It’s no secret the way politics really work in this country. There are those tell-tale signs that show even the most removed soul where the priorities are. Right or wrong, it’s what drives this country we call home. In recent years, though, there have been decisions, actions and changes that have left many simply speechless. The latest move, courtesy of a Texas Republican, has even this die-hard Republican furious. It’s time for Jeb Hensarling to rethink his career options.
New Banking Laws
When the Obama Administration announced it would be taking steps to rein in the nation’s biggest banks, many were skeptical, but hopeful that any changes would finally shut those arrogant and narcissistic personalities down. Those like Jamie Dimon come to mind. He’s the outspoken, controversial and egotistical soul that runs JPMorgan Chase. Anyone who’s read anything I’ve written in the pat few years knows just how deep my distaste for this man runs. He is absolutely infuriating – but he’s just one of many.
Soon, Obama signed into law new financial rules that even Dimon was forced to play by. The laws were then – and are still now – controversial. Some I agree with, some I don’t, but there’s no denying the decision to put into place a consumer watchdog group will likely be the one good thing Obama will be remembered for (and y’all know how I feel about the Obama Administration). Soon, the Republicans cried foul and were adamantly opposed to the laws and the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Obama stood his ground though and while the Dodd Frank Financial Laws fall significantly short of serving their purpose, the 2010 CARD Act, which provides for the founding of CFPB, was a home run.
Congress refused to acknowledge CFPB Director Richard Cordray, even after Obama appointed him. Days following the swearing in by Obama, a federal appeals court ruled that the process used to swear him in was constitutionally invalid. This means Cordray has been going about the business of running CFPB without the legalities (albeit suddenly defined legalities) that make it proper. Now, Hensarling has latched onto that like a starving vegetarian who’s just discovered rib-eye steak.
This week, as Cordray prepared to testify in front of Congress about the state of his agency, Hensarling piped up and complained, “The court’s unanimous ruling makes it clear that there is no legally-appointed director of the CFPB at this time.” He went further and said, “By law, the committee can receive this testimony only from a director who is appointed in accordance with the Constitution and the Dodd-Frank Act, which created the bureau.”
Meanwhile, had Cordray been given the opportunity, he would have testified on a number of events that his agency – and his agency alone – has put into place to protect you and me and every other American consumer.
Among the accomplishments in the past six months:
- CFPB has secured $425 million in relief for more than 6 million consumers (and this the one agency that actually refunds consumers instead of calling them “fines” and adding them to government coffers)
- CFPB is successfully addressing more than 130,000 complaints on anything from credit card billing practices and banks to overpriced payday loans that often have interest rates of 300% annually
- CFPB also just announced new laws on how consumers will be treated when it comes to buying a house. Several of the nation’s biggest banks and insurance companies are gouging homeowners on private mortgage insurance (PMI). The banks are taking financial kickbacks and CFPB is the one kicking back – and putting a halt to it. There are already lawsuits being filed – and federal judges are allowing those homeowners to sue. It’s all because of Cordray and CFPB.
So why would Congress be opposed to an agency that protects its members’ constituents? I’ve asked that question a million times. It all comes down to the same thing:
The new financial laws prevent bankers and politicians from padding their pockets. The new laws mean oversight and that means the banks must follow by ethical and legal rules. They don’t like it.
Here are just a few of the ridiculous actions/comments Jeb Hensarling’s made in recent days:
“The committee intends to continue to conduct rigorous oversight of the CFPB’s activities, and will expect the CFPB’s cooperation in those efforts, including making other employees available to testify at committee hearings and responding fully to committee requests for documents and information.”
(It’s clear he wants complete control of CFPB so that he can put a lid on it. He has no interest in hearing from Cordray, but Hensarling wants CFPB employees to appear when he commands.)
Hensarling sent a letter to the lawyers for CFPB and said Obama’s appointment was invalid because Senate was in recess. He says that the laws dictate the only way he and his fellow politicians can hear testimony is if it’s “from a director who is appointed in accordance with the Constitution.”
