TeleSur | – –
Cleveland, once called the Mistake on the Lake, hosts nominating convention of the political party that authored its downfall
Just a few miles from downtown Cleveland’s preoccupied hum and gleaming skyscrapers, in the hollowed-out slums that resemble deserted ghost-towns, the notion of this city hosting the Republican National Convention that begins Monday is akin to a killer returning to the scene of the crime, to gloat if nothing else.
There is almost no poorer place in the U.S. than this post-industrial patch of land on the banks of Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River, thanks in no small part to the GOP’s conservative scheme to empty the pockets of what was once the wealthiest working class in history.
With its railroad lines, steel refineries, and auto-manufacturers, Cleveland was once among the world’s wealthiest cities. But, much like the protagonist in a Hemingway novel, the city went broke, gradually, and then suddenly, beginning as the sun set on the golden era of U.S. industrialism, and accelerating with the deregulation of mortgage finance.
Between 2000 and 2010, banks foreclosed on 110,000 home loans in the city, triggering a population loss of nearly a fifth over that period, according to a report Sunday by the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper. Cleveland is now the second-poorest big-city in the country, according to 2015 U.S. Census figures.
And deepening that seismic shift in the U.S. economy, from manufacturing to finance, are two billionaires who figure prominently in the GOP Convention which begins Monday at the Quicken Loans arena in downtown Cleveland: the party’s presumptive nominee, Donald Trump, and billionaire Dan Gilbert, who owns the NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers franchise and the arena where the team plays.
In 2008, Trump, a real estate mogul, counseled “pupils” enrolled in a now shuttered business school, Trump University, to target vulnerable communities like Cleveland where indigent property owners were desperate to unload homes purchased with predatory loans.
“Investors Nationwide are Making Millions in Foreclosures … AND SO CAN YOU!” the real estate mogul said in newspaper ads published across the country. According to The Guardian, Trump had only recently closed a brokerage company, Trump Mortgages, which offered offered subprime mortgages to customers through cold calls.
“Trump is a speculator. He’s a scavenger. They tell you how you can get rich, and often that means getting rich (by) taking advantage of other people’s foibles or miscues or faults,” said Jim Rokakis, vice president of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in northern Ohio.
Said Xavier Allen, 44, pointing to a bullet-ridden Cleveland home with a collapsing ceiling and two armchairs submerged in debris: “Donald Trump doesn’t care. He was part of the problem.”
Gilbert also made the bulk of his estimated US$5.2 billion fortune from real estate, though some critics say it’s been anything but honest work. Gilbert was arrested once for bookmaking in college, sued, unsuccessfully by former employees for overtime pay, and by the U.S. Justice Department for mortgage fraud. That case is still pending.
The trajectories of Trump and Gilbert mirrors that of the country’s wealthiest 1 percent over the past 50 years. Historians and the Marxist geographer David Harvey note that as maturing postwar industries in Europe and Japan began to produce exports to compete with goods manufactured in the U.S., profit margins began to shrink, and the financial class began to look to alternatives to manufacturing.
Bankers and corporate executive found their muse in the free-market ideology of the economist Milton Friedman, who preferred low-inflation and favorable conditions for investors to the Keynesian ideology of stimulating overall buying power. Beginning with New York City’s 1975 financial crisis, the top 1 percent weakened public sector unions, deregulated financial markets, and imposed belt-tightening austerity measures around the country.
This Republican agenda began to hit rustbelt cities like Cleveland hard beginning in the late 1970s, when a cash-strapped Cleveland became known as the “Mistake on the Lake.” That crisis mushroomed as the 90s drew to a close, the Democrats fully embraced the GOP’s corporatist ideology, free-trade opened the door to cheap labor abroad, and speculators like Trump and Gilbert were unbound of virtually all constraints.
“If you’re for the blue collar worker or the people that have been pushed aside,” Cleveland resident Anita Gardner told The Guardian, “this is what the people who have been pushed aside have to deal with,” she said pointing to a collapsing door frame.
In an attempt to organize residents to fight blight and combat rogue landlords, Gardner formed the Concerned Citizens Community Council in 2008.
“So if you want to ‘Make America Great Again’, come down here and see what America really has to deal with.”
Via TeleSur ”