We write together today – as a pastor and a politician – to ask for social justice.
The Great Recession of the last five years has been a travesty that we’ve all shared in together. We’re still working to recover – to regain our jobs, our homes, and often, our dignity.
And even as we’ve had things taken from us, we’ve still been a giving people. Told that they were “too big to fail,” we bailed out American banks to stave off financial disaster, helping save this country from the brink of ruin.
So, as residents of Oakland – a shining city – it’s outrageous to watch bailout beneficiaries like Goldman Sachs continue to hold hostage our city.
One of the largest banks on the planet, Goldman Sachs refuses to let the City of Oakland refinance the municipal bonds it owns. Holding onto these “toxic assets” has allowed the company to pocket almost $30 million of our money – and to keep profiting at a rate of $5 million a year.
That is, of course, unless Goldman Sachs agrees to let us renegotiate.
Leviticus 25:6 tells us, “If your kinsman being in straights comes under your authority, let him live by your side. Do not extract from him usury through interest.”
Do not charge us unjust interest, Goldman Sachs.
We implore you – the good people of Oakland implore you – to help us recover from the recession the way we helped you.
The bank bailout was justified to the public on the grounds that it would enable companies such as Goldman Sachs to be able to operate in a manner that is beneficial to the public.
But the second part hasn’t taken place, and this is evidence of that.
The City of Oakland will continue to negotiate – and will take whatever action is necessary – to terminate this “deal.”
But do unto us the way we graciously did unto you when you were in trouble, Goldman. We used taxpayer dollars to salvage private, for-profit companies like yours.
As with many other cities across our country, our struggle with debt continues. This poses an even greater burden at a time when we grapple with some of the harshest cuts to our most basic and critical services. The weight of this contract threatens to further destabilize our city, threatening the most basic core services.
This is money that could build a health clinic in East Oakland, create a jobs program in West Oakland and so much more.
On behalf of our parishioners, our constituents – and a large coalition of active and vocal community members throughout this city, we demand action to terminate this deal.
Join us in demanding that Goldman Sachs renegotiate our debt – the same way we renegotiated theirs.
Reverend Daniel Buford serves the Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland and Rebecca Kaplan is the at-large member of the Oakland City Council. This op-ed essay previously appeared in the Oakland Post.
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