How Goldman Sachs Hurts Communities of Color logo

"William Diaz of the 462nd Transportation Battalion feels like he's fighting a war on two fronts. In April, the 39-year-old U.S. Army Reserve corporal is being deployed to Kuwait for a year-long tour.

But for the past few months, Diaz has been fighting another very painful battle in his own backyard: American Servicing Corp., a division of Wells Fargo, is seeking a court order to foreclose on his two-family home in Elizabeth, N.J., a predominately Latino city. [...]

'I am being deployed. I can't say no. If I do, I face court martial. But I feel like I am being forced to choose between my family and my duty to my country,' says Diaz.

For cash-strapped families like his, all it takes is one hiccup—a jump in interest rates, an illness, the loss of a job, a pay cut—to find themselves staring down the barrel of financial ruin.

These days, the contrast between struggling families on Main Street and bankers on Wall Street who are prospering at their expense could not be sharper. In the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, with the U.S. unemployment rate hitting 10 percent and more than 1.4 million Americans filing for bankruptcy in 2009, Goldman Sachs celebrated one of the most profitable years in its 141-year history. In January of this year, Goldman Sachs doled out a hefty $16 billion in bonuses for the 2009 year, up from $10.9 billion in 2008—a pretty staggering feat given that a little more than a year ago, Goldman was forced to take American-taxpayer dollars just to stay alive.

The human tragedy all too frequently goes unnoticed amid the noise and finger-pointing in Washington, D.C., and Wall Street over who is to blame for the subprime debacle and its ensuing economic ramifications. But the trauma, the hardship, the heartache being felt by millions of ordinary Americans who have lost their jobs, their homes and their life savings—most of them Black and Latino—is still very real and still very raw. [...]

In fact, a study by United for a Fair Economy examining housing and racial bias found the subprime-lending mess has caused the greatest loss of wealth to Blacks and Latinos in modern U.S. history. During the past eight years, Black borrowers have lost between $72 billion and $93 billion from subprime loans, while Latino borrowers have lost between $76 billion and $98 billion during that same time period, according to the report.

Ironically, the tax dollars that supported the bailout of Wall Street's 'too-big-to-fail' banks and helped pad their bonus coffers came largely from struggling middle-class families—from people like Diaz, already working hard to make ends meet. [...]

As the real-estate market pushed to its peaks in 2005 and 2006 and home prices across the nation literally doubled, new homes couldn't be built fast enough. This voracious demand encouraged lenders to loosen their guidelines by offering loans to borrowers with even the shakiest credit. Wall Street banks cheered them on, extending generous credit terms to lenders and offering loan officers extra money to push subprime mortgages. [...]

And today?

Goldman continues to profit handsomely from the subprime-mortgage fallout. During the boom, Goldman Sachs bought thousands of subprime mortgages, many of them from some of the most toxic lenders in the business, and packaged them into high-yield bonds. [...]

In fact, Wall Street investment banks, including Goldman Sachs, were subprime-mortgage lenders' single most important source of capital and therefore had a lot of power and influence in the subprime-mortgage market, according to a report issued by Center for Public Integrity. [...]"

Read the full article by Sam Ali, Luke Visconti and Barbara Frankel on Scroll down for additional commentary from Luke Visconti in dialogue with readers.

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