Friday, September 18, 2009

ACORN and the Skewing of Economic Reality by the Right

In light of a dubious video released by an undercover couple investigating ACORN, an organization dedicated to helping poor people obtain essential services, register to vote, and gain proper legal advice (among other initiatives), the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly yesterday to strip the organization of federal funding. In a campaign to smear ACORN, an organization with a massive staff that is susceptible to corruption like any other large organization, Fox News, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh have been working overtime to demonize and scapegoat this organization and poor people in general. Everything that is wrong with this country, if you listen to this crowd, is Obama and his "socialist" friends stealing money from "regular Americans" and giving it to poor people and organizations that represent and advocate for poor people, like ACORN. It is greedy poor people who live off the state through welfare and other government handouts and those not responsible enough to afford healthcare and pay their mortgage who are responsible for the economic crisis and the general state of affairs in this country. All of this fear-mongering is manifesting itself in a rapid, anti-Obama hysteria that is being overemphasized by Fox News and the Republican Party in an effort to make their movement appear larger than it is. Instead of scapegoating ACORN, poor people, and Obama, maybe Fox News and the Right-wingers on talk radio could report who really controls and dominates the government that was put on display so blatantly this past year: large corporate interests. Fox News, Beck and Limbaugh make it seem as if ACORN and poor people have such a large influence on our government and are reaping the benefits of Obama and his "socialist" administration. Consider this: last October, in response to the economic crisis, largely fueled by sub-prime mortgage lending and trading, the federal government handed out $700 billion to the financial industry. Taking into account all of the other corporate subsidies, loans and guarantees given out by the Federal Reserve, the corporate community, which literally owns the government, saw the biggest transfer of public money to private corporations. Weren't Beck and Limbaugh upset about that? More recently, the healthcare bill proposed by Senator Max Baucus was written by a former healthcare executive. Who has the power in this country? ACORN, poor people and those working on behalf of poor people? Or large corporations who fund the campaigns of politicians on both sides of the aisle?

In the August 28, 2009 edition of the Socialist Worker, Lee Sustar interviews Andrew Cockburn, the co-producer, along with his wife, Leslie, of the documentary American Casino, an inside look at the financial crisis and sub-prime mortgage meltdown. Here is an excerpt:

Lee Sustar: There has been a claim from the financial industry that this was an unforeseeable crisis- and that all they were tyring to do is make home ownership more possible. Do you buy that?

Andrew Cockburn: Absolutely not. I think we made clear in American Casino, it all came from the top. It was Wall Street banks who pushed this, it was Wall Street banks who had the relationships with the mortgage companies. It was Wall Street that aggressively competed for the mortgage loans sold by mortgage companies, which could then be packaged into securities- those magical instruments, the CDOs [collateralized debt obligations], the CDO-squared and all those other things that we've come to know and love. There were the guilty parties, and certainly not- absolutely not- the homeowners who've gotten blamed for this.


In American Casino, we make it clear that it's not like that. Ordinary people were lied to, were conned, were defrauded into these loans. The system did this. In my view- and I think we say in the film- the system couldn't do anything else. They'd run out of other productive things to invest in. So basically, the option was loan sharking, which is what they did.

So, who is to blame for this mess we are in? And who has the power in our society and political system? Beck, Limbaugh and the like are skewing the economic reality in this country and using it to inflame increasingly dangerous Right-wing movements. The real problem in this country isn't that Obama, poor people and ACORN are stealing tax dollars and redistributing the wealth of this nation. It's that people are actually caught up in this farce and misrepresentation of the reality of the country in which we live. We all need to realize that our economic system preys off those that have the least amount of power, influence and say in policy discussions, namely the poor and disenfranchised. It is corporations and big business that have the clout in this country, and it is so undeniable and obvious that it is amazing people can buy into the propaganda put out by Limbaugh, Beck, and Fox News.

Update: Here is a great perspective on what was discussed above. Worth a read.


  1. you've claimed that people on the right are mad at obama because he is a socialist interested in helping poor people. what do you have to support that? the bailouts went straight into the pockets of the rich, i dont see how you can claim that the outrage from the non-left in this respect even involves poor people. even with other programs, like the health insurance reform, do you really think the issue here is helping the poor? is it really as simple as being for or against poor people? being against obamacare does not mean i dislike the poor--it would be kinda hard for me, considering i make minimum wage--it means that i do not think obamas program will help the poor. even if it did, i dont believe it is moral to use violence to take money from rich people to support my pet programs.

