Payday Lending continues to prey on the vulnerable


I have written several times about the payday lending industry. The industry is the worst form of legitimized usury and preys on the people who need help.

With flipped loans (where a new loan pays off an old loan), the effective annual percentage rate (APR) of interest can build very quickly. The average borrower will flip a loan several times, so the APR can grow to over 1000%.

Many states have clamped down on the industry, placing a ceiling on the APR that can be charged. But, the industry continues unfettered in more than a few states.

One of those states is South Dakota. As of this writing, there is a bipartisan proposal that has been placed on the ballot which would limit the maximum APR to 36% per annum. In a perfect world, this ballot initiative would pass.

But, to combat this common sense proposal, the payday lending industry has put forth its own ballot initiative which would limit the maximum to 18% per annum. Wait, you may ask, isn’t that better? Well, there is a significant catch. The payday 18% ballot initiative says, the maximum will be 18%, unless the borrower agrees to a higher rate. Why would the borrower agree? To get the loan  the lender is willing to lend. So, the lower maximum is moot.

I do not begrudge a company trying to make money, but taking advantage of vulnerable people is poor form. This is such poor form that Dante created a special layer of hell for usurers in his Inferno. And, the Christian bible is not too kind to these predators noting usury as a sin, especially when it involves poor people.

If you know anyone in South Dakota, please encourage them to vote for the 36% maximum APR ballot initiative. The industry 18% ballot initiative ruse is just a continual license to perpetuate fraud. It is the ultimate bait and switch. And, please do everything in your power to avoid payday loans and tell anyone who asks to do the same. Payday lending is a self-fulfilling death spiral of debt.

************************************************************************************************

Note: PBS Newshour covered this issue on January 6, 2016. A link follows:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/fighting-the-debt-trap-of-triple-digit-interest-rate-payday-loans/

 

Please cease the endless Benghazi hearings (and work on something important)


Dear Representative or Senator,

Like many Americans of all political stripes, this independent voter requests that you ask Congressional leaders to cease the endless Benghazi hearings. Eight is enough, as the old TV show says. You are wasting taxpayer money and time on something that has been put to bed many times over.

Representative Trey Gowdy was made to look very foolish last fall and your first Speaker of the House candidate Kevin McCarthy’s words betrayed the motivation behind the hearings. To be frank, I do not like my tax dollars paying for political campaigns.

If you must continue, please ask Rep. Gowdy to reinvite Ambassador Thomas Pickering and Admiral Michael Mullen back in to go over the report that put Benghazi to bed in December, 2012. These report authors were not called to testify for over nine months by Rep. Darrel Issa, who led the first waves of hearings, which I have found puzzling, but not surprising.

With this new found time, Congress can improve upon the executive actions that the President made on background checks which were long overdue. The President should be applauded for this first step. Congress has punted on this issue, siding more with the NRA rather than Americans who overwhelmingly support better background checks, including 79% of Republican voters per a Pew Polling survey. Plus, 40% of all gun sales in America do not have a background check conducted – that is almost half.

I have long grown weary of the stale argument of X action would not have stopped Y mass shooting. One thing is for certain, not doing anything at all has shown to be ineffective. And, the greater number of gun deaths are what occur everyday in America, including 60% of them which are suicide.

Please ask your colleagues to stop trying to keep their job and to do their job. Campaigning does not constitute doing the job. Productive discussions around better gun control measures do.

Many thanks for your time and service.

My remarks regarding NC Clean Power Plan and Lawsuit

Last month, I was given the opportunity to speak to representatives of the North Carolina’s Department of Energy and Natural Resources at a public hearing. Our state is included in law suit against the EPA having the authority to require the states to develop a Clean Power Plan to reduce emissions. In companion to this suit, our state leaders developed a poor attempt, in my view, at addressing the required plan.

Here are my remarks which had to be limited to three minutes.

My name is Keith Wilson. I am an Independent voter and NC taxpayer.

I am speaking to you as both a tree hugger and business person.

I am disappointed in our state’s position on the Clean Power Plan and advocate moving the ball further down the path of renewable energy than the plan is required to do.

I say this as per the 2015 Global Risks Report prepared by the World Economic Forum, the two greatest risks noted by member organizations over the next 10 years are:

(1) Global Water Crisis and

(2) Failure to act on climate change

The need to move to renewable energy is more than a climate change issue, it is a water issue. As noted by the excellent Charlotte Observer series last month, we have global, national and regional water crisis, which will only be made worse by climate change.

Water is the new oil.

In the Observer series, it noted that Duke Energy loses about 1%- 2% of water on a daily basis when creating power from the Catawba River using fossil fuel and nuclear energy. The water is lost through dissipated steam.

At a conference called “Our Water: An Uncertain Future” last month, the director of Duke’s Water Strategy noted that Duke Energy includes climate change impact in their water projection models. He noted that they expect to lose an additional 11% of reservoir water due to more evaporation from climate change.

Per Duke’s projections, the Catawba River cannot support the growth in the Metro Charlotte area without change.

