I have been reading for the past several hours stories about people trapped in debt by payday lenders, title loan lenders and aggressive student loan collectors. The worst case of student loan collection was in New Jersey where a mother received a notice after her son had been killed that she was liable for his student loans.
The state aggressively pursues people offering little information about loan forgiveness and instead sends collection agencies to turn your life upside down. There was also no limit on the amount that a family could borrow, way beyond their ability to pay. As a last gasp some people declared bankruptcy, which could not eliminate the debts, but it greatly reduced their payments.
The stories of payday loans were equally as horrific. I noted that some unscrupulous lenders affiliated themselves with Native American tribes to escape state regulations. And some of them began to mutate as soon as one loan product was outlawed another sprang up. Like the installment loans which offer longer payment plans but interest just as high as their predatory cousins, allowing the crooked lenders to squeeze even more money out of workers.
I consider payday lenders a kind of guinea worm sucking up workers’ blood. And being trapped by payday loans, title loans and high student loan interest could lead a person to desperation. I am going to start following the good guys in this battle and seeing what ordinary citizens can do. The guinea worms have set up fake grassroots organizations to comment on proposed federal regulations and they spread money around to democrats and republicans in campaign contributions. Remember, always follow the money. When crooked politicians say there’s already too much regulation, find out where their cash is coming from. Stand up.
There is a mind numbing array of details in Evicted. the stories of the negotiations carried out with the few consumers who go to Room 400 of the Milwaukee County Courthouse. And the racial breakdown I mentioned in an earlier post. Eviction is eating away at neighborhoods. The evictions follow people through the courts and the credit bureaus and have a ways of snatching people back down into the gutter when they attempt to make something of their lives, get better jobs, buy cars and otherwise re-establish themselves.
There are the rent collection agencies ready to try and garnish. There are the Eagle Movers with their huge business going through poor neighborhoods. And there is the feeling that never goes away the humiliation of the eviction. There are the huge percentages that rent takes out of people’s income 50% or more. And of course there were the words of the landlords pleading their cases in front of court commissioners.
It is ironic that Milwaukee has experienced a boom in luxury apartments and condominiums. Commerce Street is filled with ugly buildings too expensive for the people I have been discussing. What used to be a leisurely ride along the street has become treacherous with cars lining either side of the narrow street.
There are more such monstrosities downtown. The city has gained in tax base. So, to hear of poor depressed areas sounds eerily like you’re discussing the 2 Americas that were predicted long ago. The growing housing gap between rich and poor was not mentioned in the recent elections for mayor, common council or county executive. I tell people that they need to wake up and make certain to vote for these various circuit court judges because you might face them one day.
But when you’re struggling with every day details of life, it seems hard to absorb something that seems so remote. “Hey children, watch that sound, everybody look what’s going down.” For what it’s worth, still relevant today.
I have been wondering as a progressive what has been happening to us in Wisconsin. We seem to be losing a lot of elections and we are gerrymandered into a terrible position in the state legislature. Even if Democrats won more votes than Republicans, we would still lose elections because of the way districts are drawn. We have seen big rallies at the Capitol, and an impressive attempted recall and yet the carefully chosen millionaire Democratic candidate for governor lost. When I went driving, everywhere along the highway, there were huge signs for Walker and the attorney general candidate. It was horrible.
I was flooded with lie after lie on tv with commercials slamming the Affordable Care Act. So now after being traumatized by this experience I am seeing all this attention shift to Walker as a possible presidential candidate. The Democratic candidate for governor has disappeared in her place is the permanent fundraising machine.
Daily I am flooded with emails by Mike Tate Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. He is always begging for money, saying that some anonymous people will match my donation and even once or twice apologizing for the volume of emails. These are never emails talking about a strategy or asking what I could do besides give, give, give. Is Mike Tate organizing people to protest about the Right to Work for less bill being jammed through the legislature? How are Democrats going to become an affective minority? What are they going to do besides alienate their base?
