Steve Bannon
Credit: Don Irvine/Wikicommons

Last week I noted something Steve Bannon told Kimberly Strassel.

I never went on TV one time during the campaign. Not once. You know why? Because politics is war. General Sherman would never have gone on TV to tell everyone his plans. I’d never tip my hand to the other side. And right now we’ve got work to do.

That was part of my argument for how Bannon thinks he is out-smarting liberals by inciting them to chase after inflammatory statements while he maneuvers strategically behind the scenes. It raised my curiosity about who this man really is, what he is trying to accomplish and how he plans to do that. Based on what we’ve seen from Bannon so far, I’d propose that he sees himself as the mastermind puppeteer who plans to chart the course for Trump’s presidency in much the same way that Karl Rove did for George W. Bush. Only Bannon isn’t simply interested in political power, he envisions leading a global nationalist movement.

My curiosity about Bannon was further aroused when, in response to the charge that he is a white supremacist, he told Strassel, “we are going to bring capitalism to the inner cities.” What does that mean?

Some of these questions were answered when I watched a documentary Bannon made with David Bossie (from Citizens United) in 2010 titled “Generation Zero.”

YouTube video

It’s worth watching the whole thing if you have time. But in it, Bannon and Bossie craft their explanation about what led to the Great Recession and how both the Bush and Obama administrations failed in response. It’s telling that they start off with blaming mothers in the 1950’s who overindulged their children because of their experience with the Great Depression and World War II (nothing about fathers ever came up). In their telling, these narcissistic children went on to overturn cultural norms as part of the Woodstock generation of hippies in the 1960’s and then were trained in disruption tactics by people like Saul Alinsky to ruin our government – culminating in deregulation and entitlements of the 1990’s. Those narcissistic baby boomers also spawned the “me generation” of greed that took over Wall Street. In other words, it is a complete load of revisionist crap.

But to understand what Bannon was referring to when he talked about bringing capitalism back to the inner cities, it is helpful to note how the film portrays one of the contributors to the housing crisis. For Bannon and Bosie it all goes back to the 1977 Community Reinvestment Act. Here is how it is discussed in the film:

This policy that led to the subprime crisis and so forth came out of the fact that the civil rights movement had claimed that blacks were being red-lined. Banks then didn’t want to lend money to them. Here is another source of black victimization. Here’s another place where this fundamentally racist society is keeping blacks down. Since the mid- sixties, white Americans have been in a position where they constantly have to prove that they are not racist. It is that phenomenon of white guilt is what pressures people in the government to say things like, ‘Everybody has a right to a house,’ and unfortunately capitalism doesn’t work that way…

When Bill Clinton became president he made turbocharging the Community Reinvestment Act one of his priorities. He got the Justice Department to go after mortgage lenders to say that if these lenders were not making proportionate loans they can be accused of racism. So this had the effect of corroding lending standards. This is what created the explosion of subprime lending during the Clinton years and the Bush administration years.

Notice first of all that they say that the civil rights movement “claimed” that blacks were being red-lined. With all of the focus on the 1960’s it is interesting to note that this is the first time (and only time) that the civil rights movement was mentioned. Doing so would have stepped on the whole idea that the era was simply about spoiled narcissistic Woodstock kids. But redlining went far beyond a claim made by that movement. It was a documented fact that kept African Americans from being able to participate in one of the foundational parts of the American dream – home ownership.

The problem Bannon and Bosie zero in on is the idea that government should intervene in capitalism to level the playing field for those who would otherwise be subjected to exclusion and marginalization. What they are suggesting is that true capitalism that leads to the survival of the fittest is best. In their view, our form of self-government has no obligation to the commonwealth.

That kind of thinking (and this rationalization for what happened in the lead-up to the Great Recession) is not new for conservatives or Republicans. But it stems from the same libertarianism within that party that was the basis for the policies of Ron Paul and his son, Sen. Rand Paul.

So when Bannon says that he wants to bring capitalism back to the inner cities, what he is likely referring to is a reversal of the government interventions that were put in place to mitigate the effects of systemic racism. He tries to claim that he is not a white nationalist. But the result of what he wants to accomplish would suggest otherwise.

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