The move from water intensive fossil fuel and nuclear energy to renewable energy is key, as solar and wind energy need not be water reliant to create power.

Man-influenced climate change will only make our water problem worse.

From a business standpoint, there are several reasons why the move to renewable energy is key.

The fossil fuel industry likes to tout jobs and impact on people in poverty as drawbacks to the move. These are shortsighted reasons, as solar and wind energy jobs are growing like gangbusters with double digit growth.  On the cost of energy being higher, that is also shortsighted as well and is using the wrong equation.

The cost of production of renewables continues to fall and wind energy is the most cost effective source in the UK and Germany, right now. But, that is not the right equation.

A total cost equation will look at the present value cost of production,

  • plus healthcare,
  • plus environmental degradation,
  • plus water loss,
  • plus litigation,
  • plus maintenance of coal ash sites.

When these total costs are compared, my guess is the result will easily favor renewable energy.

Further, companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are relocating power intensive data centers to NC due to our solar energy success and incentives. These companies are attracted to innovation.

*************************************************************************************************

So, the tree hugger in me says you better be concerned about our water and what climate change will do to it.

The business person in me says, the better bet is on renewables.

Let me close that this is not just a progressive issue. Per a ClearPath survey of conservative voters, 75% favor a move down the path of renewable energy.

It is time our state and national leaders caught on to this desire.

My strong recommendation is to improve the Clean Power Plan and stop wasting taxpayer money on the shortsighted EPA lawsuit.

Collaboration was good while it lasted


Many of us were encouraged to see the US Congress pass some needed legislation the last two months of the year with thanks to John Boehner and Paul Ryan. Boehner greased the skids during his exit for Ryan by getting the debt ceiling increased until next fall and paving the way for a budget deal. With these efforts, the strident part of the Republican Party gave Ryan a hall pass as legislation was passed on key transportation, education and budget issues. None are perfect, but the signed laws showed collaboration.

Most pundits did not feel the Kum-ba-ya period of needed collaboration would last too long into 2016 and it will end soon. The House is expected to pass a partisan Obamacare repeal (yet again) joined with defunding Planned Parenthood. This time, though, it is on the heels of a similar vote that was maneuvered through the Senate at the end of the year. So, if passed, this bill will go to the President for his veto, which he said would be forthcoming. There are not enough votes to overturn the veto, so this a symbolic vote to throw meat to the strident members of the party.

There are just two problems that these bills do not recognize, which I have written about before. Both Obamacare and Planned Parenthood help many people in need, as well as other Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck.

Obamacare is working pretty well, but you would not glean this if you only watched conservative news sources. It is not perfect and is hard to communicate like most health insurance, but it is doing its job to expand healthcare insurance to many as the rate of uninsured continues to fall and cost projections have dampened. Yes, some carriers are experiencing higher costs due to a greater number of higher risk enrollees than intended, but the framework is there for success even though Congress would not fund the reinsurance pools and continues to chip away at it.

I would add that it still has not been fully implemented with about twenty states who did not expand Medicaid for those beneath just above or beneath the poverty level. The states who did are seeing better coverage results, improved rural health care, and better economic spending. The rural health care concerns me as the party whose voters would benefit the most from this are still naysaying it. It should be noted, per Kaiser Family Foundation surveys, most Americans want to keep Obamacare, but see it improved. It frustrates me that our conservative Congress members are spending their time listening to only a segment of Americans.

Planned Parenthood is even a bigger lightning rod. While only 3% of their funding goes to abortions, none of that comes from federal funding. What PP does is provide healthcare services to women and families who may not have means to get coverage elsewhere. It is also truism in clinics like PP actually reduce the number of abortions through birth control and education. Yet, that is lost on the spirited misinformation and disinformation campaign tactics used by abortion foes. The Congressional Committee was an embarrassment as the Congressional representatives misstated facts and quoted websites as if they were sponsored by PP as they tried to bully the PP CEO.  I read last week that one Congress person said she felt PP gave out faulty birth control so that they could perform more abortions. Now, why on earth would they do that?

Personally, I have grown weary of the Obamacare bashing. It is largely a Republican idea, which the President modified. I find these politicians more focused on political machinations than helping people. Obamacare is saving lives and protecting family assets. Yes, it could be improved, but judge it on its merits and faults and not politics.

Planned Parenthood also is getting a bad rap. It helps many in our country, yet it gets highly politicized to acquiesce to abortion foes. Again, abortion funding does not come from the federal government. So, by cutting funding, it hurts American women and families.

Let me close with two comments. First, we have a poverty problem in our country and too many on top of them living paycheck to paycheck. Obamacare and Planned Parenthood helps people in these demographic groups. Obamacare could help even more with full Medicaid expansion in the remaining states. Second, we have a growing number of people working part-time and as independent contractors. Obamacare gives these folks access to affordable health care insurance that cannot get from an employer.

