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

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“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!

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Ding Ding Ding! Dow, S&P 500 At Record Highs: Economy Totally Great!

Twitter Goes Public On The New York Stock Exchange

The problem with capitalism isn’t so much that it has winners and losers. That’s a problem, of course, but with a strong social safety net, and an eye toward social, economic, and environmental justice, it’s most ill-effects can be negated. That this is more common in the breach than in practice doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

The problem with modern capitalism isn’t even that there is a sector of it controlled entirely by the skittery greed of hyperactive man-children who do nothing but make and lose money by swapping paper. In any society, you can have a clique of gamblers.

No, the problem is that so much of the economy revolves around, and is in fact dominated by, this skittery greed, this reckless gambling, this enormous creative and computative power dedicated toward gaming the system, boosting the fortunes of a small number of shareholders, and powering stock at the cost of any workers. It’s a problem because the markets have a deep impact on the way the economy is perceived, and the way it acts.

Look at right now: the DJIA and S&P 500 are both at record highs, and that’s good. It’s amazing it can happen with an anti-business socialist in the White House, you know? The problem is thinking that this in and of itself is the indicator of a sound or sustainable economy, or a just one.

The soundness is evident by the market fluctuations. A few weeks ago, things seemed bleak, as reactions to Brexit sent the market into panic. But now it has rebounded, or, as CNBC said, “as fears eased over Brexit and Japan signaled more economic stimulus.” Many are crediting the new stability in Great Britain, as Theresa May is today becoming the new Prime Minister.

Now…did the markets think that wouldn’t happen? That they would be without a Prime Minister forever? Conversely, do they think that the worst of Brexit is over, just because they’ve gotten over the initial yips, even though the impact has barely begun? Do they know that a object still exists when it leaves their line of vision?

That’s sort of the point. “Markets were shaken today following turmoil in the Middle East, sun rising in east.”  It’s not the market isn’t reacting to real things. It is (oil prices, company losses, etc). It’s that it is reacting often insanely, with short-term thinking, and in a way that impacts the broader economy. The problem isn’t that the market reacts; it is that we react to it.

Our economy is tied up inextricably with gamblers who are concerned with short-term profit, and so many businesses are geared toward appeasing them. You could lose your job to make a shareholder another buck. If a mouse sprints across the trading floor you could lose your pension. It’s an insane economy, and the more you think about how precarious it is, the more terrifying it gets. I won’t pop champagne to celebrate new highs, but I might drink it to be able to sleep.