Does anybody remember that thing from a few years back when a bunch of Wall Street sharpies and slick financial services operators vandalized the entire global economy? The one where poor people were shamelessly victimized and financially ruined for life, and middle-class workers got stuck with the ongoing tab to bail out the banksters?
What was that thing called? Oh, yeah, The Great Recession. I forgot about that.
So, apparently, have quite a number of the hired handmaidens of the 1 Percent, who are busy, busy, busy up on Capitol Hill legislating to ensure that the hedge funders and legalized loan sharks can get back to sucking up every last dime we didn't lose the last time around.
For the sake of my own sanity and your blood pressure, let's limit ourselves to reviewing only the recklessly ignorant ideas that surfaced in the last week.
Goin' for broke
Let's start in the House of Representatives, where the Republicans who so love our fighting men and women decided that it doesn't matter if they're bankrupt once they've got a nice foxhole to live in. That's why the Armed Services Committee wanted to let the predatory payday and auto-title lenders who set up shop right outside of any Army, Navy or Air Force base charge annual interest rates of several hundred percent to the young, financially inexperienced volunteers defending our borders.
This came in the way of language that would have stalled proposed rules that set a 36 percent annual rate cap on the most common forms of credit extended to service members. The Pentagon wants this rule because heavily indebted service members are considered security risks who can't serve overseas. Sometimes the burdensome debt can end their careers because it's hard to spill your blood in defense of your country when you've already sold it to pay your loan. The financial hyenas behind this junk didn't like that limit -- which, in most states, still is high enough to be considered usury. And so the flag-wavin' patriots of the committee who line up to take the payday lenders' campaign dough went right along.
Elsewhere under the Capitol dome, it was a bipartisan effort by the full House to bring back high-pressure, complicated, unaffordable mortgages under a bill laughably titled "Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act of 2015," which would be more accurately titled the "Preserving Access to Filing for Bankruptcy and Becoming Homeless Act." It would loosen the Dodd-Frank financial reform laws for the manufactured housing industry, and not surprisingly it was sponsored by a Tennessee Republican with a big manufactured housing company smack-dab in his district.
One expert noted that the legislation could hit the buyer of a $75,000 manufactured home with $3,500 in junk fees. The bill also stops new mortgage lending rules from kicking in on this type of home until interest rates hit 14 percent, a mark last seen more than 30 years ago during the disastrous inflation of the 1980s. Did I mention that current mortgage rates are less than 4 percent? Did I also mention that a number of spineless Democrats helped pass the bill last Tuesday, 286-140? Did I further mention that everyone behind this stinker claims to be "protecting consumer choice" by voting for this financial strychnine?
Short-handed IRS slams the door
Speaking of choice, if the IRS auditors choose to pull out the hammer and blowtorch and go medieval on your tax-paying tushie this year, you can also thank congressional conservatives. After Republicans cut $1.2 billion from its budget, leading to the loss of 13,000 employees, the IRS is so broke that it couldn't answer the majority of all taxpayer phone calls this past filing season.
And now, when it comes to audits, Uncle Sam's bagmen are coping by speeding things up, according to a New York Times op-ed from Dave Du Val, a vice president at TaxAudit.com, an audit defense service. Instead of the 45-75 days taxpayers used to have to respond when the IRS initially inquired about a perceived "deficiency," taxpayers are getting 15-25 days. Miss that deadline by, say, going on vacation, traveling on business or retreating to a yurt to huddle, weeping over the current state of our political affairs, and you get two choices: Pay up in full or hire a lawyer for a lengthy excursion through tax court.
Publicity has, in the case of the military lending rules, shamed some of these hypocritical solons to drop their obstructions, although it also raised the question of why, if soldiers, sailors and airmen need to be protected from predatory lenders, it's fine and dandy for the rest of us to get gouged. But the IRS situation will last until at least the next federal budget, and Senate Republicans are now working to get the "Preserving Access to Manufactured Housing Act of 2015" through their chamber, as well.
What to do? Well, you can write or call your senator or representative to express your opposition, but how much can that really accomplish when he or she is a wholly owned subsidiary of big industry "donors"? But the calendar gives us hope: Sunday is Mother's Day, and we all know how much politicians looove to tout their wholesome families.
So do call your congressman, but don't threaten to vote against him.
Just threaten to tell his mother.
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