate Rocky Anderson and United for a Fair Economy. This week we’ll present the UFE plan for addressing racial wage/wealth disparity, followed by the first installment of Mary Sanders’ commentary on poverty and her reform recommendations for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF). Mary wrote the language for CP’s 2015 Trayvon Martin Act. Part III of our urban agenda analysis will be available next week at No Sellout and the CP Twitter/Facebook pages. Links to our social media pages are available at the end of this column. Due to the Hartford Arts and Heritage special edition of the Hartford News on October 30, Part III will run in the Hartford News on November 6.
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 people of color. The toxic mortgage scam that contributed to the 2008 economic collapse disproportionately targeted Blacks/Latinos, who subsequently have lost their homes at a higher rate than whites. The UFE State of the Dream report 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.
1,285,873
2,330,483
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.
Poverty and the Need for TANF Reform in Connecticut 
The candidates running for office this year are all avoiding the “P” word!  Poverty is a hot potato that causes candidates to cringe when questioned about their agenda to improve the lives of those most in need. For many single parents who are unemployed or underemployed, public assistance, also known as ‘welfare’, makes the difference in meeting their basic survival needs.  It used to be that people could get help as long as they needed it, there were also programs available to prepare people to become self- sufficient. What we have now does not meet the needs of families and individuals living in poverty.  The candidates for public office, all the way up to the governor’s seat, do not seem to understand or care enough to change things.
When President Bill Clinton’s administration announced the overhaul of the welfare system, what resulted was a federal maximum of 5 years of assistance throughout a person’s life. The message was, grab any job and don’t use up all your time in case you need it down the road!  Even in those states with the maximum of 5 years, this is problematic.  Imagine CT where you are only allowed 21 months and if you qualify a couple six-month extensions. The goal is to get as many people off assistance as possible during the year and look good to the feds. I know that someone analyzing the data may say, “CT has lowered the number of AFDC cases – Aid to Families with Dependent Children (now TANF, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) households by 10%.” But because important information is not attached to those closed cases, they neglect to say – or may not even know – that 3% of the clients are gainfully employed and 7% got kicked off the program for a variety of reasons.  After years of President Reagan’s demonization of “welfare queens”, CT’s welfare reform created an illogical timeline of activity that Department of Social Services caseworkers and the subcontractors are expected to enforce. The program used to be Job Connection and is now Jobs First. In the old program, recipients were assessed for potential return to school and/or vocational training. They were asked what they were good at and what career they would like to pursue and, if reasonable, their DSS social worker, the employment counselor and the school would work as a team to make sure nothing interfered with their training and job placement. This was changed to recipients spending a year looking for work before education or training is considered. It used to be that individuals needed a high school diploma to get a decent job; now that is not enough.
The last 2 decades have seen the largest growth of income for the elite few and the worst decline and climbing poverty rates for too many. And it’s not just that there are more poor people, it’s that more people are experiencing a deeper kind of poverty.  As “cash assistance” has ended for many, and people only have their food stamps, studies have shown that families exchange food benefits to buy their kids’ shoes and other household necessities. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/2/19/welfare_recipients_forced_to_sell_food   Unscrupulous storeowners are complicit in this deprivation of food for the kids. They pay pennies on the dollar for whatever is left on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) card.  Parents do whatever they need to do when cash benefits end. This system is cruel and punitive; there is no way to get out of the vicious cycle of poverty. For adults with no dependent children it’s even worse, as city welfare departments were all closed in favor of the new State Administered General Assistance program. SAGA is a misnomer as little assistance is actually given. Recipients used to receive about $300 cash monthly in addition to their food stamps & Medicaid.  At least recipients could rent a room from someone. Now there is no cash assistance, resulting in extremely harsh circumstances for anyone who loses their job who has no unemployment benefits coming in. Lack of housing assistance is a huge problem and many new homeless are seeking some type of relief. The new 211 shelter line has at least 3 or 4 weeks of wait time for even an assessment and possible placement in shelters. This is not a good system for those seeking employment & stability. This is especially true for the able-bodied but long-term unemployed. That’s another story for another day but housing vouchers are what’s needed, so people can pay a portion of their income and have the stability they need to work towards self-sufficiency.  
Mary L. Sanders, member of Community Party & Executive Director, Spanish Speaking Center of New Britain
Next Week: Part III
Follow CP on Twitter @CommunityParty1 for state, national and global headlines and updates on the Trayvon Martin, Safe Work Environment and Jane Doe Acts. Visit our No Sellout blog for the archive of CP Hartford News columns ( https://hendu39.wordpress.com/) and Northend Agent’s for selected columns. http://www.northendagents.com/  Check out the CP Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/CommunityPartyAction Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcement on our social justice platform. Contact us at 860-206-8879 or samuelssloflo@aol.com.
Resources
Connecticut Voices for Children summary of U.S. Census data on poverty, median income and health insurance in the state:
TANF reform implemented by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio:
United for a Fair Economy urban policy plan:
Malcolm X Grassroots Movement Jackson Plan:
David Samuels
Founder
Community Party
                                          
                        
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