The Chicago Friends of Barack: Public-spirited Liberals or Gentrifying Developers Looking for Black Cover?
October 10, 2014, 12:00 PM
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In my latest column on the 20th anniversary of The Bell Curve in Taki’s Magazine, a commenter takes issue with my contention that Herrnstein and Murray hadn’t been cynical enough about what the cognitive elite would do with its urban underclass:

As I recall, rather than being a sinister plan, Liberals supported moving minorities out to the suburbs because it was thought that concentrating them in city slums was working against them and that dispersing them among the middle class would improve the chances that their children would turn out better. Flawed idea for many reasons that Steve has written about before, but it also didn’t account for the fact that middle class people would react and the poor would just end up “concentrated” in specific suburban neighborhoods that others abandoned. Rather than face the fact that “culture” and “attitudes” might be holding minorities back, Liberals are much more likely to be attracted to ideas that simply move the deck chairs around. Now it certainly might have been a sinister plan on the part of the redevelopers. :-)
But we have a superb case study in front of our noses involving the liberal Friends of Barack in Chicago who picked out and groomed the current President for higher office. Were they solely disinterested social theorists? Or were they remarkably concentrated among people who had financial and political interests in gentrifying Chicago, such as Obama’s campaign finance chair Penny Pritzker, his first White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, his second chief of staff William Daley, his closest adviser Valerie Jarrett, his best friend Martin Nesbitt, and personal home-purchase facilitator Tony Rezko?

Shortly after Obama’s 2008 election victory, old-fashioned lefty Robert Fitch gave a fascinating lecture to the Harlem Tenants Association connecting the dots. For example:

Obama’s political base comes primarily from Chicago FIRE—the finance, insurance and real estate industry. And the wealthiest families—the Pritzkers, the Crowns and the Levins. But it’s more than just Chicago FIRE. Also within Obama’s inner core of support are allies from the non-profit sector: the liberal foundations, the elite universities, the non-profit community developers and the real estate reverends who produce market rate housing with tax breaks from the city and who have been known to shout from the pulpit “give us this day our Daley, Richard Daley bread.” Aggregate them and what emerges is a constellation of interests around Obama that I call “Friendly FIRE.” Fire power disguised by the camouflage of community uplift; augmented by the authority of academia; greased by billions in foundation grants; and wired to conventional FIRE by the terms of the Community Reinvestment Act of 1995. …

Yes, Obama worked with Ayers, but not the Ayers who blew up buildings; but the Ayers who was able to bring down $50 million from the Walter Annenberg foundation, leveraging it to create a $120 million a non-profit organization with Obama as its head. Annenberg was a billionaire friend of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Why would he give mega-millions to a terrorist? Perhaps because he liked Ayers’ new politics. Ayer’s initiative grew out of the backlash against the 1985 Chicago teachers’ strike; his plan promoted “the community” as a third force in education politics between the union and the city administration. Friendly FIRE [i.e., liberal, multiracial Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate interests] wants the same kind of education reform as FIRE: the forces that brought about welfare reform have now moved onto education reform and for the same reason: crippling the power of the union will reduce teachers’ salaries, which will cut real estate taxes which will raise land values.