China's "pawn shops" have loaned $43B, mostly secured by real-estate

In reports of China's looming debt crisis, it's common to see references to the "shadow finance" or "shadow banking" system, but it's not always clear what these terms mean. Read the rest

Financialization is wearing out its welcome

On the eve of Apple issuing a credit card (and following Carl Icahn's 2013 advice that "Apple should be a bank"), we seem to be reaching the end of financialization's dominance over the economy, a trend that started in the 1970s and has risen ever since -- but the tricks are wearing thin. See for example, the notorious Brazilian corporate raiders 3G bought out Kraft-Heinz and tried its usual MO of goosing profits by squeezing suppliers, paying its bills late, and cutting costs at the expense of growth -- only to have Kraft-Heinz's value drop by more than 50% in less than three years. Read the rest

Canada's housing market is slowly but surely imploding, and Canadians are more exposed than the US was in 2008

After 20 years of unprecedented lows, Canada's central bank is gradually raising rates; this, combined with strict rules on new loans, empty house taxes in overheated cities like Vancouver, and mandatory ownership disclosures (which keep money launderers out of the market) are depressing the Canadian housing market, and the prognosis is not good. Read the rest

New York hospitals illegally billed rape survivors for their rape kits, then sent debt-collectors after them

New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood has concluded that seven New York hospitals illegally billed rape survivors for their rape kits, at least 200 times, for sums ranging from $46 to $3,000, and then sent collections agents after survivors who could not pay. Read the rest

New York City's municipal debt collectors have forged an unholy alliance with sleazy subprime lenders

New York City's "marshal" service is a throwback to the Dutch colonial days; the 35 marshals are appointed by the mayor, draw no salary, and earn their livings by skimming a percentage off of the debts they collect, operating with impunity and reaching around the world. Read the rest

"Sixteen Tons": the student debt edition

When I was a kid, we used to sing Merle Travis's Sixteen Tons in the car on long trips: it's a poetic masterpiece, capturing the clash between a worker's proud and indomitable spirit and his impossible, inescapable poverty trap (chances are you've heard Tennessee Ernie Ford or Johnny Cash perform it). Read the rest

Since 2007, debt-haunted grads have been doing public service to earn loan forgiveness, which they won't get

The roster of people carrying student debt is really just "a list of people liable to additional taxation after graduation"; in 2007, GW Bush signed into law the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that would allow debt-haunted grads to earn loan forgiveness by foregoing the private sector and working for lower wages in public service for a decade. Read the rest

Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary of the collapse of 2008 and things are much, much worse

Nobody covered the Wall Street collapse, bailout, and corrupt resurgence better than Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi, from giving Goldman Sachs its unforgettable epithet to covering the hearings on the bailouts to documenting the foreclosure mills, to deep dives into the sweetheart deals the banks got; to the revolving door between finance regulators and the finance sector to the rise of Occupy; to the consolidation of financial primacy after the collapse; to the double-standard for criminal justice revealed by the collapse; to the frauds that surfaced after the crash; to the tiny bright spots where bankers were brought to justice; all capped by an incandescent, outstanding book about the crisis and the systematic racial and economic justice it revealed. Read the rest

Betsy DeVos's summer monstrosity is pure McMansion Hell

Kate "McMansion Hell" Wagner is carrying $42,000 in student debt; heiress Betsy "Marie Antoinette" DeVos is the anti-public-school advocate whom Donald Trump put in charge of the nation's public schools, and one of her first official acts was to end the rules limiting sleazy student debt-collection tactics, even as Trump was ending debt relief for students defrauded by diploma mills (like, say, Trump University). Read the rest

America's economic growth has come from subprime borrowing by the poorest 60%

Normally, economic expansion is driven by more spending by the wealthy, and you'd think that 2018 America, where the wealthy are wealthier than they've ever been, would be dependent on the few people with ready cash as engines of economic growth. Read the rest

The American Conservative: "The Dickensian Return of Debtors’ Prisons"

It's fascinating to read Dan King writing in The American Conservative to decry "Dickensian debtors' prisons" in the USA -- the practice of judges locking up poor people who can't pay fines for petty infractions like traffic tickets. Read the rest

David Graeber's "Bullshit Jobs": why does the economy sustain jobs that no one values?

David Graeber defined a "bullshit job" in his viral 2013 essay as jobs that no one -- not even the people doing them -- valued, and he clearly struck a chord: in the years since, Graeber, an anthropologist, has collected stories from people whose bullshit jobs inspired them to get in touch with him, and now he has synthesized all that data into a beautifully written, outrageous and thought-provoking book called, simply, Bullshit Jobs.

GDP vs human thriving: a "healthy" economy means debt-haunted people, desperately searching for housing

GDP and stock market performance are the two metrics that economists (and politicians) use to measure the health of a nation's economy, and by those metrics, Trump is doing a hell of a job. Read the rest

Mass protests against IMF austerity force Jordan's Prime Minister to resign

Jordan is broke, thanks to falling tax revenues due to tax avoidance and low taxes on the super-rich, and the country is seeking to bridge the gap in its finances by borrowing from the International Monetary Fund, which backed a bill that imposed crushing cuts on public services to ensure that money could be found to pay back Jordan's creditors. Read the rest

America is the world's first poor rich country

Americans' median income is $60,000 -- but the average American couldn't stump up $500 to bail themselves out of an emergency, and a third of Americans can't afford food, shelter and healthcare. Read the rest

Quantifying the massive premium paid to people who work in "bullshit jobs"

It's been five years since David Graeber's original, groundbreaking essay on "bullshit jobs" (socially useless busywork that everyone -- including the holders of bullshit jobs -- knew to be a tremendous waste of time), and now he's got a whole book on the subject (if you're in LA, you can see me interviewing him about it on June 13). Read the rest

Student debt crisis watch: pay $18,000 of your $24,000 loan, owe $24,000

Kaitlin Cawley finished grad school with $95,000 in student loans, including a $24,000 variable-rate loan that started at 9.4% and now stands at 11%, a loan that the US government lender Sallie Mae brokered for her when she was 20. Read the rest

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