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!

Republicans look to decimate poor to fund tax cuts for rich; sun rises.

Paul Ryan, Mike Pence, Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise

“And then he died penniless on the street!”

I recently read Janesville: An American Story, by Amy Goldstein. It’s all about the GM plant closing down, and an old union town being torn apart by the way life was suddenly rent wide open, by the cruelty of decisions made far away, and the impact that sudden poverty had on a stable middle-class town. There are wealthy people who are fine, and there are people who retired with pensions who are doing ok. There are people who lost jobs because they started a month too late. Really, the book is about, if not fate, then luck, and the breaks that can befall even the best-planned life.

Told through the stories of people in the town, it isn’t directly political, though politics plays a role. And it is extremely political in the broad, general sense of our politics being an outcome of the decisions we make and the leaders we elect. And throughout the book, there is Paul Ryan, the local kid who made the big ticket, and is now the Speaker of the House. He’s all downhome modesty, talking about his Janesville values, and how everything he learned he learned in town. He talks in length about his concern for the town, trying to save jobs, pleading with GM not to close down the plant. A regular Jimmy Stewart.

The act would almost be convincing if one didn’t know Paul Ryan. If one did, though, headlines like this Politico one from over the weekend are not surprising.

Republicans plan massive cuts to programs for the poor. 

That’s sort of…well, that could be a permanent headline, really. In order to pay for Trump’s tax cuts, but also honor his promise not to touch Medicare or Social Security (the promise not to touch Medicaid, of course, was altered by $800 billion or so), the Republicans under the leadership of Paul Ryan is looking to slash “food stamps, welfare, income assistance for the disabled and perhaps even veterans benefits.

If enacted, such a plan to curb safety-net programs — all while juicing the Pentagon’s budget and slicing corporate tax rates — would amount to the biggest shift in federal spending priorities in decades.”

This might be a shift for the government, but it isn’t a priority shift for the Republicans. Because this has been a Republican priority for decades; indeed, it has been the essence of their platform. Because even when Paul Ryan was rubbermasking his mopey concern face about the plant closing, he was fighting to cut unemployment benefits. He was fighting to cut food stamps. He was fighting to privatize Social Security and destroy Medicaid. He was fighting to cut the legs out from under the people who were the direction to which he focused his smuggest sanctimony.

These are their priorities. Most human life, as Ryan’s good buddy Scott Walker so often reminds us, is about becoming sources of capital for the wealthy. It isn’t about getting anything back except whatever salary they want to give you; these are two of the biggest opponents of collective bargaining in America (which a wildly anti-Janesville stance). If you aren’t working, or are poor, or just so happened to hit a spell of bad luck, you’re screwed. You don’t deserve anything. Hurt on the job? Someone else will take your place, desperate and starved, for whatever peanuts they want to throw them. And then you’re on the street, with no safety net.

It is really galling how much they preen and purr about small town values, but do whatever they can to indenture and immiserate any humans, to break the ties of solidarity that come with mutual dignity, and to pit people against each other. There is no comity.  There’s no decency.

Every small town has some kind of legend, a weird swamp monster or a strange dog or that one night everyone heard a strange, almost melodic hum coming from some undefined place, maybe the woods at the edge, or maybe just the air itself. But if small towns really had the values the GOP promotes, if union-proud Janesville was actually a reflection of Paul Ryan, there wouldn’t be any need for these legends. They’d be full of snarling many-mouthed beasts attacking the vulnerable, green drool mixing with blood on the streets, while the very few lived in gated compounds, armed guards keeping at bay both the fiends and their victims.

That’s Paul Ryan’s America. The only value is the dollar, and if you don’t have any, don’t ask. Come talk to us when you’re rich, chump.

 

Trump Healthcare Ultimatum Is Equal Parts Stupid and Cruel; or: The Quintessence of Trumpism

 

Donald Trump sits in a truck, pretends to be big man.

Tough guy.

I’ve never read The Art of the Deal. With all due respect to his ghostwriter on the project, who turned out to be a real standup dude, there are maybe five books in the entire universe I’d enjoy reading less. The self-aggrandizing money-worship of an overfed huckster in celebration of our gaudiest decade? The vast majority of cereal boxes have more insight on the human condition, and probably more wit.

That said, from having had to pay attention to this man for decades, I know a little about how he operates, and it is from false machismo, the not-tough toughguyness of rich men in suits with lawyers. His main plank is to be willing to walk away, so that the other guy, nervous about sunk cost, gives away the store.

The other plank is that the deal is the thing, no matter how terrible it turns out to be, so long as there is short term gain. Both of these are on display with what the President is offering the Republican Party right now.

WASHINGTON — President Trump issued an ultimatum on Thursday to recalcitrant Republicans to fall in line behind a broad health insurance overhaul or see their opportunity to repeal the Affordable Care Act vanish, demanding a Friday vote on a bill that appeared to lack a majority to pass.

A couple of things. First of all, that shouldn’t, strictly, be true. There is nothing that says “one and done” with health care. It might make it more difficult to pass later on, but in theory, they could try to come up with a better bill. But this is Trump’s dumbbell toughshow on full display. You pass this bill, or else, hoping that will clarify their minds. It shows that he has no idea how government works, and thinks his shtick can pass for actual knowledge or skill (to be fair, it has his entire life, which says a lot about our culture).

