C. D. Book

Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Are You A Volunteer?

In Economy, People, Politics on May 7, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Candidate Obama made several pleas for Americans to commit to public service here, here and here. 

The president signed the The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act , H.R.1388 on April 21, 2009:

The Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act (formally the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act) authorizes a dramatic funding increase for AmeriCorps and other volunteer programs, and the creation of new programs for seniors and veterans. It establishes a goal of expanding from 75,000 government-supported volunteers to 250,000, and would increase education funding and establish a summer volunteer program for students, paying $500 (which would be applied to college costs) to high-school and middle-school student who participate.

Here is a fact sheet concerning the act from the Corporation for National and Community Service including implementation progress. Here you can view volunteer activity by state (2009 is the latest year that statistics are available).

With all that has happened in the world recently we haven’t paid sufficient attention to the value of volunteerism in our society. A related article suggesting the interesting premise that all of us are an “army of altruists” can and should be read here. Individuals who can’t “afford” to volunteer don’t necessarily not want to volunteer: they are too busy trying to survive on a daily basis.

Imagine if young people were required to participate in a national public service program. In return for their service they would receive funds towards college, or  technical and vocational skills courses. I’ve heard the right-wing nuts say that a public service requirement would be akin to a “Hitler Youth” organization. However I’m not talking ideology but service to mankind and the earth. There should be absolutely zero resistance to a program that exists to help others and those that participate. Empathy would be fostered and those that “graduate” from the program , having experienced the feeling of accomplishment that comes with helping others, may go on to change the current political climate that exists to enrich the ones who are already rich and calls for “shared sacrifice” from everyone else.

What do you think?

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Excellent Reading = Follow

In Economy, People, Politics on April 19, 2011 at 10:36 pm

The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science (Mother Jones)

Special Relationship (Foreign Policy)

Leaked Cables: US helped Israel contain UN Gaza war probe  (Dark Politricks)

Parents, don’t dress your girls like tramps  (CNN, LZ Granderson)

Kiki Kannibal: The Girl Who Played With Fire  (Rolling Stone)

Gulf Oil Spill: Fishermen Say They Are Sick From Cleanup  (ABC News Investigation)

WSJ’s  Rago Wins Pulitzer Prize (Wall Street Journal)

The Wall Street Money Machine (ProPublica, winner of Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting)

Follow  Center For Investigative Reporting  @CIRonline

Google to Invest $100 Million in World’s Largest Wind Farm  (Huffington Post)

Trading Down: Laid-Off  Americans Increasingly Taking Pay Cuts and Kissing Their Old Lives Goodbye  (Huffington Post)

Ecosystems granted Legal Right to Exist  (The Epoch Times)

Doug Smith: A Stiletto in the back of Sane Housing Markets  (Naked Capitalism)

Fails (Some Epic)

In Economy, Fails, Politics on April 19, 2011 at 7:47 pm

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One year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest oil spill ever, Americans still don’t get it.
 
11 Lives Lost (dare to read it)
 
 Return of the 19th century in Maine
 
 
Because sanitation workers, 911 operators, mechanics, animal welfare workers, secretaries and street and water department workers make too much cash.
 
 
More ignorance from the Right
 
 

And Republicans say we’re broke? What is this BS?

Majority supports marriage equality—Republicans hire $520 an hour lawyer to fight it

First collective bargaining, then “martial law”

Gov. Walker planning “financial martial law” in Wisconsin 

 S-s-w-e-e-t!

2011 PayWatch: Average CEO Salary–$11.4 Million

They’re back and Republicans’ wallets are open

BP Marks Gulf Oil Spill Anniversary with Campaign Contributions

Clueless  MichelleMalkin.com blogger Doug Powers attempts to dis UN debate re Mother Earth with mention of Charles Manson.

This is Why Progressives Don’t Win

In Economy, Fails, Media on April 13, 2011 at 11:02 pm

The Nation has blinders. Shame on them.

US Uncut: April 15-18 Actions l Find Yours

In Economy, Politics on April 11, 2011 at 5:50 pm

From the US Uncut About Me page:

US Uncut is a grassroots movement taking direct action against corporate tax cheats and unnecessary and unfair public service cuts across the U.S. Washington’s proposed budget for the coming year sends a clear message: The wrath of budget cuts will fall upon the shoulders of hard-working Americans. That’s unacceptable.

