Thursday, January 08, 2009

Are Britons Beginning to Realize the Truth?

Writing in the Telegraph, Alasdair Palmer, voices hope that Britain's ruling Labor party might just have come to the startling realization that its mass immigration policies are eviscerating its political base: native English people.

The Labour leadership seems finally to be waking up to the fact that the party's immigration policy has not been popular with what has traditionally been seen as its core vote: Britain's white working class. The development appears to have taken Hazel Blears, the Communities Secretary, by surprise. She reacted to a report commissioned by her department that found that many working class whites feel "betrayed" by saying that "the report shows there are real complexities around perceptions [of Government] held by the white working class."

"Real complexities?" The reasons why the working class feels betrayed actually reduce to one fairly simple fact: they have paid the costs of increased immigration without reaping any of the benefits. They compete for low-skilled, poorly-paid jobs with immigrants who are willing to work longer hours for less money. The white working class is not affluent, so can't take advantage of the opportunities to eat at ethnic restaurants or to employ nannies, plumbers and builders at low wages that delight those who are better off (such as, for instance, Labour ministers and MPs). They are the ones who find that, because many immigrants are even poorer and more in need of services such as council housing and medical care than they are, there is a longer queue for those benefits. The better-off already own their homes, and they don't live in the poor neighbourhoods into which immigrants settle, so their children do not have to go to schools where many of their class-mates do not speak English.

The Telegraph captures the metaphysical dilemma faced by most Western nations when Enlightenment values are applied to political policies like immigration:

Advocates of unrestricted or very high levels of immigration into Britain often seem simply to have deluded themselves into portraying what is actually a piece of economic self-interest as high-minded philanthropy. Still, underlying the question of how many people from developing economies we should welcome into Britain, there is a very fundamental issue about the basis of rights, and who owes how much to whom.

On one side, there is the rationalist, universalist view, which says that the basis of rights and entitlements is "human-ness" – and that morally, every government should treat every human being in exactly the same way. On the other, there is the view that governments can never be more than the guardians of the interests of the particular group of people who elect them and contribute to them. That is why, as a member of a particular nation, you have a right to a voice in deciding what laws govern your society, but outsiders do not. It is also why you also have an entitlement to benefits that is not universally shared.

Labour's policy on immigration has been based on the rationalist, universalist view. That is why its immigration policy, with its insistence that every immigrant has exactly the same rights as long-standing members of British society, has come into such sharp collision with the views of the white working class. They think that the Government should recognise that it has special obligations to its own citizens which it does not have to humanity in general. They, along with most of the rest of us, are sceptical of any politician who claims to be following "universal reason", especially when the "rational policy" requires sacrifices from people who are not politicians. Most British citizens think that the British Government has no obligation whatever to extend to arrivals from Third World countries the benefits to which only being a citizen entitles you.

The corrosive creep of universalist sentiments has led Western intellectuals from the proposition that all persons should have the same basic human liberties, to the very wrong conclusion that all persons are inherently equal in capabilities, and are, in fact, interchangeable. Hence the U.S. belief that setting up a democratic government in Iraq will turn Baghdad into a swarthier version of Minneapolis. Or the idea that importing millions of Mexicans into the US - or hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis into Briton - will have no negative effect on nation. Since all people are, as we are told, equal, there are no real differences and any evidence to the contrary is intrinsically racist and must be suppressed. The cold hard facts visible to our naked eyes, must never be acknowledged.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bush Nostalgia ... in Beijing

Most Americans, and a good portion of the rest of the world, are only to happy to see George W. Bush's presidency come to an end. Not everyone is overjoyed, however. The Asia Times points out that at least one Asian power that has benefited greatly from the Bush administration's economic and geopolitical incompetence:

Indeed, as the daunting challenges of an Obama presidency start to hit home, Chinese leaders may be forgiven for some feelings of nostalgia for the outgoing US president. Bush may have fumbled in Afghanistan and miscalculated badly in Iraq and in the "war on terror" in general, all the while alienating traditional European allies. But for the most part, his presidency has been a boon for China, which has continued its relentless rise as a world power under his largely congenial watch.

That "rise" has been largely financed through China's decimation of the U.S. manufacturing base, granted by the U.S.'s suicidal free trade policies, which long pre-date the Bush Administration. However, Bush deserves particular contempt for failing to alter those policies since China's increasing ambitions became especially clear during this decade. The administration continued to turn its head as low-cost Chinese manufacturers (many in league with, or owned by the Chinese military) continued to acquire U.S. manufacturing assets and technological capabilities.

Naturally, the Chinese leadership is sad to see Bush go. After all, he has done so much to advance their interests:

From a Chinese perspective, Bush has been a good steward of the Sino-American relationship. Consider, for example, the Strategic Economic Dialogue the two countries began in 2006 under Bush's secretary of the Treasury, Henry Paulson, the former chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs and a long-time friend of Beijing. One key, if unspoken, agreement of these talks was that the US would mostly look the other way as China manipulated its currency, the yuan, to fuel its export-driven juggernaut of an economy, which has averaged double-digit growth during Bush's tenure.

The Bush administration also blinked as the central government continued to trample on human rights in China. The crackdown was particularly apparent during the buildup to last summer's Olympic Games, when Beijing did its best to eliminate any possibility that its international coming-out party would be marred by the embarrassment of political protests.

The violent response to last March's bloody riots in Tibet was the most visible example of the central government's heavy hand. Outside the international spotlight, however, human-rights activists and even ordinary citizens petitioning their government to address grievances concerning land grabs and corrupt local officials were routinely rounded up and locked up in the past year - with barely a squeak of objection from the Bush administration.

