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.
We need to look at the problems of inequality, evictions and the crushing of low wage workers as crises of opportunity. We could continue along our current path with low wages, difficult to obtain mental health treatment, pitiful SSI benefits and exploitation by payday lenders, storage facilities and unscrupulous landlords. Or we could try fixing the system. The book Evicted suggests expanding the housing voucher program while at th same time prevent landlords from overcharging people the way they currently do.
Bernie Sanders and many low wage workers have raised the demand for a $15 per hour minimum wage. As I was driving downtown on our horrible main street, I wished that repaving our roads could be expanded to create more jobs. I wished that lead pipes could be removed the same way Madison, Wisconsin did it. That would create jobs.
I wish that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would begin stricter regulation of unfair lending practices. I wish that corporate wealth could be reined in and excess profits could be used for the common good. I wish for a lot of things that I am being told aren’t realistic. And that in the immediate future what will probably happen is the military get all the money it wants and spend most of it trying to fight terrorism. But the real face of terrorism is the crushing of our spirits by poverty, evictions and exploitation. We need a political revolution.
I liked most of what I heard President Obama tell us last night in his State of the Union address. Let me go through a brief checklist:
- Taxing the rich: check and double-check. The rich have made out like bandits and basically own the Congress due to a horrendous Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. I could tell by the sour expression on the face of Mr Orange, John Boner, that the President had struck a nerve.
- Middle Class tax cuts: again check and double-check. we need a much fairer system that rewards work. It was an excellent set up having a solid example of a woman and her family who are working hard and playing by the rules but need a hand up to help pay for things like child care.
- Diplomacy first and war only as a last resort.Checked The negotiations underway with Iran over their nuclear program were cited as a prime example. Some members of Congress have proposed imposing further sanctions on the Iranian economy at a time when the chances for a diplomatic solution are at a critical juncture. The President promised to veto anything that Congress approved tightening the screws on Iran instead of continuing to talk.
- Marriage equality: the President has thorough embraced equal rights for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people at that is a first. The fact he did so openly in front of the Supreme Court justices seated there in front of him was not lost on anyone. Check and mate
- Free community college for 2 years to help low-income workers improve their skills and get better jobs. Paid for by the taxes on wealthy Americans, this common sense approach to investing in people helps sharpen the contract between Republicans who focus on increasing tax breaks for their wealthy donors and Democrats who work to aid the middle class. This proposal harkens back to the post World War II era GI Bill of Rights that helped send a generation to college and buy homes.
- I was very glad to hear President Obama take credit for the vast reduction in the number of American troops still in Iraq and Afghanistan. he inherited those wars from George W. Bush who conducted them without any thought about how to end them, whether we were prepared to fight and what a successful outcome would be. . This all results from American meddling. George W. Bush who conducted them without any thought about how to end them, whether we were prepared to fight and what a successful outcome would be. Iraq remains unstable and a miserable group of extremists called ISIL has taken over a large portion of Iraq and Syria. President Obama developed a strategy to mobilize and train soldiers from Syria and Iraq backed by American air support to help repel the invaders. He remains steadfast in his commitment not to be dragged into another long and drawn out occupation and he called for Congress to authorize the use of force, in other words, declaring war against ISIL. Whatever happens, he wants Congress to help own it. We are log past the debate over whether the initial invasion was a good idea; we are now talking about how to help repel a bunch of people from the 13th century.
- Related to the issue of military occupation is our obligation to help the veterans who sacrificed for their country get back on their feet. Dr. Jill Biden and Michelle Obama have been the public faces of the campaign to help employ veterans. How wonderful to have two such capable women as spouses for the Vice President and the President. This is part of a larger effort that includes reforming the Veterans Administration, modernizing the veterans health care system and ending homelessness among veterans.
- President Obama continues to push for infrastructure projects including roads, bridge, improved mass transit and other items. he has been doing this throughout his presidency including the passage of the stimulus package. We continue to hear about crumbling bridges and repairing and replacing them ought to be a bi-partisan issue including raising the gasoline tax enough to help cover the cost. However, the unfortunate thing about many of these Republican members of Congress is that they view any federal proposal as socialistic and don’t understand the concept of investing for the future.