(Cordray has testified numerous times in the past – and no one complained.)
Earlier this week, he sent Cordray a letter as well, in which he stated:
“Absent contrary guidance from the United States Supreme Court, you do not meet the statutory requirements of a validly-serving director of the CFPB, and cannot be recognized as such,”
Finally, remember that Senator Elizabeth Warren also caught hell from Republicans and has since taken a step back until it’s all hashed out. That’s a shame because she came with guns blazing, ready to work alongside Dems and Pubs – and CFPB. Instead, the Senate again refused to confirm her.
At a minimum, Hensarling needs to be stripped of his title as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. It’s clear his priorities are not in line with the same folks who elected him into office. He has ulterior motives and appears to be doing very little to hide them.
So much to trouble to stir – it’s been brewing for months now. The networks, the “must-see” shows that are more potent than a handful of Tylenol PMs and why the British rule when it comes to sarcasm. What’s not to love?
Music and Reality (or a Lack of)
There are some things that just don’t belong on reality shows that include singers and celebrity judges/coaches. Those things are Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera. I know, I know…those are fighting words. Really, though, how many times can you watch Mariah Carey sit there, staring down at a non-existent note card, hands petting her hair extensions, doing little more than mumbling some nonsense and stopping long enough to look off to her left in an effort to delay actually having to say something worthwhile? At least little Miss Firecracker from the UK – or Nicki Minaj to some of y’all – will actually stir a bit of trouble from time to time. I’m the first to admit – I had no idea who Nicki Minaj was before the latest season of American Idol. But dang that girl doesn’t skip a beat and yes, she’s controversial, but she’s about the only thing that has a pulse these days out of the AI camp.
And speaking of the absence of a pulse…Christina Aguilera. The Voice was a hit coming out of the gate three seasons ago. Despite Aguilera’s pettiness and frankly, what I can only define as bitterness, the show gained its audience and was one of the few sure things for NBC. She was quick to dismiss those who found the courage to stand before her and the other judges in hopes of seeing their own dreams come full circle, especially if there was some strange Mickey Mouse Club history she had with them. Her co-coaches, Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and CeeLo Green were the heart of the show. So bad was she that she made deliberate efforts to sabotage a few of the contestants by giving brutal and untrue critiques.
The Golden Tickets
When it was announced Aguilera would be sitting out the fourth season followed by Green’s own announcement, NBC was handed a golden opportunity – and it used it to strike gold. And then Shakira and Usher arrived. It’s not until you see the authenticity that Shakira and Usher display that you realize just how drab Aguilera is. Shakira especially provides a startling contrast to her predecessor – and it’s one I hope plays a role in the network’s coaching choices for next season. When Aguilera and Green said they’d skip season four, they also said they’d be back next season. It would be a loss for NBC if it opted to not bring back the two personalities that blend seamlessly with the two seasoned coaches. The crazy thing is I couldn’t figure out why folks like Mariah Carey and Christine Aguilera bothered me until I saw Shakira – she’s a beautifully talented singer who’s actually happy with her life. She’s bubbly, genuinely nice and has the ability to put the other judges at ease because they’re not walking on eggshells around her.
A Little Telly and Tea
And speaking of walking on eggshells – never underestimate the cutting humor that comes from our friends from the UK and Australia – Gordon Ramsay and Tabatha Coffey are two examples of why TV is so much fun. If you’re not Bravo fans or if you don’t watch a lot of reality TV, you may not know who they are – but you should. I’m just waiting for the day Ramsay discovers grits and realizes he’s not lived until he’s had some southern grandma whip him up a pot.
