Banks have returned to the pre-2008 world of automatic credit-limit increases for credit cards used by already indebted people

"Proactive credit line increases" (PCLIs) are when your credit card company increases your credit limit without your asking for it; it was very common prior to the 2008 crisis, but the post-crisis rules largely put a stop to it. Now, banks have figured out regulatory loopholes that allow them to throw PCLIs at their most vulnerable customers, leading to record-high national levels of credit-card debt of $880b as of last September, higher than the pre-crisis high. Read the rest

Frontier, a terrible company, is going bankrupt

Frontier is the bottom-rung of the top-tier of US ISPs, serving customers in 29 states. Despite enjoying monopoly control over its customers' online lives, and despite massive government handouts and a lackadaisical approach to maintenance, and despite out-and-out theft from customers, the company is filing for bankruptcy, having accumulated $16.3b in debt through mismanagement. Read the rest

Med-tech company repossess veteran's artificial legs because the VA won't cover them

Jerry Holliman received Bronze Stars for his military service in Iraq and Vietnam, where he was dosed with Agent Orange. Now 69, Hollman has survived multiple cancers, but lost both his legs to complications from diabetes. Read the rest

Bernie Sanders got the GAO to study the life chances of millennials, and the report concludes that debt is "crushing their dreams"

Bernie Sanders commissioned the Government Accountability Office to study the consequences of the high degree of indebtedness borne by Millennials; the GAO's report concludes that Millennials dreams are being "crushed" by debts -- primarily student loans -- which have limited their abilities to seek good employment, good housing, and to save for retirement. Read the rest

MMT: when does government deficit spending improve debt-to-GDP ratios?

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) (previously) is an alternative to neoclassical economics that holds that sovereign states that issue their own currency can't default on debts denominated in that currency (if you are the sole source of Canadian dollars and all your debts are in Canadian dollars, you can always pay those debts), and that deficit spending is normal (every dollar in circulation was "deficit spent," since the money to pay taxes enters the economy when the government spends it into existence), and that inflation isn't a mere function of government spending -- but rather, inflation occurs when governments and the private sector are bidding against each other for the same goods and services. Read the rest

High prices and debt mean millennials don't plan to stop renting, and that's before their parents retire and become dependent on them

The percentage of millennials planning to "always rent" is up about 25% from last year, to 12.3%, based on Apartment List's annual survey; the factors behind this are primarily high house prices and high levels of indebtedness, driven primarily by student debt. Read the rest

Why are we still treating economics as if it were an empirical science that makes reliable predictions?

Robert Skidelsky is an eccentric British economist: trained at Oxford, author of a definitive three-volume biography of Keynes, a Lord who sat with the Tories as their economics critic during the Blair regime, who now sits as an independent who is aligned with Labour's left wing. Back in September, Yale University Press published Skidelsky's latest book, Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics, a retelling of the history of economics as a discipline that seeks to uncover how economics' failings created the 2008 crisis and have only made things worse since. Read the rest

In Kansas's poor, sick places, hospitals and debt collectors send the ailing to debtor's prison

Kansas is a living laboratory for far-right experimentation with extreme economic cruelty: a state where Medicare expansions were thwarted, where xenophobia has penetrated the state bureaucracy, where a grifty, incompetent lawyer has apologized for slavery and driven women out of his own party, even as neighboring states thrive by tending to the needs of working people, rather than the super-rich. Read the rest

Even if you pay off your student loan, be prepared to spend decades trying to get bottom-feeding debt-buyers to acknowledge it

Kaja Robinson is 53 and has a daughter about to go off to college, but she is still embroiled in bizarre, kafkaesque disputes over the $17,000 student loan she took out in the 1980s: for decades, she has had to set aside whole days to call debt collectors and try to get them to acknowledge the payments she's made -- for which she has paperwork, but which the lenders lost track of, causing her loans to balloon to $49,000. Read the rest

"I just love to solve problems": how people who work at predatory lenders avoid thinking about the pain they inflict

Elena Botella worked at Capital One -- one of the US's leading issuers of subprime credit-cards -- for three years; in a fascinating first-person account, she describes how Capital One's youthful, smart, principled and caring staff created a culture in which the lives they were ruining were replaced by obfuscating jargon and interesting mathematics puzzles. Read the rest

Thomas Cook travel collapsed and stranded 150,000 passengers, but still had millions for the execs who tanked it

Thomas Cook is one of the oldest travel agencies in the world, operating their own flights, ships, hotels, etc, whose founders effectively invented modern tourism (listen to this excellent Stuff You Missed in History Class episode for the fascinating and fraught tale of how that happened) but a consolidation in the travel industry combined with private equity chicanery that loaded the company up with $2.1b in debt in order to pay out investors drove the company to its knees, and, last week, it finally died. Read the rest

Bernie Sanders promises to zero out all US medical debt and end medical bankruptcies

Bernie Sanders has pledged to eliminate the $81b in outstanding US medical debt if he is elected president in 2020. Read the rest

Danish banks will pay you to borrow money from them

10-year mortgage interest rates in Denmark have hit -0.5% -- that is, the bank will pay to you borrow money. 20 year loans? Zero interest. 30 year loans now at 0.5% are headed negative. Translation: some people with a LOT of money think that we're heading for a depression so ferocious that they'll loan you money for 30 years at only 0.5%, just to lock in some kind of return during the decades-long bloodbath they foretell. (Image: Jimmy Baikovicius, CC BY-SA,modified) (Thanks, Kathy Padilla!) Read the rest

Your massive surprise hospital bills are making bank for private equity

Private equity firms like Blackstone and KKR have acquired massive health companies like Teamhealth and Emcare, which bill out doctors to the hospitals they work for, taking those doctors out of the hospitals' insurance agreements and massively hiking their fees -- that's why when you go to a hospital, even one that's covered by your insurer, you still end up with massive surprise bills for your care. Read the rest

High art subprime: borrowing on private art collections surges into billions

The international art market is a looter's go-to gambit for grifting their money out of their national borders and getting it into a no-man's land out of reach of every tax authority in the world, but it is also stubbornly illiquid, because selling your Picasso takes a ridiculously long time. Read the rest

How Memphis's Methodist University Hospital, a "nonprofit," sued the shit out of its Black, poor patients while raking in millions and paying execs more than a million each

Methodist University Hospital in Memphis is a nonprofit: it pays virtually no local, state or federal tax; but unlike other Methodist hospitals, Methodist University Hospital is relentless in pursuing medical debts from indigent patients. The hospital owns its own collection agency, and is one of the leading litigants in Tennessee's debt courts. Read the rest

Bernie Sanders will use a tax on Wall Street speculators to wipe out $1.6 trillion in US student debt

Bernie Sanders's latest campaign promise is a proposal to forgive all outstanding US student debt, and raising the $2.2 trillion needed over a decade to make lenders whole by taxing Wall Street speculators with a 0.5% tax on stock trades, a 0.1% fee on bonds, and a 0.005% fee on derivatives. Read the rest

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