The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) under threat?

The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) was established in response to the 2008 financial crisis to improve consumer financial protection practices.  Some of the emphasis of the Bureau over the last five years has been to combat the bad practices of payday lenders, credit card companies, and debt collectors, to name a few.  One of the most notable victories of recent has been the investigation of Wells Fargo Bank and its practice of opening fraudulent accounts without the knowledge of its customers.

But the Bureau is not without opposition from both Wall Street and some of it’s allies in Congress.  There is a case: PHH Mortgage Corp. vs. CFPB which is an attempt to undermine the Bureau.  The decision at first instance would give the president the discretionary power to remove the Bureau’s director.  With the expected move of the incoming administration towards financial deregulation, there is concern that the first instance decision will be the impetus for the removal of the current director Richard Cordray. Hopefully the decision which is under review by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will reverse the panel court’s decision.

But that hasn’t stopped those who seek to undermine the Bureau to make an attempt under the current law to have Cordray removed “for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office.”  This is in the face of the panel court’s finding of “a man of substantial accomplishment and of longstanding and dedicated devotion to public service and the public good.”

And the result down the road for consumers if both the CFPB and it’s director are successfully undermined?  Probably a return to the days of an under-regulated industry and predatory practices!

See:  http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/finance/313169-americans-cant-afford-to-lose-richard-cordray-or-the-cfpb#.WHJgPX0m8k4.facebook

The outrage of the CEO paycheck

The President-elect campaigned against the excesses of the CEO paycheck throughout 2016.  Sadly, his cabinet appointments suggest a complete turnaround from what he said at that time.  But according to Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economic Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, there are a number of things our new policymakers could do to tackle the ongoing problem of CEO excesses.

Firstly, the tax loophole that encourages corporations to pay their CEO’s more money needs to go.  The loophole currently allows corporations to deduct unlimited sums of money from their taxes for executive stock options and other “performance pay”.  The more corporations pay their CEO’s the less taxes they have to pay.

Two Democratic Party Senators introduced a bill this week to get rid of the loophole.  There is also an accompanying House bill.  But to date, there has been no indication of support from any on the Republican team.

Secondly, the tax-sheltered retirement accounts that allow large corporations to provide for unlimited tax-deferred accounts also need to go.  These accounts are in sharp contrast to the reality of the average person’s 401(k) account which is capped on how much money can be set aside.

Sarah Anderson reports other steps could also be taken to deal with the unfairness of the CEO paycheck.  Check out the link:  http://www.usnews.com/opinion/economic-intelligence/articles/2017-01-11/what-donald-trump-should-do-if-he-really-thinks-ceo-pay-is-a-joke

 

 

 

Understanding our political differences

I had an interesting conversation with a friend about the election the other evening which improved my awareness about why people see subjects like politics differently. The discussion was over Clinton losing the presidency. The person is not particularly pro-Clinton but was inclined towards the lesser evil argument during the election and that once Bernie was out of the picture the GOP had to be defeated at all costs, even if that meant a Clinton presidency.

I could never understand this person’s position on Clinton. He has always said that the GOP destroyed her over the years and that is why people where unwilling to give her a chance. I was always intrigued by this viewpoint but had never actually analysed or questioned him on it further. I was always of the view that it didn’t matter to me what the GOP had said or done to Clinton over the years, what mattered to me was my present perception of her. I didn’t need GOP instructions on that. But I decided on this occasion to probe deeper and ask him what he meant.

As it turns out his view of Clinton is that she was an unknown quantity on the domestic scene, that we really only ever saw her acting in the foreign affairs arena. He said that given a chance she may very well have been a “progressive” president. I told him that I did not believe that would be the case and that there was enough evidence pointing in the other direction that she would be more inclined to stay with Obama’s New Democrat ideas.

But the point I’m trying to make here is NOT about Clinton herself or whether she would or would not have been a good president or a “progressive” president.

The point I AM trying to make is that the reason we disagreed was not because we had different ideas about the importance of a progressive platform. It was because we disagreed about one fundamental aspect – whether we believed given a chance Clinton would have been a “progressive” president. He was willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. I was not.

I guess what I learnt from this is that when our views differ from one another, it may just be over one very small aspect of how we see things differently (even if it is a critical aspect). Perhaps we could all work better at understanding where our differences lie specifically, rather than assuming that our differences are far and wide.

My simplified take on where we are at in the election process

Why are people at loggerheads at present? Because we know one of the two major candidates is going to win the election and neither is a good choice. Also, the recent DNC corruption is not being dealt with. It’s being ignored because the Hillary supporters are worried about a Trump presidency. And a Trump presidency would be outrageous, but it also wrong to keep propagating a neoliberal, warmongering agenda which is the end result if either of these candidates is elected. There are 3rd party choices still but their support is not going to be able to win enough votes, especially when one of the candidates is not even able to get on the ballot in all states. Basically, corporate America and the billionaires are going to continue running the government and the judiciary unless something very startling happens. People are starting to get more and more frustrated here …

Asking the Right Question

After scanning facebook posts yesterday on what I considered trusted pages, I was concerned by the level of propaganda and spin that is being cast around this election (and it seems to be getting worse). The way I would sum it up is that there is in many instances a failure to ask the right questions. When we start asking the right questions then perhaps we can move forward instead of trying to indoctrinate potentially vulnerable readers. I’m thinking here the spin of the likes of Daily Kos, Politico, Thom Hartmann, Ring of Fire, and Robert Reich (in some instances).

In this election cycle there have been a number of different ideas floating around about how to vote and why we should vote a certain way. Almost to the point of becoming “principles” that will lead to the “right” outcome.