Love a Good Psycho – or Cannibal
Really, though, we’re heading into May sweeps before long and even with the Shakira and Usher punch and the British/Aussie talent – there’s still one thing more that’s bringing more characters we love to love – or hate – and those are the psychos. Whether it’s Norman Bates on A&E’s Bates Motel or Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy, another UK favorite) on The Following (and by the way – am I the only one who can’t erase from memory Kevin Bacon’s Footloose character, Ren, dancing to Kenny Loggins’ “I’m Free”?) or the latest addition, Hannibal, who’s being played by Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, there’s something to be said about a few psychological disorders and psychopaths – especially when you toss in a bit of Hollywood unpredictability. All three are fascinating and they deliver just the right amount of skin-crawling ickiness. If you didn’t see tonight’s premiere of Hannibal, complete with the good doctor gobbling down one woman’s liver, followed by another woman’s lungs – beautifully arranged on fine bone china and a good wine, you missed something…weird. But fascinating.
Usually, Hollywood taints any sense of realistic efforts of those trying to create believable insanity, but fortunately, at least with these three made for TV shows, they’re not doing half bad. As long as they keep Mariah Carey out of the mix, anyway. On second thought….
Ever notice how hindsight can educate you? How many times have we said to ourselves and others, “If I’d known then what I know now…”? Plundering through some old issues of LIFE Magazine, there was no shortage of those moments for me. It got me to thinking about how much things have changed – until I realized that when it gets right down to it, not much has changed at all.
I was reading an interview with Richard Nixon right before voters put him back in office. Soon, Watergate would emerge and it would annihilate not only Nixon, but several others as well. Before then, though, he had support that crossed party lines and more importantly, he had the respect of a nation. I know – that’s a hard sell in retrospect, but stay with me here -
In the September 1972 issue of LIFE, you’ll find this:
For the U.S. to play a proper role in world affairs we must, in the President’s view, not only be strong militarily, but strong in spirit, strong in self respect. We must be able to govern ourselves if we are to help govern the world. The U.S. does not maintain its strength in order to push people around. It does so in order to play a role which only the U.S. can. We must maintain the strength of our military establishment, and of our economy and we must show that we can govern ourselves.
Nixon then goes on to speak of his disappointment in himself for not being able to accomplish as much as he’d wished during the first four years. He explained that an American president “can do things in foreign affairs and then ask to be judged on his performance. In domestic matters, he can only propose to do things.” In three years, he continued, Congress didn’t reject his bills, but instead, they simply did not act on them. He ended that aspect of the interview by saying these kinds of failures, to him, mean as a country, we faced a crisis in our ability to govern and then suggested that the machine of the government is obsolete.
Any of it sound familiar? I searched out the text from Obama’s 2008 Strategy to Promote Global Development and Democracy. It was interesting to see the contrasting beliefs, word choices and overall sentiments of the two. Here’s part of what you’ll find in that presentation:
Barack Obama will restore America’s standing in the world by providing a new American leadership to meet the challenges of a new century. American leadership is urgently needed. This century’s threats are as dangerous as and in some ways more complex than those we confronted in the past… weak states that cannot control their territory or provide for their people; from extreme poverty and repressive governance that can foment instability; and; from a warming planet that would spur new diseases, spawn more devastating natural disasters, and catalyze deadly conflicts.
The point is to mirror the two references in order to gain a different perspective, especially when you consider the various recent decisions that have come out of the Obama Administration.
Finally, take a look at these two comparisons. The first one highlights the mindset of Americans from the early 1970s (from the same LIFE issue) regarding the union’s growing influence. It also mentions poverty and unemployment.
Reese Orlosky worked in a knife factory and put himself through college. It took eleven years, but he graduated in 1971 with his psychology degree. By then, he’d married and both he and his wife had accepted jobs as teachers as it was difficult to find a job in his chosen career. He discovered that both he and his wife made, in combined salaries, just $600 above the national poverty line. He returned to the knife factory and accepted position on the assembly line earning $4.78 per hour just to earn a living.
OK – so jump ahead more than three decades later -
Millions of college graduates who saw a degree as their ticket to a good-paying career and a secure life are working in jobs that do not require their education or even a high school diploma, sometimes leaving them with small wages to pay thousands in student loan debt, according to a new study.
