Friday :: Jan 1, 2010

Revisiting Bush's Ownership Society

by Mary

Recently the Atlantic published an article by Hanna Rosin about the role the prosperity gospel had in creating the financial crisis. In the piece she wrote that evangelical churches serving Latino and other minority communities have based their theology on the prosperity gospel.

Among Latinos the prosperity gospel has been spreading rapidly. In a recent Pew survey, 73 percent of all religious Latinos in the United States agreed with the statement: “God will grant financial success to all believers who have enough faith.” For a generation of poor and striving Latino immigrants, the gospel seems to offer a road map to affluence and modern living. Garay’s church is comprised mostly of first-generation immigrants. More than others I’ve visited, it echoes back a highly distilled, unself-conscious version of the current thinking on what it means to live the American dream.

Rosin shows that this underlying belief tied directly to the number of subprime loans that were made to communities under the Bush policy that tied the Ownership Society to the Faith-based Initiatives.

One theme emerging in these suits is how banks teamed up with pastors to win over new customers for subprime loans.

...The idea of reaching out to churches took off quickly, Jacobson recalls. The branch managers figured pastors had a lot of influence with their parishioners and could give the loan officers credibility and new customers. Jacobson remembers a conference call where sales managers discussed the new strategy. The plan was to send officers to guest-speak at church-sponsored “wealth-building seminars” like the ones Bowler attended, and dazzle the participants with the possibility of a new house. They would tell pastors that for every person who took out a mortgage, $350 would be donated to the church, or to a charity of the parishioner’s choice. “They wouldn’t say, ‘Hey, Mr. Minister. We want to give your people a bunch of subprime loans,” Jacobson told me. “They would say, ‘Your congregants will be homeowners! They will be able to live the American dream!’”

Rosin points to the role the Christian Right has in creating the financial crisis, but she missed tying it directly to the philosophy and financial backing that underpinned the Bush faith-based policies.

Max Blumenthal reports in his book, Republican Gomorrah, that the intellectual underpinnings for this initiative came from the Religious Right through the writings of Marvin Olasky who came up with the Bush theme of "compassionate conservatism." Olasky was funded by Howard F. Ahmanson, Jr., the financier for most of the conservative, stealth religious campaigns in the 1990s and during the Bush years.

In 1992, Olasky wrote The Tragedy of American Compassion, an argument for transferring government social welfare programs to the church, which he claimed was the traditional and most effective approach until the New Deal - the very policy Rushdoony and his acolytes had long advocated. In this work, Olasky cited his "conservative Christian" friend Howard Ahmanson as proof that faith can cure poverty, describing how Ahmanson "found that poverty around the world is a spiritual as well as a material problem - most poor people don't have faith that they and their situations can change."

How many of those newly minted foreclosed upon who believed that it was their faith that allowed them to buy a home are aware that they were being staked out to fleece in the world's latest con-game?

What is clear is the prosperity gospel was made for the Bush years because what it delivered was remarkable prosperity for the select few.

Mary :: 3:51 PM :: Comments (5) :: Digg It!