The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King had just been murdered. Cities across the country were on fire. Race related social problems were no longer a distant portrait of high pressure water hoses, voting rights, and statistical economic differences. The injustices were pretty much in your face.
It affected folks. If a conservative is a liberal who is mugged, a white supremacist may well be one who is stone cold scared. People I knew all my life to be open minded embraced naked racism. They watched the flames in the distance from the northern suburbs of Detroit. And they eventually distanced themselves from those of us who had been dear to them.
In New York State, Governor Rockefeller formed the Urban Development Corporation. The purpose was to fund construction projects, rebuilding ghettos, giving deprived folks a chance.
Conservatives were outraged. Naturally hostile to any form of outreach to minorities, they were especially opposed to rewarding lawlessness. They saw the improvement of neighborhoods ravaged by rioting as the embodiment of being soft on crime. And, in those days, conservatives hated Nelson Rockefeller with a passion that is difficult to recall decades later.
Rockefeller formed his corporation to rebuild and to give opportunity. The state would float bond issues in order to fund the structure. The plan was to loan the new corporation enough to start, with repayment over time. But conservatives were able to rally enough legislative opposition to deny funding. The New York Urban Development Corporation would die an empty shell.
But Rockefeller turned to an old acquaintance, a bond lawyer, who came up with an alternative. The Governor announced that the New York Urban Development Corporation would issue its own bonds, and that the State of New York would consider repayment of those bonds to be its MORAL obligation. Conservatives were furious at this end run. Since then, the name of the corporation has changed, and financial times have gone up and down and up. Bonds have been issued and repaid. The structure has been used for major building projects and for post-9/11 recovery. Conservatives have recovered a portion of their equilibrium.
As California is reduced to issuing IOUs to cover expenses, and other states consider following suit, conservatives oppose bonds, taxes on the wealthy, funding from the federal government, and any other alternative. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger does financial cartwheels, as state government engages in self immolation.
Sadly, the bond lawyer who helped Nelson Rockfeller introduce a new method of funding is dead and gone. You may recall him from his eventual high offices. He became Attorney General of the US in Washington, DC, then prison inmate 24171-157 at Lompoc, CA. His name was John Mitchell.
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