About 48 percent of all working college alumni – not just recent graduates – were underemployed in 2010 as the United States began a slow recovery from the Great Recession, including 5 million graduates in jobs that require less than a high school diploma, according to a study from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. (See the entire Denver Post story here)
Also, in an October 2012 report titled, America’s near poor: 30 million and struggling the number of those living at or just below the poverty level has grown by 10%. For those who are officially living in poverty, those numbers have skyrocketed a whopping 24% in the past couple of years. Interestingly enough, there’s even a label for these families; the ones who are doing all of the right things, but still are unable to to climb out. They’re referred to as “the missing class”. These are the families that lawmakers and policymakers dismiss and they’re also the ones who are probably not going to be able to afford things like medical insurance, especially once Obama Care kicks in. In fact, many have already had to drop previous policies because their employers could no longer pay the premiums.
Did I mention those in this missing class group include teachers? In other words, if you transplanted a 1972 Orlosky into current day, he and his wife would likely face the same problems they did three decades ago.
The times were different, the motives were different and society as a whole was different, until, of course, you dig a bit deeper.
Michael Bloomberg – what can you say? First, he tried to place a ban on the personal choices of the citizens of New York City by imposing a ridiculous ban on how much Diet Coke they can drink. It came as little surprise, after that failure, that he opted to take on the national gun battle all by himself. I won’t go into arguments that are making the rounds on Facebook and all the national media outlets, the reasons why he should or shouldn’t – mostly because it’s been argued to death. And let’s face it – this man is as stubborn as a mule tied to a fence post. He doesn’t get it now and he won’t get it tomorrow – he’s too wrapped up in an ego that continues to propel him into the spotlight. This is a man who doesn’t back down, even if his efforts are falling woefully short.
Bloomberg announced over the weekend that he’s prepared to spend millions to keep the NRA at bay. I’m pretty sure he and Donald Trump share some DNA somewhere down the line because this falls into the category of that embarrassing announcement Trump made just before the elections that promised to change everything – and by “everything”, Trump meant it would keep Obama from becoming a two term president. The only thing it changed was the tolerance factor many of us already felt for him -another exhausting ego that forced itself front and center, if only for a very brief moment. The only thing worse for these two when it comes to American tolerance is the fear that either or both decide to run for president. Not that either would win (Bloomberg shows no loyalty to any party; he’s been a registered Democrat, Republican and is now an Independent), but can you imagine these two doing anything else other than pulling out all of the million dollar stops they have access to? The day they didn’t access those unlimited funds is the same day I dig deep and try to find any shred of respect for Jamie Dimon – which, ironically, is another public image who lacks ethics but makes up for it with his own brand of narcissism.
From a common sense angle, it’s curious that Bloomberg believes it’s money well spent, until you consider a few facts – one being he’s worth more than $17 billion. He also spent millions in his efforts of getting re-elected; in fact, it’s believed he’s spent more of his own cash than any other American politician in history. Bloomberg says his only interest is making sure universal background checks become part of the process any of us must go through before buying a gun. That’s a lot of money to spend on something that, if it were realistic, would already be well on its way of becoming law. Contrary to what the rest of the world believes, America is still home to plenty of folks with common sense. It’s not realistic because he’s wanting these background checks to be based on an imperfect system. The results of those checks, were they ever to become law, are only as good as the system providing the results.
More importantly, Bloomberg has taken on the responsibility of speaking for all, whether they agree with him or not. Making the Sunday morning rounds, he said during an interview on Meet the Press, “We’re trying to do everything we can to impress upon the senators that this is what the survivors (of the Connecticut shooting) want, this is what the public wants,” he said.
And that’s the problem…that one declaration he muttered: “this is what the public wants”. I think a more accurate, across the board statement would be something along the lines of “the public wants accountability and ethical leaders who aren’t dictating their Diet Coke (or Sprite or Dr. Pepper) intake nor putting their own spin on the Constitution”. Not holding my breath on that one either.
I reckon it’s a combination of a lack of ethics and an oversized ego, not that he’d ever slow down long enough to see it.
