I came back from a weekend getaway, and my inbox had a large number of messages from some group I’d never heard of, the Nation of Change. I was suspicious, especially given my recent unsolicited addition to the Christian Coalition mailing list. Also they were using an email contact that has been dormant for a decade that they could only have found by scanning whois data or buying some old spammer contact lists.
I was curious enough to read one of their messages. It appeared to be some sort of addled parody of a liberal call to action newsletter. I immediately did some Googling to try to confirm my suspicion that it was a conservative group attempting to make liberals seem a) Loonier than thou, and b) Abrasive and annoying by pushing subscriptions on undesiring readers. The clearest description I found was, “Nation of Change”, who are you and why are you spamming me? at the Daily KOS.
In essence, this organization is a fairly new web site with stealthed contact information. They claim to be a legitimate registered not-for-profit, but one cannot look up their bona fides anywhere to confirm it. Although they don’t appear to break any laws in their published documents, they do violate several BBB standards. Read the KOS article for more details.
But I could not actually confirm that this is a conservative group posing as liberal in order to sow dissension and disaffection. As with religion and Poe’s Law, it can be hard to tell sincere political extremism from parody. But this one trips my irony meter.
At Democracy Now!, Amy Goodman asked Ralph Nader for his thoughts on Obama’s passing over of Elizabeth Warren regarding the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau:
RALPH NADER: Well, our spineless president speaks again with a forked tongue. He talks about a tough agency, and he’s just thrown overboard the toughest federal cop on corporate crime, fraud and abuse against millions of Americans’ pensions and savings, and then tries to convince people that he’s really being tough against Wall Street. He’s basically a political coward. And the problem with that is not just detonating Elizabeth Warren’s career culmination of heading the agency that she conceived and built out of the Treasury Department in the last few months, but he’s signaling once again to the rogue Republicans in Congress that he has no backbone, that he’s going to cave. And that’s what he’s been doing. He threw Van Jones overboard, because Glenn Beck attacked—of all people—attacked Van Jones, his assistant in the White House. He doesn’t stand by his people, unless these people stand for Wall Street, like William Daley, Timothy Geithner, Larry Summers. You’d think he’d give at least one post—one post—to the consumer constituency, the liberals and progressives, that brought him to the White House. But that is not the way he calculates it.
To put this topic in perspective, think of the terrible old banker, Mr. Potter, featured in the Christmas classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Mr. Potter drove a very hard bargain, but he wanted customers to actually pay off their loans. Keep in mind that Mr. Potter was lending out money at about 2%. If Mr. Potter could have charge as much as many credit card companies, he would want to stretch out his repayment plans. And if he could charge 500%, he might not actually ever want his loans to be repaid. Welcome to the world of payday lending.
During the day I work as a consumer lawyer at the Simon Law Firm in St. Louis, Missouri. My firm has filed several class actions again payday lenders based on their outrageous lending practices–on many occasions they systematically ignore the weak state laws that ostensibly regulate their conduct. At my firm, we’ve met undeniable facts demonstrating that payday lenders make most of their money from people they would term “repeat customers,” but these people should more accurately be referred to as people who are trapped in high interest loans or 400% or even 500% interest.
Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama and 43 of his fellow Senators are leading the charge to strip the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) of any meaningful authority.
My prediction: The big banks will completely defang or defund the CFPB.
Paul Ryan and his supporters are trying to sell their spending cut and lower tax program and they’re getting booed at town hall meetings. They’re finally cutting into people’s pockets who can’t defend themselves. They thought they were doing what their constituency wanted and must be baffled at this negative response.
Okay, this might get a bit complicated, but not really. It just requires a shift in perspective away from the definition of capitalism we’ve been being sold since Reagan to something that is more descriptive of what actually happens. Theory is all well and good and can be very useful in specific instances, but a one-size-fits-all approach to something as basic as resources is destined to fail.
Oh, I’m sorry, let me back up a sec there—fail if your stated goal is to float all boats, to raise the general standard of living, to provide jobs and resources sufficient to sustain a viable community at a decent level. If, on the other hand, your goal is to feed a machine that generates larger and larger bank accounts for fewer and fewer people at the expense of communities, then by all means keep doing what we’ve been doing.
Here’s the basic problem. People think that the free market and capitalism are one and the same thing. They are not. THEY ARE CLOSELY RELATED and both thrive in the presence of the other, but they are not the same thing.
But before all that we have to understand one thing—there is no such thing as a Free Market. None. Someone always dominates it, controls it, and usually to the detriment of someone else.
How is it a free market when one of the most salient features of it is the ability of a small group to determine who will be allowed to participate and at what level? I’m not talking about the government here, I’m talking about big business, which as standard practice does all it can to eliminate competitors through any means it can get away with and that includes market manipulations that can devalue smaller companies and make them ripe for take-over or force them into bankruptcy.
What is Elizabeth Warren’s attitude toward the “free market”? It’s not what it is often portrayed to be, as described by Madonna Gauding of Occasional Planet:
She does not envision new rules and regulations as the main focus of how the CFPB can best protect consumers. Her concern is that they are like “putting down fence posts on the prairie: They can be too easy to run around.” Rather than increased regulation, she wants to make markets for consumer financial products and services work in a fair, transparent, and competitive manner. “That means creating a level playing field where both parties to the transaction understand the terms of the deal, where the price and the risk of products are clear, and where direct comparisons can be made from one product to another.”