The organization is planning actions nationwide for April 15-18 (tax day weekend). Visit the web site here to see actions planned for your area. 

US Uncut names several targets including Verizon, GE, Citi, FedEx and Bank of America.

Corporate Tax Cheats Are Bankrupting America infographic
Source: US Uncut – No Cuts Until Corporate Tax Cheats Pay Up!

GOP Target: Everyman

In Economy, Politics on April 7, 2011 at 8:53 am

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Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chairman of the Budget Committee revealed his proposed 2012 budget on April 5.  The misleading title of the proposal is Path to Prosperity (pdf).

The media were mostly focused on Ryan’s changes to Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps and tax rates. That’s to be expected: the “path to prosperity” only applies to the wealthy, corporations and big oil.  The poor, the middle-class, the elderly and the disabled are on the road to ruin (or worse).

Included in Ryan’s budget is the plan to freeze the salaries of federal employees  for 5 years and reduce their “generous benefits”.  The GOP, either at the state or federal level, is intent on attacking public workers. The lie they tell is that public employees are paid too much.  According to the Office of Personnel Management  (OPM) the average salary for federal civilian employees (data excludes the Post Office and most intelligence agencies) at the end of fiscal year 2010 was $76,586. Nearly half (48%) of federal employees had either a four year college degree or an advanced degree during the same time period. OPM states that their educational data should be “treated at the lower bounds since education level is recorded at the time of  hire and is only updated at the employees’ initiative thereafter”. These employees work for various agencies of the executive branch including Treasury, Veterans Affairs, Justice, Environmental Protection, Homeland Security, Commerce, Defense, NASA, etc.

If salaries are frozen and benefits reduced government won’t be able to attract well-educated individuals to public service. This of course is the same argument Wall Street posited for paying billions in salaries and bonuses: without those obscene paydays the “best and the brightest” would go elsewhere. Compare Wall Street-the gamblers who nearly destroyed our economy and were then bailed out with taxpayer money-to the average federal employee.  An average annual salary of  $76, 586 is *not* too much to pay for example a Justice Department lawyer or a Treasury CPA. Get real.

Why are public employees thought of as almost a different species from the rest of us? Public employees include teachers, firemen, policemen, lawyers, janitors, museum directors, accountants, chemists, professors, social workers and the list goes on. They too have families to feed and mortgages to pay. Public employees aren’t a homogenous group and shouldn’t be a constant target for legislators who desire to reduce the quality of life for all Americans except the wealthy and already privileged.

Congressman Ryan rewards corporations, the rich, banks, oil companies and Wall Street in his budget. His victims include the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the middle-class, public employees, the environment and future generations of Americans.

David Brooks thinks Ryan is a visionary as evidenced by his sycophantic NYT column  referring to the congressman as “a powerful elected official willing to issue a proposal, willing to take a stand, willing to face the political perils” and referring to his budget proposal as”the most comprehensive and most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes”.

Since when does it take courage to be a corporate boot-licker? Ryan + his budget = typical GOP swill. Keep moving, there’s nothing  to see here, nothing new and certainly nothing courageous.

copyright 2011 XtraOpinion C.D. Book

Why You Should Not Pay Debt Collectors Part 3

In Economy, Uncategorized on April 2, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Part 1 Part 2

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Let’s face it: there are humans out there who live to take advantage of other humans in adverse situations. Debt collectors have been handed a financial windfall due to the massive unemployment precipitated by the Great Recession. Due to consumers’ unwillingness to defend themselves against collection lawsuits and with the cooperation of state courts, third-party debt collectors are raking in the cash.

The big explosion in (collection) lawsuits is coming not from lenders but from firms who buy debt. The four largest publicly traded debt buyers-Encore, Asta Funding Inc., Asset Acceptance Capital Corp. and Portfolio Recovery Associates Inc.-purchased $19.6 billion in distressed debt last year (2009). They typically recover three times what they spend buying debt, according to the Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, a trade group.

Nice payday for collectors = screwed consumer.  Yep, you just might owe the debt however that doesn’t mean collectors should not be held responsible for proving that you them the money.  Especially considering third-party collectors routinely employ scurrilous tactics in their attempts to score a payday for themselves: trying to collect time-barred debt, knowingly filing lawsuits with  no standing and supplying mocked-up affidavits that are robo-signed by the thousands.