If I live to be one hundred, I’ll never forget this quote from Hendrik Hertzberg in the November 2009 issue of The New Yorker:
The Mayor has ruled us well, but he has infantilized us…If Bloomberg had been satisfied with two terms, he would be leaving office a beloved legend, a municipal god. He’ll get his third, but we’ll give it to him sullenly, knowing that while it probably won’t measure up to his first two—times are hard, huge budget gaps are at hand—it’ll probably be good enough. The Pax Bloombergiana will endure a while longer. But then what? Will we have forgotten how to govern ourselves?
It took about 12 seconds for the Rubio “get a drink of water” pause to go viral earlier this week. For some time now, he’s fared well as Golden Boy for the Republicans. Ah…but how soon they forget. It’s not been that long ago that he was just another excuse-making-responsibility-avoiding-shift-the-blame politician in Florida who got his hand caught in the cookie jar. And it was an expensive cookie. Here’s how it went down -
In 2010, a huge controversy involving several Florida politicians broke and before it was over, there would be no shortage of political dirty laundry that had been aired and a host of other state politicians who were no doubt losing sleep because of their own secrets that were on the verge of being spilled. Earlier this week, though, a surprise announcement was made that included a plea bargain with Florida’s former GOP Chairman Jim Greer. If you listened closely, you could have heard a collective sigh of relief coming out of Florida. As a result, no one will ever testify to allegations of prostitutes, theft or accusations that former Florida Governor Charlie Crist made sexual advances towards Greer. Instead, Greer will take the fall that includes admitting to five criminal charges – theft and money laundering being two of those charges.
Even Marco Rubio didn’t come away unscathed.
When the controversy first broke, Marco Rubio realized it was going to land partly in his lap, courtesy of a Republican Party of Florida American Express, which showed there was more than $100,000 in charges made by Rubio that were questionable at best, and unethical and illegal at worst. The charges were made over a two year period. Rubio defended the purchases, though he refused to present anything that would substantiate his assertions. He said his word should be enough to satisfy suspicious minds. Maybe someone forgot to tell him that when he stepped into politics, his trustworthiness cased to exist.
The $109,618 in charges, explained Rubio, were for “legitimate expenses…incurred while traversing Florida to raise money for the GOP, support its candidates and promote property tax reform”.
Rubio went on the defense and accused then-Governor Crist of leaking the information in order to take the heat off of himself and his own brewing scandal. Crist denied that, naturally, but he wasted no time telling any reporter who’d listen that many of the Rubio charges were “pretty disturbing”. And he was right. It matters little if it was ten dollars spent at some fast food restaurant or thousands spent on imported wine – there should be absolutely no doubt in any taxpayer’s mind as to how tax dollars are spent. Rubio said he used the Republican party-issued credit card for $16,053 in personal expenses, but that he eventually covered those charges from his own pocket, including close to $150 spent on a haircut at a barber shop in Miami. Here’s the problem: even if his calculations of more than $16,000 in personal purchases are right, he only repaid $13,900, which leaves more than $2,000 that taxpayers covered. Worse, Rubio was not consistent in his efforts, either. For six months, there were no payments made on the account, aside from the monthly scheduled payments made by the party.
A few of the charges were made to expensive restaurants, liquor stores, an electronics store for “music equipment”, Winn Dixie and a lumber store. Calls for a criminal investigation into Rubio went nowhere. Worse, some of his cronies were astounded that anyone would make a big deal out of “a few charges”.
And therein lies the problem. Our elected officials have found a sense of entitlement that they somehow deserve the finer things in life and that the America taxpayer should shoulder the financial burden of those refined lifestyles. When confronted, most seem to have perfected this incredulous look that really should be an embarrassment to them. Meanwhile, Florida Republicans accumulated an Amex bill of more than $3.1 million in 2008 alone. Access to the details are available…somewhat. There are no differentiations between who made the charges, which seems incredibly irresponsible. We’re talking $3.1 million of yours and my dollars, after all.
And now – in yet one more leap over the ethics line, Rubio has unveiled a new water bottle and encourages you to “send the liberal detractors a message that not only does Marco Rubio inspire you, he hydrates you too.” All you have to do is make a donation. I’m thinking I’ll pass. He’s already blown enough of my money.
