Friday, February 20, 2009

ACORN's role in the economic problems

In class during our fifth week meeting we started talking about ACORN and I distributed some literature I'd picked up from my old college friend Kevin Whelan at the Johnston Center Renewal the previous weekend. One of the sharp students in my class mentioned at some point that ACORN had been encouraging banks to lend money to poor people who couldn't afford the loans, and this had been one element among the many that have caused the current economic crisis. This was a funny coincidence, because Kevin had been telling me about this accusation just a couple days before class. I asked my student where she had heard this. In the online portion of my classes I provide links to all sorts of political websites (it is, after all, a class on social welfare policy), and I knew I had put up links to some pretty far out right wing web pages. So, I thought perhaps she had followed a link I'd provided and arrived at a page that claimed ACORN was partly responsible for the mortgage loan problems we've been having. She couldn't remember exactly where she had read about it. I mentioned that I had it from Kevin that ACORN had not in fact encouraged risky lending to poor people who couldn't afford homes. Then, another one of my clever students pointed out that my source was biased (such a clever student; this really impressed me that a student was both savvy enough to question authoritative sources and bold enough to do so openly in the classroom— bravo!).

Well, I'll share some links here to help people see what's out there on the Internet about ACORN and the mortgage defaults and foreclosures.

First of all, in defense of ACORN, I recommend...

The Questionable Authority, who offers this summary:
Banks started making bad loans - not just subprime, but predatory - as a result of demand caused by investment banks that purchased and bundled the loans. Groups, including ACORN, protested, in an effort to bring the practices to a halt. Partly in response to prompting from these groups, several states passed laws in an effort to crack down on predatory lending. Banks and lenders fought against these efforts every step of the way. When they failed to stop the legislation, the Federal Government stepped in to protect the banks from the states. The Federal Government replaced the state efforts with guidelines that are so toothless that they make a jellyfish look like a shark. The banks reduced their underwriting standards even more. Chaos predictably ensued. And the right is trying to blame ACORN for the chaos.
Or go directly to the ACORN website to get their side of the story.
And, the Nation gives a perspective on ACORN.

Wanna see some of the propaganda against ACORN?
Here is a clip from CNN (Lou Dobbs) and it's such an inaccurate hack job it's funny.
A guy with academic credentials who attacks ACORN is Tom DiLorenzo (he also attacks Abraham Lincoln and thinks the 1861-1865 Rebellion of the Southern Slaveholders was a just cause).
And, here's yet another piece blaming ACORN for the mess.
The ultra-conservative Michelle Malkin has an entire ACORN watch thing going.

Well, I'm sure my students and readers can consider the relative merits of these web pages and decide for themselves which side is more accurate. I don't think this is a case where the "truth lies somewhere in the middle."

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