Big Mad: Chasing Disaster

Not even John Oliver's lovely accent can make this less of a mess.
Not even John Oliver's lovely accent can make this less of a mess. SCREENSHOT/LAST NIGHT TONIGHT
click to enlarge Not even John Oliver's lovely accent can make this less of a mess. - SCREENSHOT/LAST NIGHT TONIGHT
Not even John Oliver's lovely accent can make this less of a mess.

Welcome back to the Big Mad, the RFT's weekly roundup of righteous rage! Because we know your time is short and your anger is hot:

Gone Fast: As if O'Fallon, Missouri, simply could not get any worse (if you’re looking for reasons, it has been well-documented), the (now-ex) police chief announced a new, stupid change for his department: more police pursuits. After five police chases in two weeks, police Chief Philip DuPuis promised more in an interview with Fox 2. If you're not familiar with the area, kids are always walking everywhere. What could possibly go wrong as cars fly by kids crossing the street just trying to get a damn hamburger from McDonald's? Dupuis claimed officers know when to back off. Forgive our skepticism: Police pursuits resulted in 1,699 fatal crashes nationally in the years 2014 to 2018. Missouri had 63 of those deaths, with bystanders comprising nearly half the dead. And if you're wondering whether Dupuis had anyone in mind when describing his chase thirst, he made it clear: "Our message here in St. Charles County is you might want to think twice before coming across the river, because all of the agencies in St. Charles County are going to be doing everything they can to catch you and put you in jail," he told Fox 2. Ah yes, the old white flight tale of dangerous St. Louisans out to wreak havoc on the good suburbanites. But maybe it's all moot. Dupuis, who arrived eight months ago from Texas, has quit. He cited Missouri's new Second Amendment Preservation Act and its potentially disastrous ramifications. Gotta respect that — this guy knows bad policies.

Surrender: We're starting to think Mark McCloskey might be full of it. Our dude literally made "NEVER BACK DOWN" a Senate campaign slogan, mashing down that caps lock like one serious-ass boomer. And then this new fan of plaid snap-button shirts bails and takes a plea deal, admitting to misdemeanor assault. Patricia McCloskey pleaded to misdemeanor harassment. They agreed to pay a fine and give up the guns they pointed at people in front of their house a year ago. That's Mark "NEVER BACK DOWN" McCloskey admitting he was the one who committed a crime that day and handing over his AR-15. Mark, an attorney who assured us "I am a proven fighter against this mob," apparently surveyed the case and was afraid of fighting. Damn, it's almost like you can't believe what this guy says. Next we'll learn (maybe from reading special prosecutor Richard Callahan's statement on his findings) that it wasn't a dangerous "mob" that the McCloskeys confronted, but a group of unarmed people cutting through the neighborhood. It's a lot to process. We are reminded of that immortal speech by Charlton Heston: "You can have my guns when I willingly surrender them to you to avoid an unfavorable outcome in court." We may be off by a word or two. Mark, is that how it goes?

Home Disillusionment: While even society's worst problems sound just a little more manageable when uttered in a sophisticated British accent, an episode of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight made it no less upsetting to learn Missouri (among others) is helping a privately run loan operation screw over poor and minority homeowners. On the June 20 show, Oliver targeted the Property Assessed Clean Energy program, a clean energy and home improvement program that, critically, is operated by private entities who are empowered to use the government's tax collectors to extract loan payments — loans that can be approved without determining homeowners' ability to pay it back. As Oliver poshly noted, "When PACE programs go wrong, they can go very wrong" — and that is the situation in Missouri. In April, a ProPublica investigation found more than 100 homes in St. Louis and Kansas City at risk of being sold at public auction because of unpaid PACE loans. It also appears that contractors — yes, contractors are also acting as loan salesmen in this crazy system — don't always make sure elderly or impoverished homeowners know what they're getting into. Also, because the loan amounts are pegged to home property taxes, the result is a familiar, racist map of home values: ProPublica found that 28 percent of borrowers in minority areas are at least one year behind in repayments, compared with 4 percent in mostly white areas. The report featured a Black resident living in her Walnut Park home valued at $8,000; she had been convinced to take out loans that will ultimately cost her $25,000. Those are numbers that can turn poverty into homelessness, and while Missouri's legislature deserves credit for passing a bill this year to add oversight and consumer protections to the program, the damage has already been done.

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