There is much to admire in this list and so many other things that the president has proposed as being the right thing for America. I would have added the idea of completely legalizing marijuana and treating it like alcohol. We can save billions by moving away from the failed war on drugs which costs lives while imprisoning far too many people. The president’s policy on Cuba sounds like a solid idea, and he asked the Congress to pass legislation towards that end. However I would take it even further by returning the Guantanamo Bay to Cuba and removing that relic of gunboat diplomacy. Cuba should truly belong to the Cubans.
The other thing that must be said is that President Obama said he has no more campaigns to run because he won both of his presidential campaigns. Having said that, he has laid out a progressive vision that progressive candidates can use in future campaigns. i would say yes to a candidate similar to what President Obama articulated. Why not? i would have said much the same damned thing.
The various progressive and free thought facebook groups I belong to are filled with people focused on something they call facepalming, which is based upon finding all the memes the object to from their religious or conservative friends and sending them to other progressives or humanists. look at how silly my religious friends are, blah, blah, they think some sky daddy is going to save them if they just give their money to the church. Or look at that silly Sarah Palin, Fox News, Duck Dynasty, NRA wacko, see what they’re saying about Obama.
This actually defeats the purpose of humanism which I believe is to promote a better way of looking at the world. i don’t need to laugh about how silly their ideas are compared to mine. If I wanted to find out about some crooked minister, I’d visit his megachurch. I see being a part of the progressive movement as a means of promoting the common good. And the less I hear or see of hate filled rhetoric, the better I feel.
I caught a brief glimpse of Secretary of State John Kerry this afternoon making the rounds of the talking heads. I thought back to when I first saw him conducting the Winter Soldier Investigation into the Vietnam War in 1971. He was heroic and idealistic speaking truth to power. It took a lot more sacrifices to end that war that had been fought on false pretenses with a story concocted to stampede Congress into approving the shameful Gulf of Tonkin resolution. Eventually Congress repealed it as the nation thundered its disapproval. Congress also passed the War Powers Act to try and curtail the President’s warmaking ability and recapture its Constitutional duty. Unfortunately, time and again it has failed to force the President to comply with the act.
There are books describing the imperial presidency as it has become known. President Obama said that he was not seeking to join that long line of imperial Presidents. However, he was already too late. The intervention he ordered into Libya was the beginning of his love affair with the expanded power. Libya was somehow defined as something other than war but we are still dealing with the after effects of it. Now we have John Kerry telling us that the President believes he has the authority to wage war on Syria although he is consulting with Congress. He evaded the question about whether the President would honor the vote even if he lost. “We’re not going to lose that vote,” he snapped.
Who knows where the time goes? I was still in the US military in 1971 and preparing my return to civilian life. I took heart in the friends I had marched with before I was drafted were still marching and I was eager to join them. Although Kerry and I have a lot of gray in our heads I can honestly say I have a lot more of my ideals than he retained. It’s time to re-ignite that winter soldier. Killing Syrians to prove that killing Syrians would be wrong on so many different levels. Only diplomacy can help end violence in Syria supported by the intervention of the US and many other nations.
I had a variety of emotions yesterday that took me all over the place. I wrote a rather bizarre story about my mother ordering my siblings and me from the Sears catalog. It was a true story but there were a lot of details left out. A lot of Sunday focused on the tragedy in Newtown, and the president’s response. I saw a youtube video after reading several positive reviews on twitter.
I had looked for the speech before I realized I had a copy. I had many mixed emotions about the speech and the powerful of the President’s spirituality. He connects to people in a way that is very moving and feels genuine. And I started saying to myself there was no one else who could have given that speech. We have a horror in this country at the same time more people are buying more guns with higher capacity ammunition. We have unending stories of massacres and smaller scale murder suicides involving abusive men and their loved ones. We also have random acts of violence in which people shoot complete strangers. The common factor is that we resolve our problems through acts of violence.
The president said that this must end. That is true. We must work on an interpersonal level to end violence, we must restrain the police from inflicting violence upon the people who they believe may have committed crimes and we must work as a nation to resolve our differences with other nations without resorting to violence. We can and we must do better.