As we approach Tuesday’s historic election, we can count on one clear fact that the political pundits likely will overlook in their election night coverage — no matter what the outcome, the state of our economy will necessitate a role for community organizers.
My 35 years of organizing has taught me that while it can make a big difference which politician wins the election, there is still a vital function that the nonprofit sector plays in assuring that government is not only responsive but even more important, effective. So with thanks to the Republican National Convention for bringing “community organizing” to the national spotlight and Comedy Central, Election Day is also an appropriate time for us all to rededicate ourselves to our profession and look around our communities to identify the local issues that require our attention.
Thanks to the failures of government over the past eight years, we are faced with an international economic crisis that has not only sent Wall Street to record lows, but has destroyed communities, busted local governmental budgets, and devastated families. Small businesses are starving for credit. Those who have jobs are obsessed with the question “for how long?” Those without jobs and in need of skills training can only hope that change will be for the better.
As the financial bailout unfurls, one can only wonder: Why are we taxpayers investing billions in banks that are only using the funds to buy other banks? One can hope that finally real loan modifications will be made to keep families in their homes and stop the plague of foreclosures and board-ups that further threaten home values and entire communities. And if interest rates are finally being lowered so that they are now affordable for folks to make their mortgage payments, is it not time for the regulators to acknowledge the inherent self-fulfilling prophecy of “risk-based pricing” that overcharged those least able to afford a predatory loan?
This is not the time to abandon the democratization of credit; it’s time to assure financial inclusion for all Americans to earn, save, and spend for their families. The interaction of the public and private sectors is most productive when both embrace community partnerships with their citizens and their consumers. That means working with community organizers.