George W. Bush has worked tirelessly to advance the interests of illegal immigrants (especially Latinos), the Chinese, and financiers who foolishly showered loans and credit on people who could never pay it back. And he has done all of that at the expense of the average American, for whom he has always had an abiding contempt.

Now that the Bush Presidential Library is looking for contributions, and has refused to make public the identities of potential donors, one can assume that Chinese will join the Saudis in ponying up a few bucks for their American friend.

Roots of the Subprime Mess

The Wall Street Journal, which has been the enthusiastic cheerleader for the immigrant invasion (and particularly the Latino invasion) that has swamped the U.S. over the past several decades, now admits that those very immigrants and the pressure applied by immigrant-friendly politicians to advance their interests, might just possibly have contributed to the current financial meltdown.

For years, immigrants to the U.S. have viewed buying a home as the ultimate benchmark of success. Between 2000 and 2007, as the Hispanic population increased, Hispanic homeownership grew even faster, increasing by 47%, to 6.1 million from 4.1 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Over that same period, homeownership nationally grew by 8%. In 2005 alone, mortgages to Hispanics jumped by 29%, with expensive nonprime mortgages soaring 169%, according to the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.

An examination of that borrowing spree by The Wall Street Journal reveals that it wasn't simply the mortgage market at work. It was fueled by a campaign by low-income housing groups, Hispanic lawmakers, a congressional Hispanic housing initiative, mortgage lenders and brokers, who all were pushing to increase homeownership among Latinos.

The network included Mr. Baca, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, whose district is 58% Hispanic and ranks No. 5 among all congressional districts in percentage of home loans not tailored for prime borrowers. The caucus launched a housing initiative called Hogar -- Spanish for home -- to work with industry and community groups to increase mortgage lending to Latinos. Mortgage companies provided funding to that group, and to the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, which fielded an army to make the loans.

In prior decades, commercial lenders understood that some groups of people were simply not good credit risks and had devised strategies to prevent lending money to people who, statistically, would not be able to pay back the loans. Fortunately, liberal politicians and pro-immigration advocates put a stop to all that evil prudence.

In years past, minority borrowers seeking loans were often stopped cold by a practice called red-lining, in which lenders were reluctant to lend within particular geographical areas, often, it appeared, on the basis of race. But combined efforts to open the mortgage pipeline to Latinos proved successful.

"We saw what we refer to in the advocacy community as reverse red-lining," says Aracely Panameno, director of Latino affairs for the Center for Responsible Lending, an advocacy group. "Lenders were seeking out those borrowers and charging them through the roof," she says.

Ms. Panameno says that during the height of the housing boom she sought to present the Hispanic Caucus with data showing how many Latinos were being steered into risky and expensive subprime loans. Hogar declined her requests, she says.

When the national housing market began unraveling, so did the fortunes of many of the new homeowners. National foreclosure statistics don't break out data by ethnicity or race. But there is evidence that Hispanic borrowers have been hard hit. In part, that's because of large Hispanic populations in areas where the housing bubble was pronounced, such as Southern California, Nevada and Florida.

In U.S. counties where Hispanics account for more than 25% of the population, banks have taken back 6.7 homes per 1,000 residents since Jan. 1, 2006, compared with 4.6 per 1,000 residents in all counties, according to a Journal analysis of U.S. Census and RealtyTrac data.

Of course, the people who engineered the crisis by forcing banks to lend money to risky borrowers are now blaming everyone but themselves.

Hispanic lawmakers and community groups have blamed subprime lenders, who specialize in making loans to customers with spotty credit histories. They complain that even solid borrowers were steered to those loans, which carry higher interest rates.

In a written statement, Mr. Baca blamed the foreclosure crisis among Hispanics on borrowers' lack of "financial literacy" and on "lenders and brokers eager to make a bigger profit." He declined to be interviewed for this story.

The Journal's reporters won't let him off that easy.

But a close look at the network of organizations pushing for increased mortgage lending reveals a more complicated picture. Subprime-industry executives were advisers to the Hogar housing initiative, and bankrolled more than $2 million of its research. Lawmakers and advocacy groups pushed hard for the easy credit that fueled the subprime phenomenon among Latinos. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, who received donations from the lending industry and saw their constituents moving into new homes, pushed for eased lending standards, which led to problems.

The Journal also notes that Hogar, created by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, had direct ties to many of the main players in the subprime fiasco, including Countrywide and Washington Mutual.

Hogar worked with Freddie Mac on a two-year examination of Latino homeownership in 63 congressional districts. The study found Hispanic ownership on the rise thanks to "new flexible mortgage loan products" that the industry was adopting. It recommended further easing of down-payment and underwriting standards.

Representatives for Hogar declined repeated requests for comment.

The National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals, one of Hogar's sponsors, advised the group, shared research data and built a large membership to market loans to Latinos. By 2005, its ranks had grown to 16,000 agents and mortgage brokers.

The association, called Nahrep, received funding from some of the same players that funded Hogar. Some 22 corporate sponsors, including Countrywide and Washington Mutual, together paid the association $2 million a year to attend conferences and forums where lenders could pitch their loan products to loan brokers.

While home prices were rising, the lending risk seemed minimal, says Tim Sandos, Narhep's president. "We would say, 'Is he breathing? OK, we'll give him a mortgage,' " he recalls.

Nahrep's 2006 convention in Las Vegas was called "Place Your Bets on Home Ownership." Countrywide Chairman Angelo Mozilo spoke, as did former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, a force in Latino housing developments in the West.

Naturally, the politicians' advocacy did not go unrewarded...

At the height of the subprime lending boom, in 2005, banking and finance companies gave at least $2.3 million in campaign contributions to members of the Hispanic Caucus, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.