Equifax Data Breach Demonstrates Everything Wrong With Modern Capitalism

 

Image result for grasshopper and the ant disney

“Poverty and Misfortune Only Happen to Those That Deserve It”- Equifax Slogan

 

You ever fall behind on your credit card? Miss a car payment? Juggle some bills and end up paying your cable late, since their late fee was more affordable? Ever send in a rent check that ended up getting there a day or two after the 5th? If not, that’s legitimately great. You’ve done well. But for most people in America, the answer is “yes”.

And if that answer is yes, chances are that Equifax knows about it. They have that information. And now, thanks to a breach, hackers have the private information of 143 million Americans.

Equifax, one of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies, said on Thursday that hackers had gained access to company data that potentially compromised sensitive information for 143 million American consumers, including Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers.

The attack on the company represents one of the largest risks to personally sensitive information in recent years, and is the third major cybersecurity threat for the agency since 2015.

One question you might ask yourself is: why does Equifax even have Social Security numbers, man? After all, eligibility for Social Security is about the only thing in American life that isn’t based upon your credit score. That’s a good question, and the answer is because they want it, and we’ve become conditioned to giving away our Social Security number to any corporation that asks.

We put it on job applications for background checks, and one of the places that they check is with these credit reporting companies. I spent a few years working at a large background check company, checking criminal records, but we also did credit checks. It was a horrible, soul-crushing job, where you could check a box and deny someone employment because they boosted a candy bar once, or because they fell behind on their bills.

Think about the power that these companies have over you. Your whole life is wrapped up in credit scores, a history of your solvency, which impacts every opportunity moving forward. Companies like Equifax exist to make sure that you can never outrace your past.

Yes, it is good that people who didn’t make mistakes, who saved and were thrifty, are rewarded. It is also true that everything you do has consequences, and we shouldn’t set up society to reward grasshoppers who fail to prepare for the winter. Life has consequences, right? Equifax just tallies them up.

Except we all know that isn’t true. If you have money, then dumb decisions don’t have any consequences. If you don’t, making the same mistakes reverberates throughout your entire life. If you have money, you don’t have to make a decision on which bill to pay. If you work full-time and are still below the poverty level (as is the case with ten million workers) then you are going to end up with a bad score from Equifax.

That’s the life we have set up. Even if you work full time, have multiple jobs, you can be poor and struggling to get by. You’ll juggle bills, and your score will be bad. That can hurt future employment. It can make getting a house impossible. If you made mistakes when you were younger, and didn’t have the grace of wealth to bury those errors, you could be screwed for decades. The bosses have the power, and their spies are the credit reporting agencies, to whom we give over our lives. It’s no wonder so many people are on anti-depressants.

Want more proof that this is the perfect American scandal? The company knew about the breach for months before reporting it, obviously, because who cares about the affected consumers when stock prices might be affected. And that’s right: stock in Equifax has dropped. But don’t worry!

Three Equifax Inc. senior executives sold shares worth almost $1.8 million in the days after the company discovered a security breach that may have compromised information on about 143 million U.S. consumers.

Now, the company says the executives weren’t aware of the breach when they sold, but come on. These aren’t exactly credible sources.

This is it in a nutshell. Consequences for thee, but not for me. Our screwups end in golden parachutes and stock selloffs, yours end in zeroed-out opportunities. The grasshoppers are the winners here. We’ve sold our soul to the boss class, and to them its pocket change.

Advertisements

In Standing Up for Credit Card Arbitration, Jeb Hensarling Sums Up The GOP

Image result for gilded age cartoons

“I will stand to fight for the murderous octopus? Who’s with me?!”  -Jeb Hensarling, probably

One of the great success of the previous administration and the last Democratic Congress was the fight for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Republicans tried desperately to kill, and which has a mission to protect consumers from cheap swindlers, both penny-ante and multi-national.

Its initial chairperson was to be Elizabeth Warren, but knowing the kind of fighter she was, the GOP made its passage dependent on her not being allowed to take the chair. Think about that! And now you understand why she is such a target: they fear her.

But even without the Senator, the CFPB has been remarkably effective under Richard Codray, going after check cashing demons, shoddy loan operators, businesses that hide economic servitude in unreadable “user agreements”, and even big banks.

