Daily Litany of Citizen and Consumer Smackdowns

New Orleans     Like a modern version of the 12 days before Christmas, I think we could all start listing a daily beating we are taking from business, government, or both.

Yesterday news came out that a fair chunk of the $26 billion settlement with banks over their home mortgage scandals and abuses with the state attorney generals includes getting credits for second mortgages at some level, all of which should have been written off as total losses years ago.

Today we find that health insurance companies in the face of the changing law continue to blatantly discriminate in the charges for women compared to men for no defensible reason.

Apple, the darling of trendy and elite consumers everywhere and sweatshops throughout China is going to announce what they intend to do with their $100 Billion – yes, $100 billion!!! – cash hoard, accumulated at premium pricing in the developed world and starvation wages in the developing world.

Meanwhile in the same papers stories run quoting the growing consensus of economists that societies decline as inequities increase.  It seems that societies can only succeed economically if there is resource sharing with the poor.  These economists expressed little hope for the United States especially given the increasing impact of money in politics and the consequent control of Congress by elites.

Can we get a break or is the only race we are now able to win is the one heading for the bottom?

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Elizabeth Warren Can Work on the Outside

New Orleans      elizabethwarrenFinally to the surprise of no one, President Obama whispered over the weekend that he would not be appointing Professor Elizabeth Warren to run the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Someone will do the job, and if Warren has spent her last year in the setup profitably, it would seem to me almost impossible for them to fail to make big waves and threaten tall ships.

I’m OK with this.

I think Warren has spent her time well, and if anything has burnished her credentials and base as a consumer advocate that might allow us to finally have a strong and stentorian national voice around financial justice issues that would rival what Ralph Nadar achieved on general consumer issues in his heyday.  Reading about the efforts to break her to the bit in Congressional hearings and her efforts to convince recalcitrant Senators and Congressmen that she really could be a  “go along, gal” playing well with the financial community, I found frankly discouraging.

The real issue has to be to keep her away from Harvard, not to push her to run the Bureau.

She needs to get the support to be a tiger in that tank and a constant ojo de deos looming over the shoulder of that Bureau, its director, and the President, who no doubt in the his “dear Elizabeth” conversation with her had to assure her that he would stand tall.  Financial justice is all about devils in the details, and having a plain spoken critic all over those details gives us a chance to have some real leverage helping push progressive reform.

She has a job, and she needs to do it as an advocate for financial justice for consumers.  We have the job of building the base and continuing to fire it up to demand that justice.  If those things come together the Bureau is just about the nuts and bolts, and there are a lot of good people who can do that job without us losing a true advocate to the bowels of the bureaucracy.

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