Trump's "consumer protection bureau" will let the $50B payday lending industry gouge the poorest Americans with triple-digit interest rates

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, founded by Elizabeth Warren prior to her career as a senator, was once the gem of the US political system, a consistently effective force for punishing finance industry wrongdoing, until Trump let Wall Street robber barons loose on it, under the direction of a lawyer who represented loan sharks before going to work for the Trump administration. Read the rest

Nudging doesn't give poor people retirement savings, it just makes them poorer

Nudging -- the idea that a well-designed "choice architecture" can help people make free choices that are better than the ones they would make without the nudge -- has a few well-publicized success stories: the cafeteria where frontloading veggies and other healthful options gets kids to choose carrots over pizza; and the employer-side deduction for retirement savings that gets employees to put aside a little more to retire on (this insight rates a Nobel-adjacent prize*!). Read the rest

Modern Monetary Theory: the economic basis for expanded social spending and greater shared prosperity

The last 40 years has seen a steady rise of deficit-hawking, in which the world's postwar social safety nets are shredded because the state "can't afford" them -- think of all the times you've heard of national debt being money that "the taxpayers" will have to pay back, and misleading comparisons between sovereign governments (who print their own money) to households and businesses (who don't), as though sovereign state finance was just a scaled-up version of balancing the family check-book. Read the rest

Jeff Sessions encourages courts to continue practice of fining poor people for being too poor to pay their fines

In 2016, the Obama DoJ issued guidance to US courts telling them to cease the practice of levying fines on poor people that exceeded their means to pay, especially fines for failure to pay earlier fines. This week, Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed that order. Read the rest

Independent auditor: Trump has made it impossible for students defrauded by predatory diploma mills to get their loans cancelled

The US Department of Education's Inspector General has released a report saying that the DoE has stopped cancelling the debts of students who were defrauded by fake universities. Read the rest

Student debt: more people, paying more money, and mounting year on year

Dissident economic statistician Matt Bruenig (previously) has parsed the latest numbers from the Survey of Consumer Finances, and brings us the news of the increased democratization of student debt: in 1989, only 16% of students and their families carried student debt -- in 2016, it was 44%. Read the rest

States suspend your driver's license over inability to pay court fines, costing you your job and any ability to repay

Massive income inequality, combined with Republican attacks on the taxation of the wealthiest, has produced a situation in which the state increasingly depends on extracting fines, interest and debt service from people who grow steadily poorer and less able to pay, and thus the state must turn to ever-more-extreme measures to extract the money it needs to survive. Read the rest

America's dirtiest, biggest student lender neutralized by federal watchdog

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, founded by Elizabeth Warren prior to her career as a senator, has entered into an unprecedented settlement with National Collegiate Student Loan Trusts, the largest holder of student debt in the country. Read the rest

Chelsea Manning: we're spied on all the time, and the state still can't figure out who we are

Chelsea Manning spent seven years in federal prison for blowing the whistle on illegal actions by the US in Iraq and around the world; while imprisoned, she transitioned her gender and changed her name, and, on her release, found herself unpersoned, unable to identify herself to the satisfaction of the state, despite being one of the most famous people in America and despite the state's unquenchable thirst for our personal data (and her's especially). Read the rest

Australia's housing bubble is built on a deadly, about-to-burst credit bubble

If you buy a house in Australia -- where housing prices are out of control, even by global standards -- you can wait a couple months for the house's book value to go up, and then borrow against that "unrealised capital gain" to buy another house...and then you can do it again. Read the rest

Chinese cops treat kidnapping as a routine form of largely acceptable debt-collection

If you owe someone money in China and kidnap them to get paid, the police are likely to treat the whole thing as a civil matter of "unlawful detention" and stay out of it (especially if the debtor is a foreigner and the lender is Chinese). Read the rest

Student loans are really "a list of people liable to additional taxation after graduation"

In an open letter to Jeremy Corbyn, Neil Wilson explains how Labour can frame its policy on student debt forgiveness after they take power and abolish tuition fees. Read the rest

Billions of dollars' worth of predatory student loans may... just... vanish

Private student loans are the worst of a bad bunch, with incredibly high interest rates and penalties on funds used to finance educations at the kinds of "universities" who later get their accreditations yanked for academic malpractice and deceptive advertising -- universities that target the most naive kids from the least educated backgrounds, load them up with debt, waste four years of their lives, and pop them out the door with a useless "degree."

Read the rest

Talking Walkaway with Reason Magazine

Of all the press-stops I did on my tour for my novel Walkaway, I was most excited about my discussion with Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor-in-chief of Reason Magazine, where I knew I would have a challenging and meaty conversation with someone who was fully conversant with the political, technological and social questions the book raised. Read the rest

Trucking company fires worker who spoke to reporter about working conditions, takes truck and $60,000 from him

Rene Flores is one of the truckers who spoke to USA Today for its excellent investigative piece on the use of debt and indenture to force truckers to work for literal pennies (or sometimes even pay for the privilege of working). Read the rest

Bloomberg: Middle-class Americans were "fleeced" by neoliberalism

Noah Smith (previously) writes in Bloomberg (!) about the "fleecing" of the Gen-X and Boomer middle class -- a class that is growing continuously smaller and poorer, thanks to "financial deregulation, tax cuts and a lax attitude toward consumer protection and antitrust." Read the rest

Bank of International Settlements warns of global economic crash, "with a vengeance"

The Bank of International Settlements -- the "central bank for central bankers" -- has released its latest annual report, warning that the looming debt crises in China, Hong Kong and Thailand could precipitate an abrupt collapse, or, as BIS monetary and economic department head Claudio Borio put it, "That end may come to resemble more closely a financial boom gone wrong, just as the latest recession showed, with a vengeance." Read the rest

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