This is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. BTW, the Best Buy employee who made it almost got fired for making this:
I just got off a blogger call with Elizabeth Warren (if you have any doubt that her appointment is seen as by the White House as a concession to the left, note that bloggers are the first people who get to interview her after her appointment was announced) and I got the chance to ask her whether credit reports came under her oversight — especially when they’re used to deny people jobs or to set rates for insurance.
She said yes, it did come under this act — “credit reporting is an important part of credit”, and she said she shared my concerns. She apologized for not being more specific, but said she would be looking into it.
In response to other questions, she said she was looking forward to working on the inside, and would be a part of the president’s economic team with input on larger economic issues.
I think that’s the single biggest gain with this appointment: That working people will have a strong, informed ally in the White House. Someone who really does understand our economic pain.
While I don’t doubt she’ll have her enemies working against her, she sounds confident and ready to fight on behalf of us all. (And, as she pointed out, a year ago Barney Frank told her the idea for this agency was a “pipe dream” that would never happen.)
“This is about rebuilding America’s families, because that’s what will give us a stronger economy,” she said.
I’m feeling a lot more optimistic than I have in a while.
Lynn Parramore: What are some of the values that were instilled in your childhood that you would like to see emphasized now?
Elizabeth Warren: I guess it is a fundamental belief that people are doing the best they can. It is easy when you are successful to think that you did it all by yourself and to forget that you didn’t. You got here because a lot of things broke your way. You were lucky enough to be born into a family that could afford to take care of you well. You were lucky enough to be able to have a family that could pay for you to go to school or buy your way out of scrapes. And to people who have had a lot of luck and don’t acknowledge that — the world looks like a total meritocracy, right? I’m on top because I really won, because I am better than everyone else.
I think I grew up with a profound sense of watching people who were good people, who were smart people, who were hardworking people — God, nobody on this Earth worked harder than my mom and dad — and they had very little. But they made do with what they had. They had their family, they raised four kids who loved them and four kids who all had our own families that we loved. And so, I guess the only way I can say it is that the value is in knowing that the game doesn’t always come out fairly. There is a lot more going on. The material success at the end of the day is only a small part of it. Truly successful lives are about family.
Has your idea of fairness changed in recent years, particularly since the financial crisis?
I have been focused on the issue of fairness for 20 years now, ever since I started doing research on the economics of the middle class. I wanted to believe “work hard, play by the rules” equals success. I knew that my parents struggled, but I wanted to believe it was better now. And what I began to see in my research was that the rules were beginning steadily to work against the middle class. Healthcare, there’s an example. It was not the case in the 1970s that a modest medical problem could land a family in bankruptcy. The advances in medical technology are wonderful, but the financial impact has become staggering. Sure, for one segment of society, the people with the gold-plated healthcare, the consequence of a medical problem is nothing more than medical. But for the much larger proportion of Americans, the financial consequences of a medical problem can be devastating. We studied these people in our bankruptcy research, and that’s one that I regard as fundamentally unfair, not just in the sense that the Lord deals different cards to different people, and some get sick and some have babies too early. But unfair in the sense that any one of us could be hit, so why is it that we don’t take care of each other? Why is it that we aren’t more careful to make sure that none of us can be devastated financially by a medical problem? So, yeah, I’ve been studying the unfairness of how it translates into the economic insecurity of the middle class.
Is the middle class disappearing?
It is more that it is trembling; it is crumbling. Middle class used to be synonymous with secure, with steady, with boring, because middle-class people were people who were pretty much safe from the time they first started work on through retirement and until their deaths, no longer. Now, to be middle class is to worry, is to be insecure, is to face much increased odds of job loss, of a healthcare problem, of a family breakup that can land a family in economic collapse.
We need to get out of debt, yet there are so many forces that conspire against us. What is the way out of that conundrum?
It is a conundrum that has to be approached from two different directions. One direction is from the individual, the borrower, the family. My advice there is to do everything you can to protect yourself, and I have a whole list of things that I would identify. But that by itself will not be enough. There is also the part about the rules of the game, about collective action, about what banks are permitted to do, about what lenders are permitted to do, about how we finance, our healthcare, what housing policy looks like, what education policy looks like, what it costs to educate our children. For those, the appropriate place to go is to the policy forum, to talk to Congress, to talk to the president, to speak to people about how we can change the rules by which we all live. So, the way out of the problem is both on a highly individualized basis and also on a collective basis.
Are you anti-debt?
No. Debt can be enormously valuable.
Borrowing money to buy a home – it can be a good investment. Borrowing money to buy a car so that you can get to work. Borrowing money to deal with an emergency, a serious medical problem. Those are all investments in effect in your future. But borrowing money because you can’t live on your current salary, assuming you are not under some kind of emergency situation, this is your day-to-day, if you are rolling credit card debt over month to month to month, and this is your real job, this is your real life, you do have a serious problem. Because people have got to bring their expenses and their income into line with each other. And so, that is where I focus on debt particularly with individual families. This is the part you need to see. There is a red light flashing if you’re carrying debt for reasons other than investment.