And it might work! The Republicans might be terrified of this failure, and hope that they can make a widely despised piece of legislation come to life, or at least have the Senate somehow fix it. So this might come to pass (Politico still says too close to call), and if it does, might ghostwalk through the Senate, though there are a lot of institutional and electoral obstacles to doing so.

But let’s look at what we have. In the last few days, Trump and Ryan have given away the store to the far, far, far right members of the House Freedom Caucus, making their already unfathomably cruel and reckless bill even worse. It’ll cost more, and insure fewer people. The latest horror was stripping away the 10 essentials that health care should cover, on the extremely Republican idea that if you aren’t going to get pregnant, your money shouldn’t cover other people’s pregnancies.

(It could be pointed out that that’s how all insurance works, but at least they are ideologically consistent: no help for anyone, and pull the ladder up after you.)

So, basically, because Trump only wants to make deals, and has his whole phony image based on being great at negotiating and closing, is going to make life worse for nearly everyone, including the people who voted for him, so that he can get this quick little victory and show off how good he is at twisting arms. It’s stupid and cruel, which is really the essence of the man.

Please don’t take this as any sympathy for Paul Ryan or the Republicans. This is their fault, and not just because they acquiesced to Trump. They’ve spent seven years salivating over the idea of kicking people off insurance rolls, gutting Medicare, block-granting Medicaid, and most of all, shoveling money upward. They couldn’t wait! They rushed this through to maximize pain, and were suddenly stunned when it turned out that people didn’t equate dying in poverty with freedom.

So maybe this is their last shot. Maybe they recognize that the whole edifice of Republican governance is crumbling. It’s crumbling because of Trump, of course, his Russian connections, his inability to do anything that isn’t directly tied to his ego, and the fact that the sleaze with which he’s lived his life is an inescapable part of his administration.

But it is also crumbling because a party who thinks that self-government is Communism and that there is no such thing as the common good can’t govern when their plans are brought to light. For eight years, the cruelest and most Randian elements of the right wing had been percolating, able to tear at Obama, but still hidden by his shadow. Their guttersniping worked while they weren’t in charge, but now that their plans have seen the light of day, much of the country is reacting in horror. They can’t govern because they don’t believe in it, and that comes from their one core belief: you’re on your own, sucker.

So yes, they want to push through this bill while they still can. It’s cruel and insane, and it comes from their ideology, and it comes from the man who thinks that any deal is good so long as he isn’t holding the bag. It’s Trumpism, which is really just a flamboyant way of saying it’s the modern GOP.

The Republican’s Comey Strategy: The Bubble and the Damage Done

Nope

The story, to any rational person, is that FBI Director and de facto Trump Campaign Chaperone James Comey confirmed that the FBI “is investigating Russia’s meddling in the presidential election, including possible links between the Trump campaign and Moscow.” He also shot down, in no uncertain terms, Trump’s insane wiretap claims, British involvement and quotation marks and all.

As a lot of people are saying, this might be just the beginning. Comey made it clear that all he will say is that there is an ongoing investigation, and he can’t comment on that. While that might seem like hypocrisy, it fits his very narrow definition that he established with Hillary Clinton.

There is something here, and while it is true that Russia didn’t literally hack the election, there is clearly enough to warrant an investigation. So the GOP strategy, led by Trump? Ask just who is doing the leaking that top security advisors are having secret meetings with Russians while also getting paid by Turkey.

Republicans on the committee focused their questions on getting to the bottom of who leaked to the news media the fact that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had pre-inauguration conversations with Russia’s ambassador.

Sure, part of this is distraction. They don’t want to talk about the real issue here, and are hoping that people will be more offended by the leak. But that’s because, I think, a lot of them actually sort of believe that. Once all this started, the idea of “leaks” being part of the Obama shadow campaign has become axiomatic on the Right. It’s an article of faith. It’s how they explain the disaster everything has been.

This is part Trump, part the broader GOP, and entirely at the intersection between the two (and there is very little difference, really). The GOP has no idea how to govern, and no desire to. They’ve based their entire identity on being not-liberals, and more to the point, not-Obama. So being faced with the reality of government, of course they turn to what it comfortable.

For many, it isn’t much of a turn. These are talk radio kids and internet idiots. They live in the bubble, and what they hear is that people are worried about the shadow government. I think they actually believe it, and that they actually also think it is good politics.

That’s also the world, of course, in which Trump lives. He honestly thinks the only important thing here is the leaks, because that’s the “deep state”, and it’s the only reason he isn’t already being placed on Mt. Rushmore (or a bigger, better mountain, somewhere in Manhattan). His own personal pathologies and vanities make it impossible for him to understand that he’s a know-nothing idiot with no idea how to be President. So of course, the only thing that matters is the leaks.

By temperament, in paranoia and accusatory frenzy, in believing that what 10,000 idiots on Twitter are convinced of, Trump and the GOP are perfect for each other. And so they believe it’s not what we know that matters, but that we know it at all.

And that it’s the black guy’s fault. I mean, that goes without saying, right?