Views in brief

April 11, 2008

Home buying is out of reach

I FOUND the article regarding what the federal government can do about the housing situation slightly flawed ("Benefiting from more foreclosures.")

Falling house prices aren't the problem as the story reports; the problem for many areas is that prices are too high, which is why they are falling. Cheap, easily available credit is what pushed people to bid heavily against each other, creating a price run-up. Everyone was competing against each other for who could get the largest loans. This pushed housing costs way above normal historic rates of a 2.5-3.0 multiplier on income.

In many areas now, new home buyers can't afford entry into the market, and that is what caused the downturn. Had new buyers been able to afford the high prices still, housing would still be running up. However, now that new entrants are "priced out," any action to keep current pricing would just prolong the problem and keep young families from owning.

Now, as far as loan forgiveness, I can sympathize with that. Essentially the federal government, through the Federal Reserve, created the problem. But how do you go about it? If the federal government was able to buy the loans at a significant discount, then pass the savings on to the borrowers, this would not create a large issue, so long as the discount does not exceed what the government bought the loan for.

The problem is that no one is sure where the bottom is. That's because today's first-time buyers have larger student loans than ever before that effect their debt-to-income ratios and have an adverse effect on how much they can afford to borrow. That, and locality is a big factor as well--not all areas were hit the same.

So, preferably, it would be the states and localities that take action, because they have better data and knowledge of individual localities and what is needed. For instance, were the federal government to just forgive everything above market, California may realize that entire subdivisions need to be bulldozed under because the local market has too many homes and may choose to help the few remaining people there move somewhere else.

So I see the federal government's role in this being that of support to the states. Certainly, use the federal money and give it to the states for the purpose of buying distressed loans and homes, but let the local governments decide what actions need to be taken in order to solve the issue, because while there is a universal problem, the situations and characteristics are very local and individual.

It should be noted though that if libertarian economists turn out right, 3 million is a very optimistic number. Some are estimating a 10 percent drop in values, putting 20 million "underwater." And that doesn't even account for when Baby Boomers start to retire and move out of their new, larger homes that outnumber younger buyers, creating even more downward pressure on prices.
Bryan Schaefer, from the Internet

How U.S. rulers use Tibet

AS AN organ of the left that consistently exposes the crimes of U.S. imperialism, I must admit I was disappointed with Socialist Worker's coverage on Tibet.

In the article "Tibet's new resistance against Chinese repression," David Whitehouse claims that U.S. and European officials have remained "muted" on the crackdown against the Tibetan pro-independence protesters, with the exception of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I disagree with Whitehouse, because the Bush White House has actually "urged" Chinese President Hu Jintao to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama has always been a friend of U.S. imperialism. In fact, a book titled The CIA's Secret War in Tibet, written by Kenneth Conboy of the right-wing Heritage Foundation and James Morrison of the CIA, outlines how the CIA funded the 1959 Tibetan uprising to arm anti-communist guerrillas and placed the Dalai Lama on its payroll. It is estimated that Dalai Lama once received $180,000 annually from the U.S. Plus, as recently as 2003, the Dalai Lama even met with George W. Bush.

While it is important that we as socialists defend the right to self-determination of any group facing repression, it is just as important that we recognize that U.S. and European officials do at times pretend to shed tears during acts of repression for their own political gain, as was also the case with Solidarity in Poland.

I think it is also crucial that we distinguish between the people of Tibet from those of the Tibetan ruling class, such as the Dalai Lama.
Jeremy Radabaugh, Kent, Ohio

Defending lawyers in Pakistan

THE NATIONAL Lawyers Guild (NLG) held its 2008 Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference on March 1 at Drexel University in Philadelphia. A couple hundred lawyers, students, legal workers and community members attended from the region. Workshops ranged in topics from immigrant workers' rights and racial discrimination in America, to the housing and lending crisis, to the effect of the Bush administration's policies on the legal system.

The conference ended with a panel on "The Rule of Law and the Pakistani Lawyers' Movement: Then and Now," with lawyers Sahibzada Anwar Hamid and Hamid Khan, both senior advocates for the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The speakers told a history of U.S. intervention in the region, reported on recent actions of Pervez Musharraf and advocated for "the supremacy of law, the revival of the judiciary and the revival of the constitution in its original form."

Hamid and Khan spoke of the sacrifices the movement has made, including mass detentions and violence. "District police officers hurled flammable liquid on the lawyers because they were organizing for the return of the rule of law and an independent judiciary," they said. "The president of the Supreme Court bar association is still under house arrest." Photographs of the burned and beaten lawyers circulated the audience.

The speakers were pleased that the NLG has shown such solidarity with the Pakistani lawyers' movement. "We are grateful to the NLG for sending lawyers on a fact-finding mission...The report is quite encouraging."

A NLG delegation made up of four lawyers and four law students visited Pakistan January 2-12, 2008. Delegation members went to Lahore, Karachi, Peshawar and Islamabad, where they conducted interviews with more than 50 jurists, lawyers, political party representatives, elected officials, civil servants, journalists, students, activists and members of civil society.

The speakers ended their inspiring stories about Pakistan's struggle for justice with an international call: "The lawyer community throughout the world is one family. Wherever there is a violation of human rights, lawyers should respond."
Matthew Pillischer, Philadelphia

The NLG delegation findings can be viewed at