I want to put this out there and see what kind of responses I receive. I have my own disagreements with Barack Obama and I am less excited about his than I was when I voted for him the first time around. The idea that we could someone other than a white male leading this country went from being a hope to a reality within my lifetime. However I never responded to any of the previous presidents solely on the basis of their skin color. It was their policies and leadership to which I responded. When I think of W. Bush, I think of ill-considered wars, blowing up the deficit, unnecessary deaths, and stolen elections. Ronald Reagan blew up deficits, gave away tax breaks to the rich, and helped to cripple people in Africa. I truly believed that Richard Nixon was a racist who had no regard for the constitution, the rule of law or human life. Those things far outweighed going to China and setting up the Environmental Protection Agency.
I was in the streets at different times protesting against destructive policies . And lest we forget, even though I tend to vote for the left, I also protested against Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. But none of them have experienced the level of racist abuse that whites have hurled at President Obama. President Obama has helped to turn around an economy that was in free fall, recognized the freedom to marry shown that government spending can provide a positive stimulus. And yet rodeo clowns in the media and political arenas ,elected officials, sheriffs and others talk of openly defying him. Grotesque pictures and jokes appear on the internet, and republicans in congress spend all of their time trying to prevent people from obtaining health care. At the same time, republicans in state houses pass legislation to invade women’s bodies, destroy voting rights and slow the economy.
This is all an example of white skin privilege because African-Americans are more likely to view race as it relates to our presidents than white people do. You have a long ways to go, white racists, before you drive us back into the shadows of fear. We are free and exercising our power and our rights. We will either live together as brothers or die separately as fools.
The so-called news will be filled with stories about eager shoppers buying whatever junk is in the big box retailers. I am not buying any of it. The only thing I really need is gas and perhaps a check up on the tires before I go out of town on Sunday. But I can do that tomorrow. I have been horrified reading about the way labor has been completely marginalized in stores. Software and just in time scheduling have allowed management to control workers’ lives to the point where people can’t earn decent wages or work second jobs because they’re always expected to be available. Like prostitutes, except for less money. I remember considering applying for a job to pick up some extra cash and finding that I couldn’t limit my hours to one specific shift, for example nights. So I did not complete the application.
Right across the street from me is a house with a poster in solidarity with Wisconsin public workers, who were stripped of most of their collective bargaining rights by our infamous governor. However that law has been declared unconstitutional and workers are bargaining once more. The governor is infamous for his remarks about divide and conquer referring to the way he would turn private workers against public workers and then go ahead and screw private workers.
The workers in the stores may not know up to the last minute whether they are supposed to work. But who would devise a system like that? Certainly not anyone with an ounce of humanity. Not someone who deals with child care or other family issues. But someone who sees workers as widgets to be moved from here to there I need three widgets for 5 .3 hours in that department for this afternoon. I have noticed how few workers there are in the stores, too. All the while the stores report record profits. The stores open more and more locations for ever expanding profits not for us but some nameless investors.
The same prognosticators who were completely wrong about our just completed elections are already speculating about 2016. We don’t get a few days or weeks of actual governing. It’s like we’re being treated like rats on a treadmill. So if you control our economic and political lives, aren’t there ways in which we can resist, stop cooperating, not remain slaves? Yes, indeed, there are. Exercising those brains, such wonderful items. Think for a moment. What on earth could be so important that you need to trample over your neighbors at 2AM? Reporter, is it really news and shouldn’t you be home with your families instead of at the mall encouraging commercialism? For once, I’d like to see someone say, look, we’ve done that story too often, I’m not doing it any more.Today is enjoy time with friends and family not wasting it on junk day.Give the workers a break.
I still have my inner weirdo but I am thinking that the causes I support need a little more seriousness than I have been projecting. So I think my devoted reader will find a slight change in tone. But yes I am so sick of American elections. Especially when a lot of turds want to keep up the gridlock even after. “Obama has no mandate to raise taxes” says the losing vice presidential candidate. By the way, Boy Ryan you could not even carry Wisconsin and Mitt got blown out of Massachusetts.
I also noticed that the fool who had responded to my message about Sandy Pasch went back to grammar school. Yes, I’m talking to you. Sandy Pasch, newly re-elected, is a leader in the Democratic Assembly Caucus and your friend Helen is not.
It’s not going to be anything nice these next four years but I am ready, willing and able.