Congress, please stop the seemingly endless votes to repeal Obamacare and continuing funding Planned Parenthood. Use real data in your decisions and listen to all Americans, who want both to continue.

 

 

A few obscure heroes

The names Elliott Richardson, William Ruckelshaus and Archibald Cox do not conjure up physical bravery, but they are heroes nonetheless. Their honor and duty to their oaths of office gave them the conviction to stand up against the President of the United States. We did not know it at the time, but President Richard Nixon had sanctioned illegal activities and would later resign before he would have been impeached.

What did these gentlemen do that was heroic? Cox refused to back off his pursuit of the truth as the Special Prosecutor of the Watergate hearings. He was asked to do a job and he pursued it with a passion to uphold his oath to the constitution. When the President did not get his wish, he asked Richardson, the US Attorney General to fire Cox. Richardson declined to do so and resigned. Ruckelshaus, his Deputy, also refused and resigned

It came to a head and eventual Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork ended up firing Cox over a weekend in October known as the Saturday Night Massacre.  These resignations and firing may have been the tipping point for Nixon’s demise as the press realized something was indeed wrong. Shortly after the massacre, Nixon released the first set of secret tapes with 18 minutes deleted, which had been requested by Cox and the Senate Commission after learning that Nixon taped all his meetings in the Oval Office. So, Nixon’s own paranoia did him in as he recorded his illegal activity.

Many know the names Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post and their huge roles in reporting on Nixon and all of his henchmen. Yet, we should pay homage to three additional American heroes in Elliott Richardson, William Ruckelshaus  and Archibald Cox.

They were our Men for All Seasons.

Memo to that angry base

With the popularity of a couple of renegade presidential candidates, there is a consensus that an angry base is looking for a different path forward. I have asserted for several years now, that over half of the Republican Party voters have been voting against their economic interests and have no idea they are doing so. There is now an angry base of party members who feel they have been lied to.

Yet, what this angry base does not realize is they have been lied to by the leaders of their movement, as well. And, they still are being misled by candidates and pundits who want to speak to their insecurities. Here are a few of these lies:

  • The economy is not doing well. Actually, it is and has been doing pretty well for some time, with over 70 consecutive months of job growth and only 5% unemployment. Of course, there is room for improvement, but it is percolating along at a nice clip and 2016 is expected to be even better.
  • Climate change is a hoax or is not really influenced by humans. The data is pretty overwhelming that it is real and man-influenced and a well paid public relations campaign has been used by the fossil fuel industry to fuel the hoax and now non-man-influenced agenda. 97% of scientists and 195 countries are a lot to argue with.
  • The renewable energy industry is still in its infancy, is more costly and will cost jobs. Actually the renewable energy industry is doing quite well and jobs are growing at a double-digit rate, as production costs are close to on par with fossil fuel energy. And, when other costs are factored in, renewable energy is actually less.
  • A minimum wage increase will cost jobs. True, but it masks the whole impact, as studies have shown the economic benefit exceeds small job losses and about 30 states and some cities have raised the minimum  wage above the Federal minimum, including GOP led states. They must believe it is a good thing for workers and their economy.
  • Welfare benefits are driving the deficit. Actually the biggest budget items are defense spending and Social Security and Medicare to which we all contribute. If we want to measurably cut the budget, these are the places we need to look. I would do deeper cuts on defense, as we are building things our military does not need. Also, we need to be mindful of tax plans that materially increase the deficit as put forth by some leading GOP candidates.
  • All immigration is bad. Immigration actually helps the economy through more purchasing power and attracting talent. Businesses are crying out on attracting and retaining talented foreigners. Plus, if we don’t constructively address illegal immigration as proposed by our President, then our economy would be impacted, especially in industries that exploit illegal immigrants to lower cost. Plus, families would be harmed.
  • We are in grave danger as a country. We must be vigilant against terrorism, but we should not run scared and we should not give up our ideals and freedoms. If we do so, then the terrorists have already won. We must be compassionate and do our share of bringing in refugees. Right now, we appear small by some of our narrow-mindedness.
  • The President is some variation of a non-citizen by birth, Muslim, Nazi or Anti-Christ. If you believe this malarkey, then this post has no chance of convincing you otherwise. Yet, you may want to ask candidates why they perpetuate this propaganda. And, it is more than OK if he were a Muslim.

Our country is doing much better than has been portrayed by some candidates. Yes, we have problems around increasing poverty, declining middle class and growing racial tensions that we need to address, but we need to collectively solve these issues. We do not solve them by blaming others for the problems. They are our problems to solve as we allowed them to be created over time. We also don’t solve real problems by ignoring them or saying they do not exist. Our planet and country can ill-afford to have a President turn his or her blind eye to the world on our looming climate change and global water crisis. The next ten years are critical.

We need more honest and reasonable debate on our issues. We also need reasonably minded folks to discuss these issues. Name calling and demonizing does not constitute reasonable debate. Let’s start by demanding civility from each other, but especially our candidates. It is more than OK to disagree, but let’s use real information and not campaign rhetoric, which can be over-embellished.