Great Quotes in Homeownership #3: Bush in 2002

As the War on Terror was underway, President Bush traveled to Atlanta in June 2002 and promoted homeownership for minorities:

But my attitude is, if somebody can’t find work and they want to work, we’ve got to continue to work on expanding the job base. And part of economic security is owning your own home. (Applause.) Part of being a secure America is to encourage homeownership. So somebody can say, this is my home, welcome to my home.

Now, we’ve got a problem here in America that we have to address. Too many American families, too many minorities do not own a home. There is a home ownership gap in America. The difference between Anglo America and African American and Hispanic home ownership is too big. (Applause.) And we’ve got to focus the attention on this nation to address this.

And it starts with setting a goal. And so by the year 2010, we must increase minority home owners by at least 5.5 million. In order to close the homeownership gap, we’ve got to set a big goal for America, and focus our attention and resources on that goal. (Applause.)…

I want to go back to where I started. I believe out of the evil done to America will come incredible good. I believe that as sure as I’m standing here. I believe we can achieve peace. I believe that we can address hopelessness and despair where hopelessness and despair exist. And listen, I understand that in this great country, there are too many people who say, this American Dream, what does that mean; my eyes are shut to the American Dream, I don’t see the dream. And we’d better make sure, for the good of the country, that the dream is vibrant and alive.

It starts with having great education systems for every single child. (Applause.) It means that we unleash the faith-based programs to help change people’s hearts, which will help change their lives. (Applause.) It means we use the mighty muscle of the federal government in combination with state and local governments to encourage owning your own home. That’s what that means. And it means — it means that each of us, each of us, have a responsibility in the great country to put something greater than ourselves — to promote something greater than ourselves.

These are not unusual sentiments for an American president. Even as danger lurks in the larger world (now the threat of terrorism rather than the threat of communism), American residents need to be able to participate in the American dream. This dream includes at least a few factors including good jobs and schools but is anchored in owning a home. Bush adds to these broad aspirations in this speech by noting that minorities have lower homeownership rates (this is still the case today) and the government and American society should be committed to helping them join white Americans in owning homes.

On one hand, this is a laudable goal that I suspect many would still support today: minorities should be able to buy homes in good neighborhoods. On the other hand, setting such goals is now viewed as helping to contribute to the economic crisis of the late 2000s. President Bush discusses a variety of means to push homeownership – government programs, community associations, faith-based groups – but we know at least part of this was accomplished through subprime and other loans that produced a facade of increasing homeownership without much substance behind it.

For the future, what is a sustainable path that truly gives minorities opportunities to own a home for the long-term? This might require jettisoning the idea that a home should be an economic investment. It may mean more operating outside of the free market to provide good housing.

Considering the humanity of our leaders

Here is a fascinating essay that reveals some of the humanity of a polarizing figure: George W. Bush.

Do we even want to know the more human side of our leaders? It is easy to build them up, as a paragon of virtue and strength, or to tear them down, as an enemy who must be defeated. Even though we are more than two years out from the end of his presidency, how many people can read a piece like this with somewhat objective eyes?

Trying to figure out whether to support Mubarak or the people in Egypt is not the first time the US has been in this position

In the United States, part of the coverage of the happenings in Egypt involves how the United States should respond. As has been noted by many, the US is stuck in a difficult position: we have generously supported Mubarak but we also claim to be about freedom and democracy. How can we balance these two approaches, particularly when our larger strategic goals in the Middle East region are tied to Israel and Egypt’s long-term support of this country?

It would be helpful is this difficult position would be put in some historical context. This is not the first time this has happened for the United States (nor is it likely to be the last time). Since the end of World War Two when the United States emerged as a superpower, we have ended up in this position numerous times in countries around the world. Look at Iran. Look at Chile. This has occurred in recent years in Palestine – does the United States support open and democratic elections if it means that Hamas is voted into power? In order to further our strategic interests, we have ended up supporting dictators. Some commentators have said Egypt presents the same conundrum: support Mubarak or open it up to the possibility that the Muslim Brotherhood could come to power?

When American presidents speak about advancing freedom (President George W. Bush did this openly for years when talking about Afghanistan and Iraq), could people around the world take them seriously? On one hand, we claim to be a beacon of light in the world. On the other hand, we act in ways that seem at odds with the interests of “the people” in other countries.

All of this could lead to some interesting long-term discussions in the United States about approaching global politics.

(As an aside, it has been interesting to watch live coverage on the Internet from Al Jazeera English. I just heard an anchor openly argue with an official in Mubarak’s ruling party about whether the people in the streets were mobs or not – the official said they were looting and burning and creating disorder, the anchor kept saying that the protesters were peaceful and just wanted democratic elections. This perspective is quite different from coverage in the United States.)