  2. On your first question, have you seen Fox News or listened to Rush Limbaugh? All they talk about is how Obama is a socialist and how he is trying to redistribute wealth to minorities and the poor. If you have actually read what has been happening, Obama's administration is just as blatantly corrupt and corporately managed as the Bush administration. I am not here trying to defend Obama as a champion of the poor. Far from it. Obama and the Democrats in general are a fully owned subsidiary of corporate America (along with the Republicans; of course). My point is that ACORN is being demonized as a corrupt, sleazy organization and the Republicans and talk-radio personalities are pouncing all over this. Where were they when our Treasury was literally getting looted by the richest people in this country? What is a more pressing issue? Our country getting looted by rich people? Or an organization dedicated to helping poor people advance their lives getting caught up in a complete scam? You tell the way, the "Obamacare" was completely written by the healthcare insurance industry (in case you didn't click on the link). You said that you are a minimum wage earner....can you really say that your voice is being heard? And the whole entire time Obama caved into people like you saying "Oh, we can't take money from rich people, or tax them more, because healthcare is something that only responsible people can have. Nevermind the rest of the population that lives amongst us. They can deal." We don't even have a public option on the table now!! We have MANDATES for insurance, that will force poor people (like me, and supposedly you) to BUY private health insurance. I thought the problem was that the private health insurance market was screwing people out of health care for private profit. No problem here at all for you, huh? My point is that private corporate power has completely seized control of our government, regardless of which party is in power. Is that not obvious?

  3. Yes. Is IS obvious. And it is about to become more obvious after the Supreme Court decision voiding some previous campaign finance regulations on corporations. As the Washington Post reported:

    The groups "are now free to accept unlimited contributions, to spend unlimited funds independently supporting or opposing federal candidates," said Richard L. Hasen, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and an election law expert.

    copy and paste link to view story.

  4. I do listen to Rush Limbaugh, probably 2-3 times a week while I drive to school. Talking about redistribution of wealth as a bad thing does not mean he is against the poor, or that he is even talking about the poor. Google the Matthew Effect. Most of the redistribution goes to the richest people in our country (Medicare and Social Security, for example, go to old people, which are demographically the richest age group). Very few of these programs actually give money to the poor and even fewer actually help them. Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives were incredibly outraged about the bailouts and the stimulus. While I was at Cato (about six months) we would have someone speak on Fox about the issue several times per week. That was the point of that whole tea party business, including the one million people who were protesting in Washington D.C. a week or so ago. I'm not sure how you could have missed this viewpoint being expressed on these programs.

    A few excerpts:

    "When the government fails to pass a socialism bill and the market goes south, let it go south. I don't want to pass a socialism bill just to protect the stock market," said Limbaugh, the most popular of the talk show hosts.

    Rush Limbaugh: "I can't speak for the Republican Party. But I can speak for conservatism. What would we do differently? Let 'em fail. We would follow the Ronaldus Magnus model. He was asked to bail out the Big Three back in 1982. He said, "Nope. They're going to have to become more competitive." They were worried then about Japanese and Korean imports."

    Either way, I don't see how these separate events are related. The different magnitudes in which money is wasted on either doesn't change the morality in question for either. I agree with you that giving money to rich bankers is insanely immoral, but I also believe that ACORN IS incredibly corrupt (along with being a poor use of money). Why do you think Obama's own Justice Department is investigating the organization for fraud all over the country? Is he part of the conspiracy? Doesn't the fact that its employees were willing to facilitate tax evasion, prostitution, sex trafficking and child sex-slavery in several different chapters around the country give you even a little pause?

    As for health care, no, of course my voice isn't being heard. I would never expect it to be heard in such a ridiculous political process. I don't want a "voice," I want freedom to exit the bad plans of others. As it stands now, the health insurance that I pay for is going to be outlawed by the bills in congress (due to its premium structure) and I will likely be forced onto the government program because I can't afford a high-premium, low deductible plan. I wouldn't expect anything other than the giveaway to health insurance companies that Obamacare has turned out to be. This is one of many very good reasons to not have the government try to force reform on a populace that is against it.

    The rich and powerful running the political process is nothing new or surprising. It has been, for quite some time, one of the best reasons to oppose giving the government control over any important aspect of our lives.

  5. Lamecore makes multiple good points. The actions of ACORN appear to be suspect, to say the least. I am not sure how the videos are dubious. That being said, I do not think that the public was against health-care reform before the talks began, or even now.