Continue Reading »
So conservatives like Evan Bayh are opposed to a “nanny state” — except when it comes to holding the hands and quelling the “anxieties” of the wealthy class:
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) has adopted the Republican line when it comes to the Bush tax cuts, even though he likes to style himself as a deficit-hawk. Today, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd asked Bayh about the poverty data, and whether there is a disconnect between the real economic pain that people are feeling and lawmakers squabbling over tax rates for the wealthy. Bayh agreed that there is a disconnect, but then concluded that the poverty increase means lawmakers should forget about “fairness and things like that” and cut taxes for the rich:
TODD: Yesterday, the Census came out and said one in seven Americans are living below the poverty line. Do you look at that story today — you know, you open up your USA Today, right, and you see that story — and you see Washington is debating the tax rates for the wealthy, and you sit there and say, isn’t that a disconnect in America right now?
BAYH: It is a disconnect, Chuck. What we need to be focused on is growth, how do we create jobs, how do we expand businesses. That needs to be job one right now. And all these other issues involving, oh, fairness and things like that can wait.
Now that we’re talking about extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, where have all the deficit hawks gone?
The latest project on the Republican “honey do” list is to convince the American public that government employees are overpaid and overcompensated — so they can justify breaking their unions. And despite the actual facts (which just don’t seem to matter anymore), they seem to be making headway with the public. Perhaps this will help:
With unemployment in the region lingering at record levels, and job security a wistful memory for many, it’s easy to look for scapegoats. Thus a familiar refrain–government workers are overpaid, and our tax dollars are going towards outsized benefit and salary packages–has come back again. But as with most scapegoating, there’s not much truth to the accusation: the reality is just the opposite. Once age and education are factored in, state and local workers actually earn less, on average, than their private-sector counterparts. The wage penalty for state and local government workers in New England is close to 3 percent.
In their new study, The Wage Penalty for State and Local Government Employees in New England, Jeffrey Thompson of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and John Schmitt of the Center for Economic Policy Research demonstrate that the average state or local government worker does earn higher wages than the average private-sector worker–but this is because they are, on average, older and substantially better educated. The higher average wage in the public sector means that the teachers, engineers, accountants, and others who are running government offices, schools, and public services in New England are more experienced and highly trained, on average, than workers in the private sector. But despite these qualifications, their pay is on average lower than that of those counterparts. Another way to look at it is: given two workers of the same age and same level of experience, a public sector worker earns less than a private sector worker.
As the report’s co-author, Jeffrey Thompson, explains, “If you simply compare the wages in the public and private sector, you end up learning more about the skill levels of those workers than about the sector where they work. All that comparison tells you is that state and local government workers in New England are more highly educated and more experienced than their counterparts in the private sector. But once you properly control for education and experience, it becomes evident that public sector workers get lower wages.”
Seems to me they should be saying no one was injured “yet,” because being exposed to massive quantities of benzene hurt someone — we just don’t yet know who, or how, since cancer doesn’t grow overnight:
WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency said it is investigating the release of certain chemicals, including benzene, a known carcinogen, at a BP PLC plant in Texas.
In a written statement Thursday, the agency said it has asked the British oil giant to disclose what steps it took in response to an April 6 incident at the facility that “resulted in the flaring of chemicals that could have reasonably resulted in a catastrophic release of a hazardous air pollutant.”
A spokesman for the agency said the incident involves the release of 500,000 pounds of various chemicals, including roughly 17,000 pounds of benzene. The spokesman added that no one was injured in the incident.
Seems that no one’s quite sure what powers Elizabeth Warren will have:
President Barack Obama plans Friday to appoint Harvard Law School professor to the position. Ms. Warren first proposed the idea of a consumer financial-products regulator in 2007, and many Democrats wanted her to be the first person to lead the agency, a body created by the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul law enacted in July.
Because she will instead be a senior adviser, Ms. Warren won’t have the full powers that a Senate-confirmed director of the agency might have. She would be joining a team of administration officials who have already begun taking steps to create the new agency, and whether she takes over the effort or plays an advisory role remains unclear.
Business and consumer groups pored over the law Thursday to try to understand what precisely she could and couldn’t do.
Lawyers were scrutinizing a two-paragraph section of the Dodd-Frank law (Section 1066), which suggests Treasury’s powers setting up the agency might extend only to areas such as transferring employees and other powers from existing agencies. In other words, Treasury—and Ms. Warren by extension—might not have broad authority to write new rules and guidelines. In fact, the law says only that “The Director may prescribe rules and issue orders and guidance.”
“We’ve asked our legal brain trust to look into it, and they haven’t gotten back to us yet,” said Ed Mierzwinski, director of the consumer program at the National Association of State Public Interest Research Groups, a consumer advocacy group.
Another great victory for Obama obfuscation!