It’s always fascinating to read the various editorials and Congressional testimony made by those who either support or vehemently oppose the 2nd Amendment. Part of the reason, for me, anyway is the unrealistic examples some provide and the logic used to convince lawmakers that their arguments are right.
In the Washington Post this week, Ruth Marcus, a well respected political writer, published an editorial on why women shouldn’t feel safer with a gun in the house. Her piece, “The phony pro-gun argument” is probably the first thing she’s written that I’ve read and disagree with. She uses the reasoning proffered by the director of Harvard Injury Control Research Center David Hemenway, as her justification that women should be very much opposed to gun rights. Hemenway’s argument, “There’s good evidence that a gun in the home increases the likelihood that a woman in the home will die,” is difficult for many to understand. He insists no evidence exists that proves guns will provide protection for women.
Stay with me…there’s a point to this…
Marcus then flips the coin and provides another example of how crazy women are to not want firearms in our homes. To make this argument, she uses testimony that Gayle Trotter of the conservative Independent Women’s Forum provided the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Trotter believes there should be no restrictions at all on guns. None. Trotter argued that guns were the “great equalizer” for women in a showdown with the stronger sex and that sometimes the look of the firearm, especially if it was something straight out of the arms of Linda Hamilton in The Terminator, would actually be enough to level the playing field. I’m less interested in looking bad-ass than I am in protecting myself and from what I know, it makes little difference in how the gun “looks”. If it works, I’m safe. Period.
Still, Trotter felt it necessary to argue with some of the politicians who were present for the hearing. Here’s the thing – she makes sense, but to hone in on the “scary factor”, in my opinion, affected her credibility. She then demanded of Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D RI) an explanation of his mindset when he made the point that “ordinary firearms” serve the purposes of those wishing to protect themselves, “I think it proves the point that with ordinary firearms, not hundred-magazine, peculiar types of artifacts, people are quite capable of defending themselves.”
She demanded to know how he could say such a thing and then pulled the genetic logistics into the mix by saying, “You are a large man. . . . You cannot understand. You are not a woman stuck in her house having to defend her children, not able to leave her child, not able to go seek safety.”
This is what is so worrisome. If we start making determinations based on how much testosterone is flowing through our veins, we’re in trouble. While the Constitution was written in a time when women were…well, less, there were no factors that differentiated men and women.
But let’s really bring this point home, shall we?
Imagine being in way over your head and married to an abuser who’s doing drugs and God knows what else. Imagine that as soon as you’re into it, you realize it’s either get out now or see your life cut short. Then, consider that you actually do get out and go about the business of rebuilding your life, only to see the door come off the hinges in a home you thought was safe and more importantly, that the abuser had no idea of where that home was. You finally get past all of it, and you’re safer and stronger from the experience.
Years pass and you learn that this violent creature spent more time in jail than anything else for a host of reasons, including domestic violence and drugs. Then you learn that person is recently arrested yet again for possession of a firearm and domestic violence.
But yeah, according to all of these brilliant lawmakers, felons can’t own guns. Those with domestic violence charges most certainly can’t get their hands on guns and definitely, anyone who has the strength, courtesy of whatever the drug of the month was, to take a door physically off of its hinges is no danger. That is my idea of an unlevel playing field – I’m just sorry it took me so long to understand what a level playing field really looks like. But I do now.
When it comes right down to it, we, as a nation, have to put aside the ridiculous half-ass efforts of our lawmakers. The petty nonsense about magazines and what defines a military weapon is where many are getting lost. It is as simple today as it was when the Framers were defining the foundation of this country. Technology and stupidity have muddied the waters, but let’s get back to it, shall we? If you’re not part of this nation’s incredible military or its law enforcement community, put the pride aside and do some soul searching on why you really feel it’s necessary for all the enhancements. If it is Linda Hamilton or the screwball she co-starred with (or any other Hollywood “star”) factor, ask yourself if imitating those celebrities on the left coast is really the image you want to put forth.