More on the Republican plan to stop the consumer protection bureau

Thanks, Harry, you fucking ball-less wonder! Alex Pareene at Salon:

It was very fitting that pretty much immediately after Harry Reid ended the possibility of filibuster reform in the more-sclerotic-than-ever U.S. Senate, a Republican appointee-run court effectively killed the recess appointment. Reid cut a “deal” on filibusters that actually strengthened the 60-vote threshold, by legitimizing what had been widely seen by non-senators as unprecedented abuse of Senate rules. All the deal does is speed up the process of breaking a filibuster with 60 votes, making the act of forcing a 60-vote threshold on all Senate business — something that rapidly became the new normal — even more painless than it was before.


Right after Mitch McConnell was granted unelected co-leadership of the Senate, the D.C. Court of Appeals announced that we’ve been doing this whole recess appointment thing all wrong for the last century or so, and that the Founders only intended for presidents to make recess appointments during “the Recess,” between sessions, and only of positions that became vacant during that recess. This allows Senate Republicans to totally prevent Barack Obama from appointing anyone to the National Labor Relations Board and the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Not just “people Republicans disapprove of,” but anyone at all, because Republicans disapprove of those two agencies carrying out their missions.


Now, naturally, after Reid cut the deal allowing them to do so without consequences, Republicans wasted no time in announcing their intention to prevent Barack Obama from appointing anyone to run the CFPB unless he effectively restructures the agency to not serve its purpose. This is, as a couple others have noted, effectively “nullification,” and it’s generally frowned upon by fans of functioning republican forms of government.


The signs of the total normalization of what would have been considered a shocking violating of political norms just a few years ago are all over the Reuters story on Republican intentions. The story presents it as a typical political fight, one side against the other, both lobbing accusations and impugning the motives of the other. One subheadline reads, helpfully, “POLITICS AT PLAY.” Typical Washington, always with the politics! Why can’t No Labels just get these jokers to get along?


The story begins by quoting Republicans, who have objections to the board, and then quoting Democrats, who say they think the board is a good thing. Towards the end is the part that should’ve been near the top, along with some indication that it’s an insane state of affairs:

For the most part, Republicans and business groups have said they do not oppose Cordray personally, saying he has been accessible and the bureau has tried to incorporate comments from both industry and consumer advocates in its rules.


But the senators said “common sense reforms” are needed before they will confirm anyone to lead the bureau.


In other words, 43 Republicans — not a majority of the Senate, at all — have pledged to block the appointment of someone they have no real issue with, because they are demanding the right to change the structure of the agency entirely before they will allow it to function. A small minority in one of America’s two Congressional bodies is demanding the right to fundamentally rewrite, on their own terms, a law passed by both houses and signed by the president, because they really dislike it. That’s not normal, “what are you gonna do?” politics. That’s setting an insane precedent.

Public wifi

Wow, this is a shocker. I was beginning to believe that the United States would never catch up with the rest of the world. Now it’s up to us to let our elected officials know voters are behind this latest proposal:

The federal government wants to create super WiFi networks across the nation, so powerful and broad in reach that consumers could use them to make calls or surf the Internet without paying a cellphone bill every month.

The proposal from the Federal Communications Commission has rattled the $178 billion wireless industry, which has launched a fierce lobbying effort to persuade policymakers to reconsider the idea, analysts say. That has been countered by an equally intense campaign from Google, Microsoft and other tech giants who say a free-for-all WiFi service would spark an explosion of innovations and devices that would benefit most Americans, especially the poor.

The airwaves that FCC officials want to hand over to the public would be much more powerful than existing WiFi networks that have become common in households. They could penetrate thick concrete walls and travel over hills and around trees. If all goes as planned, free access to the Web would be available in just about every metropolitan area and in many rural areas.

The new WiFi networks would also have much farther reach, allowing for a driverless car to communicate with another vehicle a mile away or a patient’s heart monitor to connect to a hospital on the other side of town.

If approved by the FCC, the free networks would still take several years to set up. And, with no one actively managing them, connections could easily become jammed in major cities. But public WiFi could allow many consumers to make free calls from their mobile phones via the Internet. The frugal-minded could even use the service in their homes, allowing them to cut off expensive Internet bills.
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Buyouts in flood zones

I can’t stand Andrew Cuomo, but I have to give him props. Because this will be one very unpopular policy, and there will be massive pushback:

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is proposing to spend as much as $400 million to purchase homes wrecked by Hurricane Sandy, have them demolished and then preserve the flood-prone land permanently, as undeveloped coastline.
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The purchase program, which still requires approval from federal officials, would be among the most ambitious ever undertaken, not only in scale but also in how Mr. Cuomo would be using the money to begin reshaping coastal land use. Residents living in flood plains with homes that were significantly damaged would be offered the pre-storm value of their houses to relocate; those in even more vulnerable areas would be offered a bonus to sell; and in a small number of highly flood-prone areas, the state would double the bonus if an entire block of homeowners agreed to leave.


The land would never be built on again. Some properties could be turned into dunes, wetlands or other natural buffers that would help protect coastal communities from ferocious storms; other parcels could be combined and turned into public parkland.


In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which swept through the region on Oct. 29, Mr. Cuomo has adamantly maintained that New York needs to reconsider the way it develops its coast. He has repeatedly spoken, in blunt terms, about the consequences of climate change, noting that he has responded to more extreme weather in his first two years as governor than his father, Mario M. Cuomo, did in his 12 years in the job. Last month, in his State of the State address, he raised the prospect of home buyouts, declaring “there are some parcels that Mother Nature owns.”


“She may only visit once every few years,” Mr. Cuomo said, “but she owns the parcel and when she comes to visit, she visits.”

Friends of fraud

Krugman on how and why Republicans are planning to filibuster the appointment of the head of the Consumer Protection Bureau in order to keep it from operating at all:

So the consumer protection bureau serves a vital function. But as I said, Senate Republicans are trying to kill it.

How can they do that, when the reform is already law and Democrats hold a Senate majority? Here as elsewhere, they’re turning to extortion — threatening to filibuster the appointment of Richard Cordray, the bureau’s acting head, and thereby leave the bureau unable to function. Mr. Cordray, whose work has drawn praise even from the bankers, is clearly not the issue. Instead, it’s an open attempt to use raw obstructionism to overturn the law.

What Republicans are demanding, basically, is that the protection bureau lose its independence. They want its actions subjected to a veto by other, bank-centered financial regulators, ensuring that consumers will once again be neglected, and they also want to take away its guaranteed funding, opening it to interest-group pressure. These changes would make the agency more or less worthless — but that, of course, is the point.

How can the G.O.P. be so determined to make America safe for financial fraud, with the 2008 crisis still so fresh in our memory? In part it’s because Republicans are deep in denial about what actually happened to our financial system and economy. On the right, it’s now complete orthodoxy that do-gooder liberals, especially former Representative Barney Frank, somehow caused the financial disaster by forcing helpless bankers to lend to Those People.

In reality, this is a nonsense story that has been extensively refuted; I’ve always been struck in particular by the notion that a Congressional Democrat, holding office at a time when Republicans ruled the House with an iron first, somehow had the mystical power to distort our whole banking system. But it’s a story conservatives much prefer to the awkward reality that their faith in the perfection of free markets was proved false.
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