Everyone is hysterical about robo-signing by a mortgage company worker who testified that he signed foreclosure documents without reviewing details of each case, says Ira Rheingold, president  of the National Association of Consumer Advocates. What’s overlooked is that…the scale in collection cases far exceeds what we’re focused on now.

Of course appearing in court to defend yourself isn’t for everyone although it should be; many people are too intimidated by the process and thereby give the collector permission to screw them. If you do decide to defend yourself you will most likely be forced to make 2 or 3 appearances in court: judges seem perfectly willing to play the game and turn their courtrooms into cashcows for debt collectors. You will need to answer discovery requests by the plaintiff and submit requests of your own.  Until consumers decide that they don’t want to be taken advantage of anymore debt collectors will continue to get rich by filing lawsuits that have no standing and the courts will continue, with few exceptions, to support the broken debt collection system (pdf).

I’m not advocating that consumers become deadbeats. I’m advocating for consumers to grow a pair. The third-party debt collection racket is just one more indication of the attempt to mold the American middle-class  into a homogenous entity by corporations and their paid-for political puppets.  An entity that must be satisfied with a lesser quality of life so that the top 1% of Americans who control most of the wealth can continue to do so. (must read).

The middle-class of course is expected to pay their debts or be sued and pay their taxes in full yet corporations like General Electric and Bank of America pay zero taxes and  Wall Street is evidently too big to prosecute for nearly destroying our economy.

Do you see the problem?

Links:

Repairing A Broken System: Protecting Consumers in Debt Collection Litigation and Arbitration

Federal Trade Commission Annual Report: 2010 Federal Debt Collections Practices Act

Boom in Debt Buying  Fuels Another Boom : in Lawsuits 

Chase Hit  With SEC Whistleblower Complaint Over Credit Card Practices

Release: Tax Time? Not for Giant Corporations

Why Isn’t Wall Street in Jail?

Debtorboards

copyright 2011 XtraOpinion C.D. Book

Why You Should Not Pay Debt Collectors Part 2

In Economy, Uncategorized on March 27, 2011 at 12:11 pm

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Read Part 1 here

Part 2

The FTC titled a report issued in July 2010 Repairing A Broken System: Protecting Consumers in Debt Collection Litigation and Arbitration. The agency responsible for administrating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) cited several reasons for their assessment:

  • Very few consumers defend against debt collection litigation.

In 2009 the 16th Circuit Court in Jackson County, Missouri disposed of 122 lawsuits filed by one third-party debt collector, CACH LLC alleging Breach of Contract. Of those 122 cases, 49 or 40% ended with a default judgement for CACH because the consumer didn’t appear in court.  The remaining 73 cases were dismissed by the court or CACH for various reasons: the defendant couldn’t be located, had died, filed bankruptcy or had moved to another jurisdiction. Notably only 3 (2%) of the 122 defendants appeared in court to participate in their defense.  All three of those cases were dismissed by CACH; none of the three defendants hired an attorney.

Source:  Missouri State Courts Automated Case Management System

  •  Frequently information regarding the alleged debt is incomplete: the petitions and attachments offered as proof of debt by the collector aren’t sufficient.

When third-party collectors purchase debt they do so in bulk. The debt portfolios don’t include the original contract,  most of the time the only information included in a petition is a computer printout that offers no real proof of debt. The FTC acknowledges the little  information that is offered by the collector could be incomplete, incorrect or out of date and recommends that states require collectors to include additional information regarding the debt in their petitions. Debt collectors like to intimidate consumers with a slew of affidavits that profess to validate the debt however the signatories to these affidavits probably have no personal knowledge of the debt.  So called robo-signing is as prolific in the debt collection universe as it is in the mortgage foreclosure business and has been occurring for years.

See this link detailing a JPMorgan Chase former employee’s SEC complaint that Chase commits “grotesque and illegal practices involving its credit card debt processes, including robo-signing”.

  • State statutes of limitations on filing a lawsuit to collect debt is often complex and not understood by most consumers.

