The American Prospect

A monthly political journal of liberal though. Contains articles that generate debate, further ideas, and set agendas; and provides a forum for working through the controversies and hard choices facing all Americans. Includes regular topics and features.

Articles from Vol. 20, No. 6, July-August

A Bridge to Somewhere: The Road from Predatory Lending to Good Financial Services for All Americans
For most Americans, the banking system is a tool to manage our money and build security. Through an array of competitively priced financial products, we can cheaply and easily convert income into assets, make payments, store and invest money, and borrow...
Banks as Heroes: Community-Development Banks Show What Financial Institutions Can Do When They Have the Right Motivation and the Right Mission
Late last summer, Gloria Stallworth, a resident of Chicago's South Side, was hospitalized with stomach pains. The 54-year-old mother and nutritional supervisor at a local hospital was told by doctors that her pain was due to anxiety, and Stallworth...
Charm Offensive: How the White House Manages the Expectations of Its Base
In Barack Obama's White House, there's a fine line between tourism and negotiation. On a June afternoon at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, 26 individual stakeholders in the health-care debate mounted the sprawling spiral staircase to the...
Cheap Thrills: In This Economic Climate, Bargains Come at a Price
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] I RECENTLY THREW OUT A PAIR OF versatile black ballet flats that I have worn exactly eight times. They only cost $12, so the price-per wear was less than I pay for coffee each morning. I'm not angry that they fell apart so...
Community Reinvestment: The Broader Agenda: CRA Has Created a Cadre of Community-Friendly Bankers. It's Time to Bring Reinvestment Policy into the 21st Century
The world of banking and of community development is very different than it was in 1977 when Congress enacted the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA). Thirty-two years ago--with cities still in an urban crisis of broad economic decline and with civilrights...
Don't Blame the Community Reinvestment Act: Homeownership Rates and CRA Enforcement Soared in the 1990s, but Sub-Prime Came Later. CRA Shouldn't Be the Scapegoat for the Housing Meltdown
The mortgage crisis is far from over. Foreclosure filings in the first quarter of 2009 increased 24 percent over the already-heady 2008 levels; April filings were up 1 percent over March and 32 percent over the prior April. During 2008, foreclosure...
Financial Product Safety: The Case for a New Agency to Put the Needs of Consumers First
As our nation's economic crisis spreads and trillions of dollars are disbursed to keep the banks afloat, it's easy to forget that the catastrophe began with the peddling of a toxic retail-credit product: adjustable-rate subprime mortgages. Fueled more...
Has Obama's Mere Presence Made D.C. a Cooler Place to Live?
ANN FRIEDMAN: In the months since the election, I've had countless people ask me if D.C. "feels different" now that Obama is in the White House instead of Bush, if it's cooler now that it's got that Obama magic. TIM FERNHOLZ: I say the city hasn't...
Latin America's Legalization Push: As Drug Violence Rages, Mexico Takes the Lead on Policy Reform
A call for drug policy-reform is echoing across Latin America, where a decades-long, U.S.-sponsored battle against drug production and distribution has fostered a climate of fear, insecurity, and death. Throughout the region, former and current political...
Marion's Moral Compass: The Philandering Former D.C. Mayor's Crusade against Gay Marriage
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] IN EARLY MAY, AFTER the District of Columbia Council announced it would recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states, former Mayor and current Ward 8 Council-member Marion Barry addressed a small crowd of protesters...
Perils of the Public Plan
IN THE CURRENT BATTLE OVER HEALTH REFORM, progressives may have set themselves up for trouble by pinning all their hopes on the creation of a government-run insurance plan. A public plan is not a bad idea--indeed, it could be a critical element in...
Reforming Credit: Our Financial System Needs to Work for Consumers at All Income Levels. A Guide to the Crisis, Its Causes, and Cures
America's financial crisis and the related recession are not hitting everyone equally. While many well-to-do investors have lost wealth in the plunging stock market, lower-income Americans were the first victims of the calamity, taken in by rapacious...
Regulation as Civic Empowerment: The Policing of the Financial System Can't Just Be Left to Bureaucrats. Properly Designed, Regulation Can Be a Community-Organizing Strategy
In February 1975, a coalition of more than three dozen consumer groups paid a call on the newly installed chair of the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. William Proxmire of Wisconsin. Proxmire, a progressive who had previously headed the subcommittee...
Reversing the Damage: What Will It Take to Resume Credit Flows to Low- and Moderate-Income Neighborhoods?
We have committed more than $8 trillion to bailing out banks, but one common lament, from many business owners and prospective homeowners, is that the very same banks are reluctant to make loans. We need to modernize existing laws and enact some new...
Testing Testing
A YEAR AGO, THE IDEA OF SETTING NATIONAL EDUCATION standards was a lot like the idea of legalizing marijuana: Despite all common sense, it just wasn't going to happen. It didn't matter that No Child Left Behind proved that when states are allowed to...
The Assault on the Black Middle Class: Sub-Prime Lending Was Racially Targeted and Demolished Decades of Progress Made by America's Most Diligent and Striving People of Color. How Will America Make Amends?
When my mom describes it all now--10 months after she walked away from her house of 14 years--she sounds sort of crazy to me. I make her explain again and again, because the depth of her denial about the situation she faced is hard for me to understand....
The Last Drug Czar: Obama's Point Man in the War on Drugs Is Calling off the Troops. but That Doesn't Mean Legalization Is around the Corner
In late May the new leader of America's fight against illegal drugs, Gil Kerlikowske, returned to Seattle, the dope-tolerating city where he'd previously served as police chief. As part of the visit, he stopped by a local morning radio talk show, where...
The Optimist
THE OCCASIONS ON WHICH PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA says something simply preposterous are rare enough that they ought to attract some attention. Yet it passed almost without notice when, in his May 21 speech on national security, Obama explained that he...
The Shipping Point: Wal-Mart and Other Discount Retailers Are Exploiting Workers in California Warehouses. Can an Organizing Campaign Make a Difference?
On May 14, Wal-Mart released its first-quarter financials for 2009 and announced that I despite the recession--or, perhaps, because of it--business was booming. Shoppers in search of cheaper products had been flocking to its stores: A full 17 percent...
What Does Financial Capital Owe Society? Corporate Social Responsibility Is a Worthy Goal, but It's No Substitute for Regulation, Subsidy, and Government Sponsorship of Social Institutions
The idea that private enterprise should be harnessed to the creation of social capital is an old claim given new resonance by the financial crisis. After beggaring millions of people and threatening the global economy with ruin, banks and other credit...
When Creditors Are Predators: We Need to Regulate to Assure That Loans Work-And Stop the Loans That Work People Over
"How many people remember the sub-prime crisis of 1991-1993?" William Black asked me the other day. Black is a longtime federal regulator turned economics professor. We were talking about how the collapse of the housing market in 2006-2008 catalyzed...