Thanks to everyone who helped educate me on this. I've learned a lot from reading comments and from some e-mails (special shot-out to my American Prospect peoples.) from those in the know. One of the privileges of blogging here is that, while I hope I do my own bit of teaching, I also get to do some learning. So, for those who don't read comments, here's some of what I've learned.
Probably the best handling I've read is this great piece by Robert Gordon. The basic conservative critique seems to be that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) strong-armed banks into giving loans to minorities and low-income folks who subsequently defaulted at higher rates than the norm. That wave of defaults caused the current meltdown. Two things about that argument immediately made me suspicious. I know very little about economics, but I know quite a bit about people. 1.) Folks who use single cause logic to explain gigantic complicated phenomena are almost always lying, ignorant or children. 2.) Folks who peddle victimology for giants ("the banks were forced to do it") while decrying the victimology of individual humans ("the white man forced me to do it") are also usually just lying. The Blame The Negroes (BTN) theory satisfies both criteria.But Gordon offers a more technical takedown giving us a history of the CRA and basically summing up why the BTN theory is just wrong. Please check it out.
One could certainly oppose the CRA on principle. But simply shoe-horning that argument into the current crisis connects the argument with an ugly, ugly history. One of the most disturbing aspects of racism is how whites have historically used the black community as a kind of sin-eater for their own moral shortcomings. So post-slavery, even as sexual assaults on black women were virtually never prosecuted or punished, whites concocted the myth of the rapacious, sex-crazed black ogre and organized mass lynchings to purge themselves of the beast. Of course they were really purging themselves of their own guilt. So today as we pay the price for becoming overconsumers, we now hear voices telling us that the real problem is that the niggers and spics are overconsumers. It is from the conservative disciples of the same people who historically defended southern white thuggery that we get this novel theory. It's hard to not wheel around and hurl large objects across long living rooms when faced with such brazen displays of cowardice, and blatant punk-assness. But as I've said, it's best not to dwell on these people. At night, when no one is around, they know who they are. And now, so do we.