 State statutes regarding the collection of time-barred debt varies. Many consumers aren’t aware that a collector can’t legally sue to recover a debt that has passed the statute of limitations. The FTC recommends that states take steps to make it less likely that collectors will sue on time-barred debt and that consumers are made aware of their rights in these cases. States should develop more uniform statutes of limitations, debt collectors should have to prove that debts are not time-barred and should disclose that they can’t lawfully sue the consumer when a debt is time-barred. Furthermore, in many states if a consumer makes a partial payment on a time -barred debt the entire debt becomes eligible for a new statute of limitations: collectors in these states should disclose this information to consumers.

  • Frequently consumers suffer hardship when assets in personal bank accounts that are exempt from garnishment under the law are frozen pending a court decision  as to their exemption.

The FTC recommends that federal and state laws should be changed to prevent the freezing of funds in consumers’ personal bank accounts that are exempt from garnishment (for example Social Security payments).

 Part 3 coming soon

copyright 2011 XtraOpinion C.D. Book

Why You Should Not Pay Debt Collectors Part 1

In Economy, Uncategorized on March 18, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Part 1

According to the Wall Street Journal “roughly 94% of collection cases  (XO: lawsuits) filed against borrowers result in default judgements in favor of the debt buyer”. You may think this is because the consumer actually owes the debt and is obligated to pay. You would be wrong.

In their 2010 Annual Report to Congress  regarding the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)  the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stated that consumer complaints about  third- party debt collectors had risen to 88, 190 in 2009 from 78,925 in 2008.  Complaints filed with the FTC about in-house, or original creditor collectors rose from 26,652 in 2008 to 32, 076 in 2009. In the report to Congress the FTC admits:

Based on the FTC’s experience, many consumers never file a complaint with any organization other than the debt collector itself.   Others complain only to the underlying creditor or to enforcement agencies other than the FTC. Some consumers may not be aware that the conduct they have experienced violates the FDCPA or that the FTC enforces the FDCPA. Therefore, the total number of consumer complaints the FTC receives may understate the extent to which consumers have concerns about the practices of debt collectors.

The report further acknowledges that third-party debt collectors contact millions of consumers per year and “the number of complaints the FTC receives about these collectors is therefore only a small percentage of the overall number of consumers contacted. Nevertheless the FTC receives more complaints about the debt collection industry than any other specific industry. ”

The above indicates an underreporting by consumers of complaints regarding debt collectors. Reasons for this may include:

  • Consumers are intimidated by third-party debt collectors and their hired guns: lawyers.
  • Consumers believe they have to hire a lawyer themselves to answer a lawsuit filed by a third-part collector.
  • Consumers are unaware of the FDCPA and its’ protections afforded to them.
  • Consumers are unaware that the FTC enforces the FDCPA.
  • Consumers are unaware that a third-party can legally purchase their debt from an original creditor and attempt to collect that debt. Consumers therefore may not recognize the new “creditor”.

Third-party debt collection is big business and big money especially in the past several years’ declining economy.   Encore Capital Group, Inc , a publicly traded company that purchases distressed debt files hundreds of thousands of lawsuits a year. The debt is purchased for pennies on the dollar and the third-party collector attempts to collect the original debt plus interest plus court and attorney fees if they decide to file a lawsuit. And they will file that lawsuit; this is not your father’s debt collector. According to the Wall Street Journal article mentioned above:

Debt collectors used to harry nonpaying borrowers for months with letters and phone calls. But those tactics are less effective now that many more borrowers are deeply in debt. So the new breed of debt collectors turns much more quickly to court to squeeze money out of distressed paper.

The WSJ  article cites two judges, one in Cook County, Illinois and the other in Indianapolis who are overburdened by the number of debt collection cases filed in their courtrooms. The Illinois judge stated “There exists a real danger that the courts will be perceived as mere extensions of collection agencies”.  The Indiana judge was forced to impose a limit of 500 new debt collection cases that could be filed in her courtroom every two weeks on a local law firm.

As stated at the beginning of this post, overall roughly 94% of lawsuits filed by third-party debt collectors end in a default judgement for the collector. Default judgement means the defendant (consumer) did not appear in court to answer the summons.  When the defendant doesn’t show a judgement is awarded to the plaintiff and an information subpoena is issued to the defendant; the consumer must then hand over employment and bank account information  for garnishment. Done deal.

To be continued…

copyright 2011 XtraOpinion C.D. Book

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