Last week, the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” opened in theaters nationwide to long lines and critical acclaim, especially here in Daly City, California, where a lot of Asians reside.
Of course, where people are, there the politicians will be.
Assemblymember Phil Ting, who is of Chinese descent and who represents the California 19th Assembly District which includes the west side of San Francisco, Broadmoor, Daly City, South San Francisco, and Colma, was one of those who prominently supported the movie.
At a press conference before a screening of “Crazy Rich Asians,” Ting, who is the vice chair of the Asian-Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus, touted Senate Bill 871 or the film tax credit law recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown, which supposedly “moves the needle towards inclusion” by including diversity statistics in the application process for tax incentives.
What Ting didn’t say during the press conference was that the very next day, the Assembly Budget Committee that he chairs was about to pass another bill, Senate Bill 861 (SB 861). He wouldn’t have been proud about passing SB 861 through his committee, however, because this trailer budget bill would move the needle towards exclusion for the Asian Americans and other low-income communities he is supposed to represent.
Here is the plot to the SB 861 story: In 2014, the National Asian American Coalition (NAAC), of which I am the president and CEO, and two other nonprofit organizations, sued Governor Jerry Brown to seek the return of $331 million, which his government illegally diverted for other budgetary purposes from the National Mortgage Special Deposit Fund (NMSDF) – a fund that was created in the aftermath of the subprime mortgage crisis to help fund housing counselors and other essential housing service providers, so that they, in turn, may help financially distressed homeowners buy homes or modify their mortgages to avoid foreclosure.
Long story short: the NAAC won. Governor Brown appealed. The NAAC won again. Governor Brown was ordered to immediately return the money. Instead of doing so, like any of us regular citizens would do when we receive a court order, Governor Brown and his Legislative Democratic Allies in the Budget Committee sneakily passed SB 861 and AB 1829, both of which are trailer budget bills that seek to overturn the two emphatic California court rulings and forever put out of the reach of struggling homeowners the $331 million that they badly need.
It is a shame that Assemblymember Ting would allow this bill to even pass his committee without scrutinizing how badly it will affect his constituents. He seems only interested in supporting the fictional “Crazy Rich Asians” – which perpetuates the “model minority” stereotype that Asians in America can survive on their own and don’t need governmental help – but not the real-life, “crazy poor” Asians, Latinos, Blacks, and other low-income communities in his district, who are struggling to make ends meet and are struggling even more to buy or keep their homes.
The fate of SB 861 is largely in Assemblymember Ting’s hands, being the chair of the powerful Budget Committee, and he can definitely “move the needle” on passing or rejecting the bill. The question is: Is Assemblymember Phil Ting only for the crazy rich Asians, or will he fight for the crazy poor ones, too?
Faith Bautista is the president and CEO of the National Asian American Coalition (NAAC) and is currently a member of the Community Development Advisory Board, which advises the U.S. Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions (CFDI) Fund on policies and activities.