This week, we welcome to Agent Genius Ken Montville of College Park, MD who will be bringing a fresh voice to the Sunday Political column. Ken is a highly respected Realtor who is actively blogging to serve his community well with his focus on news, stats, and practical advice for home buyers and sellers.
We invite you to pour a cup of coffee, tune your television to the talk show circuits this morning and read the fine lineup, kicked of by Ken who makes no apologies for his leanings. Please welcome Ken in the comments section and don’t forget to opine on his debut post (whether you agree or disagree)!)
This week in politics
It looked like a good week for the “‘Just Say No’ to Everything” party when they were able to convince voters in New Jersey and Virginia that their guys had what it takes to run things. Yeah, they lost one of the safest Republican seats in the country after they threw one of their own under the bus but, hey, it was only the largest Congressional District east of the Mississippi and not that important after all.
Yeah, “the Sarah” did a little promotional work and de facto Republican head honcho and, certainly, the loudest screamer Rush “I’m not on drugs anymore” Limbaugh was on the airwaves shouting about how moderate Republican candidate Dede Scozzafava was “screwing every RINO [Republican In Name Only] in the country”. The important thing was that two governorships fell into the Republican column.
It was unfortunate that John Corzine of New Jersey was riddled with corruption within his own inner circle and enough local politcos were doing the perp walk to make Tony Soprano look like a Sunday School teacher. Virginia’s Governor is term limited and the Dem candidate that made a surprise win in the primary just couldn’t get the juice flowing for the general. Oh well. Maybe next time.
Will $8,000 Help if I Don’t Have a Job?
I’m sure the folks at the NAR and the State and Local Associations were all doing the end zone happy dance when the Congress passed the extension and expansion of the home buyer tax credit. Unanimous in the Senate, even the GOP didn’t want to seem like total Grinches especially since it was tied to unemployment benefits
Speaking of unemployment. It seems that we keep bleeding jobs, although at a slower rate, and the recovery everyone seems to be talking about hasn’t quite hit the home front yet. At 10.2% we’re not quite halfway to the all-time Great Depression high of 24.9% but it’s scary nonetheless. Of course, the numbers don’t count al the people who have stopped looking for work since they been out of work so long or the people that might not qualify for unemployment benefits — like Realtors®.
My libertarian colleagues would say that all these folks just need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and stop their belly achin’. After all, this is not a Socialist country and we’re just darn sick and tired of payin’ for everyone else. I want mine.
I wish it was that easy.
‘Just Say No’ to Health Care
One of the saddest parts of the unemployment story is that most of these folks will now go without any health insurance or access to affordable health care. No matter. We don’t want to become a Socialist country so let ’em get sick. We have a unified “‘Just Say No’ to Everything” party standing on the steps of the Capitol screaming about how dangerous health care reform will be.
Dangerous? Sure will be…to generous campaign contributions come 2010.
It’s really time to stop the screaming and think, just for a minute, about our society at large. Horatio Alger stories of people rising from rags to riches are nice to listen to and inspiring. The hard truth is that those are the exceptions. Millions of people in our country need help. We built our country and our society on a sense of shared values. Continued polarization takes the “United” out of “United States of America”.
Just a small note of remembrance and sadness for the tragedy at Ft. Hood, TX this week. My heart and thoughts go out to the families of the fallen and wounded.
FFEE Act wants to save you from having to pay to freeze your credit
(POLITICS NEWS) The FFEE Act wants to help give consumers more rights more control over how credit agencies use their data.
Following the compromise of consumer data from credit reporting bureau Equifax, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI) have introduced the Freedom From Equifax Exploitation (FFEE) Act.
This act aims to give consumers more rights more control over how credit agencies use their data.
The bill is available here, but here is a few of the bill’s highlights:
- Create a uniform, federal process for obtaining and lifting a credit freeze.
- Preventing credit reporting agencies from profiting off the use of consumer information for the duration of a credit freeze;
- Strengthening the fraud alert protection from 90 days to a one year, with a year renewable.
- In ID theft cases, a 7 year fraud alert is created.
- Require any credit reporting agency who charged a fee to freeze credit in response to the data breach to refund those fees,
- Allow for an additional free credit report (consumers already get one under the Fair Credit Reporting Act through annualcreditreport.com)
The most important feature here is the removal of any fee to freeze your credit. Currently, agencies like Equifax charge nominal fees to freeze credit (anywhere from 3-10) dollars. If this bill passes – not only will that service be free, but it will restrict the way credit agencies use that information while the freeze is active.
The idea behind making this free also keeps credit companies, whom many believe are responsible for the security of credit information, from profiting off information breaches. Given that many financial advisors have advised those impacted to freeze their credit, this would be a benefit to consumers.
It is important to note here that Equifax has suspended the fees to freeze credit for the next month.
A credit freeze restricts access to your credit report. Simply put, it requires the credit agency to contact you first to ensure it was you who applied for credit, thus making it harder for you to apply for credit. You would need to unfreeze your account to apply for new credit. You must also freeze credit with each bureau, which can lead to some expenses as you must pay anytime to lift a freeze.
Remember: a credit freeze doesn’t impact current accounts or your credit score. If you apply for credit often, or open new accounts often, then a credit freeze may not be for you.
