RSSCategory: Consumer Protection

In The Tradition of Great American UnAmericanisms

October 10, 2011 | By | 6 Replies More
In The Tradition of Great American UnAmericanisms

Herman Cain is the latest in a long line of political mouths calling a populist movement UnAmerican. He says Occupy Wall Street is an assault on capitalism and that capitalism and the free market system are what have made America what it is.

Can’t argue with that, but his intended meaning is other than reality.

Setting that aside for a moment, though, it’s his statement that protests in the street are UnAmerican that I take greatest issue with. I’ve been hearing that from more or less conservative people since I was old enough to be aware of political issues. During the Vietnam era, the antiwar movement gained the hatred of Middle America not because they were wrong but because they were unruly, in the street, loud, and confrontational. “You should work within the system,” people said, “that’s not the way to do it.”

Except it was clear that working within the system was not achieving results. The system is so constructed that those who understand where the controls are can make it respond regardless of general public sentiment. The system is often The Problem, and today we have another example.

But more fundamentally than that, it was a failure to recognize that people in the street is very much a part of the system. What do we think “freedom of assembly” is all about?

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Is it Spam or is it Poe?

August 29, 2011 | By | Reply More
Is it Spam or is it Poe?

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.

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Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Website

August 3, 2011 | By | Reply More
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Website

The CFPB website is now up. It contains information for consumers, and includes a link for submitting complaints about credit cards.

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Ralph Nader: Obama is spineless

July 21, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
Ralph Nader:  Obama is spineless

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.

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Payday Loan song

May 30, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
Payday Loan song

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.

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44 Senators: We won’t support a CFPB that has any real power

May 19, 2011 | By | 1 Reply More
44 Senators: We won’t support a CFPB that has any real power

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.

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The Free Market Problem

April 27, 2011 | By | 3 Replies More
The Free Market Problem

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.

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Ralph Nader’s letter to Barack Obama regarding Elizabeth Warren

April 4, 2011 | By | Reply More
Ralph Nader’s letter to Barack Obama regarding Elizabeth Warren

Ralph Nader has written quite a challenging and apparently much-needed letter to Barack Obama, who has become comfortable serving the needs of big business while offering mostly pretty rhetoric to common folks. Here’s an excerpt from the letter, which appears at Common Dreams:

[Y]ou promptly appointed Mr. Immelt to be the chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitive, while letting him keep his full time lucrative position as CEO of General Electric (The Corporate State Expands). At the announcement, you said that Mr. Immelt “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.”

Did you mean that he understands how to avoid all federal income taxes for his company’s $14.2 billion in profits last year, while corralling a $3.2 billion benefit? Or did you mean that he understands how to get a federal bailout for GE Capital and its reckless exposure to risky debt? Or could you have meant that GE knows how to block unionization of its far flung workers here and abroad? Perhaps Mr. Immelt can share with you GE’s historical experience with lucrative campaign contributions, price-fixing, pollution and those nuclear reactors that are giving people fits in Japan and worrying millions of Americans here living or working near similar reactors.

Compare, if you will, the record of Elizabeth Warren and her acutely informed knowledge about delivering justice to those innocents harmed by injustice in the financial services industry. . .

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Elizabeth Warren’s attitude toward the free market

March 29, 2011 | By | Reply More
Elizabeth Warren’s attitude toward the free market

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.”

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