It goes something like this: Donald Trump has to be defeated and Hilary Clinton is the way to do that. It doesn’t matter that this means keeping the same neoliberal arrangement that has been the mainstay for this and other countries for the past 30 plus years. It doesn’t matter that big money has infiltrated the system and is going to continue to run the show in alarming proportions if the performance at the DNC is any indication and the number of billionaires pledging a vote for Clinton.

I was also struck by the “logic” of another argument that Clinton needs to win because she will nominate progressive judges to the Supreme Court. By all indications with her extensive corporate pandering of late (to Democrat and Republican billionaires) she will be more than likely nominating justices who support corporate interests.

There is another “principle’ floating around that the presidency can be overlooked because it is the down ticket vote that will count. But this is even questionable as the “solution” with the new knowledge that the Koch Brothers are focusing their efforts on the Congress, not the Presidency.

So if the money interests are tying up all sectors of the government – executive, legislative, and judiciary, this leaves us with quite a dilemma.

So what do we do? We could ask the very important question of how did we get to this point and this a valid question to ask. By understanding how we got here we can hopefullly avoid reproducing this in the future. But this won’t help us change where we are at present. So the more important question in my mind is where do we want to go?

I was reading the introduction to Gar Alperovitz 2004 book “America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy” (and I’ll be honest I still haven’t read the rest of the book). But I was struck by what he said about change. He spoke about change in the light of needing to know what you want change to look like if you are going to even begin the journey of bringing about that change.

So I compiled a list of the things that I would like to “be the change”. These are just presented as basic wants. I don’t know the details and I”m not an expert in framing the issues and I haven’t spent time on looking into the details at this point. I’ve also avoided any negative “reasons” why any of these are not possible. Other authorities more knowledgeable than me have suggested that many of these things which we don’t think are possible are in fact very doable.

Here is my skeletal list:

1. a constitutional amendment to overcome Citizens United
2. bringing back trade unions and collective bargaining
3. breaking up the big banks.
4. bringing back Glass-Steagall
5. holding publicly funded elections
6. a heath care system that allows those who can’t afford to pay to be treated – expanding medicaid or single-payer system
7. social welfare where unemployment is provided to those without work with meaningful proof that they are searching for work
8. social welfare system that provides everyone with a minimum income to eliminate poverty
9. a minimum wage
10. a climate change plan that is meaningful and measurable
11. transitioning to renewable energy where the fossil fuel industry is transitioned adequately
12. stringent regulation of Big Agriculture if not elimination, and a move back to small family farms
13. an end to further trade agreements and reeling in the ones we currently have, as well as removal of the ISDS dispute process
14. a return to a domestic manufacturing focus
15. corporations paying their fair share of taxes and taxes if located overseas
16. corporations losing their identification as persons
17. decreased military spending and policies on how to deal with conflicts in other countries that incorporate humanitarian principles.
18. put an end to arming other countries with weapons
19. increased regulation of industry at the interchange where it harms communities – environmental justice focus
20. voting system reform to minimize fraud and ensure all citizens are able to vote
21. immigration reform (whatever that entails)
22. fix the failing infrastructure
23. race relations – deal with systemic racism in the area of enforcement
24. regulation of animals to minimize or eliminate practices that amount to cruelty
25. a public education system that is funded adequately
26. a higher education system where students are not steeped in debt for the rest of their lives with jobs that barely pay the bills
27. cut monopolies down to size; Big Pharma, Telecommunications like Comcast, Monsanto, Broadcasting, Big Tech, Property (Patents, Copyright)
28. water held as a human right – clean, safe and accessible water for all
29 gun reform (whatever that entails)
30 fairness doctrine reintroduced into broadcasting
31 adopt Joseph Stiglitz economic plan from “Rewriting the Rules for the American Economy” (2016)
32. put an end to corporations like Walmart’s monopolization over consumer shopping; focus efforts on employee coops which can compete and keep prices down
33. make bankruptcy rules fairer so they do not penalize individuals
34. increase regulation of speculation on the Stock Market (whatever that entails)

Hilary’s Choice of VP Does Not Resonate Well

Referring to Robert Reich’s posts below: It’s like Reich said in his commentary: “In fairness, Hillary is only doing what she knows best. Moving to the putative center is what Bill Clinton did after the Democrats lost the House and Senate in 1994 …..” I get that but I also know this … and it ties in with what R.R. said a couple of weeks ago about an old friend close to Hilary calling him out saying that most Americans don’t care about the TPP and R.R. defending against that. What is points to is that a decision was made that the progressives are disposable because they will have no where else to go (perhaps Bill helped her make that decision in the choice of VP). It’s the same thing Bill did with the workers in any case. He left the workers behind because it was assumed they would have nowhere else to go. The progressives are being disposed of, just like the workers. That may well work in the short term. Sometimes these short terms can last for years. But as the problems in the country deepen there will be more and more Trump type figures to appeal to the needs of those who continue to go unheard. I find that a very big concern …

Economic Inequality and Climate Change

It might surprize many that supporting what Bernie Sanders started here in America is a stance against my self interest and those of family and even my country of origin. Australia is a country that relies for a large part on coal exports for its economy. There is also economic reliance on the fossil fuel industry here in America. Everyone is tied to the current system at some point, somewhere, unless you are an island. It’s not to be condemned. But at what point do you take a stance against self interest and instead stand up for what you think is right. It’s not the moral high ground to do this, it just is what it is – a decision. And I’m talking about economic inequality here and climate change. I believe the progressive movement is the only one that has any hope of dealing with those issues.