Lots of names
The bill has several original co-sponsors, including Senators Sanders, Franken, and Blumenthal. Companies like the National Consumer Law Center, Americans for Financial Reform, CREDO, and the Consumer Federation of America all have also endorsed the bill.
President Trump disbands his business councils with one tweet
(POLITICS) President Trump has disbanded the councils that he previously very adamantly supported, so what happened?
We interrupt this regularly scheduled program
Huge news on the domestic policy front – per a Twitter announcement, President Trump’s two business advisory councils – the Strategic and Policy Forum and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative – have been disbanded.
The sequence of events has been fast and difficult to follow, but here’s how things went down.
See ya later
On Monday, Kenneth C. Frazier, the CEO of pharmaceutical giant Merck, resigned from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative in protest at President Trump’s comments on the recent violence in Charlottesville. By the evening of the same day, Brian Krzanich of Intel and Kevin Planck of Under Armour had done the same. They were quickly followed by Thea Lee and Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO, Scott Paul of the Alliance of American Manufacturing, Denise Morrison of Campbell Soup and Inge Thulin of 3M.
This morning, in response to the sudden exodus, Stephen Schwartzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group and longtime Trump business and political ally, led a conference call of the remaining council members this morning to debate how to proceed.
By the end, all members had resigned.
In short, President Trump is not disbanding his advisory councils in the sense of (no “The Apprentice” jokes, please) firing their members. The members already quit. The President’s Tweet simply announced that had taken place, and that, as it states he “disbanded” the now-vacant groups, there are presumably no plans in the near future to replace them.
This is a surprising move from the President. Historically the role of business advisory councils has been to keep an open communication pipeline between the President and the American business community, something this president has consistently identified as a priority. President Trump has always positioned himself as passionately pro-business, particularly concerned with global competitiveness and the loss of jobs and revenue in American manufacturing.
The Strategic and Policy Forum and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative were founded specifically to address those issues.
The business community in particular had expected the President to draw heavily on their advice.
On the other hand, that advice has repeatedly conflicted with the President’s other policies. Well before Charlottesville, the Strategic and Policy Forum had seen high-profile resignations: Bob Iger of Disney and Elon Musk of Tesla (who served on, and resigned from, both the SPF and the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative) resigned over the President’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, and ex-CEO of Uber Travis Kalanick departed over restrictions on immigration from the Middle East.
President Trump’s elimination of his business advisory councils clearly indicates a new direction in the relationship between the White House and the American business community.
What that direction will be, and what consequences it will have for the economy, remain to be seen.
The House just voted to take away some important consumer rights
(POLITICS) If adopted by the Senate and the President, our banks, credit card companies, student loan companies, and other financial services will have a hall pass on all sorts of bad behavior.
Same story, different day
Big banks have won again, as they and other financial institutions continue to restrict consumer rights all in the name of “choice.” Well, choice for the companies that is.
The GOP controlled House just voted to introduce a Congressional Review Act Resolution that if passed by the Senate, will make it harder for consumers to have their day in court.
Bump the consumers, right?
The Resolution would overturn rules from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) aimed at protecting consumer rights and keep financial institutions – like banks, credit card companies, and loan services – in check.
The rules center on the forced arbitration clause that is hidden among many contracts.
This clause allows consumers and companies the chance to settle issues behind closed doors without going through the legal system. That doesn’t sound too harsh at first glance, right? Well, of course there are a few caveats that allow the pendulum to swing in favor of financial companies.
Like the fact that there are no public records of these arbitrations, even if the company was found at fault.
Also, that consumers can choose between arbitration and the court system unless the company wants arbitration, then the choice is gone. Most importantly, forced arbitration severely limits class action lawsuits, which results in a lot less individual suits.
Wall Street wins again
Many bank-backed House representatives argued that class action lawsuits only result in a miniscule payout for consumers.
This may be true, but it is a smaller amount for a lot more people.
This means the company pays a larger amount to more mistreated consumers overall. House Democrats, none of which voted in favor of the Resolution, feel that this is another way for Wall Street to benefit from their ties to lawmakers. Without a chance to go to court, consumers are deprived of their rights simply by signing a contract.
There’s still hope
Consumers still have a chance if the Resolution is rejected by Congress. It will be more of a debate, since it would only take two opposing votes from the GOP side to reject it. Hopefully they will consider who the CFPB rules protect.
No consumers have raised issues to repeal them. It is a wish from the financial companies they have affected, and unfortunately their wish just may come true.
No-reply emails have run their course, they don’t help customers
Top 15 jobs that will see hiring growth in 2020
Simple way to sent text, email appointment reminders to clients
Unicorn goes extinct – is the scooter movement in trouble?
PHD job seekers shouldn’t scare employers, they should be welcomed
‘OK, Boomer’ can get you fired, but millennial jokes can’t?
This LinkedIn graphic shows you where your profile is lacking
WeWork chaos over the weekend = employees in a new version of purgatory
Accessibility to your website could make or break your brand
Pointed out I was the only person of color at work, was told ‘Yes, but you pass’
Anti-surveillance mask – creepy, ingenious, or potentially illegal?
Amy’s Ice Cream founder on Austin’s business risks and rewards #WhyAustin
Turns out a lot of people are in between introverted and extroverted
P. Terry’s founder on the booming economy in Austin #WhyAustin
Ladies and gentlemen, the U.S. National Anthem
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