It’s the last two that bring the CFPB to our attention today, as they are standing up for class-action. Times? 

The nation’s consumer watchdog adopted a rule on Monday that would pry open the courtroom doors for millions of Americans, by prohibiting financial firms from forcing them into arbitration in disputes over their bank and credit card accounts.

The action, by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would deal a serious blow to banks and other financial firms, freeing consumers to band together in class-action lawsuits that could cost the institutions billions of dollars.

“A cherished tenet of our justice system is that no one, no matter how big or how powerful, should escape accountability if they break the law,” Richard Cordray, the director of the consumer agency, said in a statement.

If you’ve opened a bank account or gotten a credit card lately, it has come with a Russian novel’s worth of fine print, and buried in there is language about how any disputes will go to arbitration, and barring you from taking part in a class action. Maybe you’ve never read it. I never have.

But barring class action has been a GOP goal for decades. It is an easy target for them: slimy lawyers on late-night TV clogging up our court systems with nonsense suits, leeching off poor retirees and the gullible. It’s a good caricature, but of course, the people they are leeching off happen to be victims.

Who are they victims of? Big corporations, mostly, who took their money or poisoned their water or choked their air. But these companies have deep pockets, and it is nearly impossible for a single person to go after them. They’ll spend all their money on lawyer’s fees, so they are forced to accept pennies on the dollar, or nothing at all. Students of history will recognize that this is known as a Trump, and it isn’t incidental.

It’s even harder if your bank “accidentally” charged you for an overdraw you didn’t commit, or signed you up for an extra credit card without your knowledge, or talked you into opening a nonsense account that you don’t need. We could be talking a few hundred or a few thousand dollars. That’s not enough to go to court on your own. You’ll spend all of that on lawyer’s fees. You’ll also, again not incidentally, spend all of it hiring someone to represent you in arbitration. So they make it not worth it to you, even though, for most people, those few thousand dollars could be life-changing. Most of us are always on the brink.

And that’s why the GOP hates class action. It allows the people to bind together, pool their means, and use that joint power to force companies to own up to their malfeasance and outright theft. And they hate that. You’ll hear people say that the GOP wants to break class action because class action lawyers support Democrats, but they only do so because Democrats support class action.

The GOP is deadset against it. In their radical and cruel ideology, there is no common good, and corporations should be able to do whatever they want to us. That’s why they support companies being able to literally take away our right to legal recourse against their crimes. Think about that. It’s the idea that giving a company money indemnifies them against anything they might do to you.

The CFPB changes that. And of course the GOP is apoplectic. They want to destroy the agency, because it is “rogue” and “out of control” for “doing exactly what it was set up to do.” The genius of the outfit is that it is designed to be immune from political pressure, which means it is, in Republican parlance, “unaccountable”. They can’t be seen as fighting for banks, obviously, so they have to protect us against the menace of…government. Jeb Hensarling shows how it is done.

Hensarling, of Texas (!), is one of the dark-horses for worst Republican. He’s a full-on wingnut, and, like most Republicans, he hates the common good. He perfectly shows the line of attack against the CFPB.

The rule “should be thoroughly rejected by Congress under the Congressional Review Act,” said Representative Jeb Hensarling, the Texas Republican who has been leading the charge to weaken the agency. “In the last election, the American people voted to drain the D.C. swamp of capricious, unaccountable bureaucrats who wish to control their lives.”

Yup. He wants to protect people from capricious, unaccountable, life-controlling bureaucrats by giving more power to banks and credit card industries, and making them literally unaccountable.

That’s the GOP in a nutshell right there. Incredible cynics who think that government stopping businesses from stealing from you is a freedom-killer, but that banks being able to take away your right to do anything about it is real patriotism. It’s because they hate you, plain and simple.

What to Do?

Call your Congressperson. Tell them you support the work of the CFPB, and demand that it remain politically independent and empowered to pass regulations. This has worked with health care. Pressure them to fight for the CFPB just as hard, because if companies are unregulated, everything gets worse. The air we breathe, the water we drink, and our personal finances. It is nearly as immiserating as GOP health care plans. Fight for it.

Also, here’s a Petition to be sent to Congress. Make your voice heard!