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Good news, people: The “boom” is back! Good times are here again, thanks to an economic boom generated by (of all things) bad times.
Tens of millions of Americans have been knocked down and held down in recent years by the collapse of jobs and wages. This calamity has led to a second blow for millions of the same families who now find themselves buried in overdue bills for credit card charges, student loans, and other consumer debt.
But there’s a bright silver lining in that dark financial cloud. Only, it’s not for the indebted families, but for a booming breed of finance hucksters known as consumer debt buyers. Believe it or not, in the warped world of high finance, “There’s gold in them thar hills” of bad debt.
Such miners of human misery as Encore Capital Group buy bales of unpaid bills from banks and other lenders, paying pennies on the dollar. Then they unlash packs of their hard-nosed, aggressive collectors on the families. If they still can’t extract payment, the debt profiteers turn to their meanest dog: The courts.
Debt firms routinely file thousands of lawsuits a day against financially-devastated Americans. They know that most debtors can’t understand the legal gibberish in the suits, can’t afford a lawyer, and can’t mount an effective defense against the corporate lawyers. So, some 95 percent of these lawsuits produce default judgments against hapless borrowers – meaning debt buyers can then confiscate the wages of borrowers or freeze their bank accounts.
This boom in vulture capitalism is disgusting – but, worse, it’s subsidized by us taxpayers! We pay for that judicial system – the judges, courtrooms, and endless rounds of hearings. Predatory debt corporations have perverted our so-called justice system into their own subsidiary for squeezing profits out of destitute debtors.
“We the People,” not We the Corporations
In response to the Supreme Court’s freakish decision in 2010 to bestow political “personhood” on corporations, I got an email from a guy named Larry, screaming that “Big money has plucked our eagle.”
Yes it has – and the Powers that Be tell us that we shouldn’t even try to undo this theft of our people’s democratic authority, but should just try regulating corporate money, like maybe requiring them to disclose how much they’re spending on campaigns. Now there’s a bold stand for democracy: “Give us campaign finance reporting regulations or give us death!”
Come on, we’re bigger than that. Here are just a few actions for real change that you can take, teaming up with others right where you live:
AMEND. Two major coalitions are organizing to overturn the court’s corporate money edict by amending the Constitution. One is FreeSpeechForPeople.org and the other is MoveToAmend.org – and both have action kits for raising the issue locally, petitions to be circulated, video and other good graphics to educate people in your community, and a wealth of other organizing ideas.
LOCALIZE. Pass your own local and state laws to stop the wholesale corporate purchase of our government. These include outlawing any corporate claim of personhood in your area, providing the alternative of public financing for your local and state elections, and banning campaign donations by corporations that try to get government contracts and subsidies. For information and help, check our PublicCampaign.org and ReclaimDemocracy.org.
CONFRONT. Yes, get in the face of power. Ask all candidates where they stand on corporate personhood and demand that top executives of big corporations located in your area publicly agree not to spend corporate cash on your elections.
Remember, the Constitution plainly says “We the People,” not We the Corporations.
The fountain-pen economy
Even the word “greed” is not negative enough to characterize the all-out assault on workers by today’s corporate elite.
From offshoring jobs to busting unions, from slashing wages to looting pensions, corporate take-aways from America’s used-to-be middle-class workforce certainly are driven by the avarice of top executives and wealthy investors. Plainly put, the more they can take from workers, the more they can put in their own pockets (or, most likely, in their offshore bank accounts). It adds up to a massive redistribution of wealth from the many to the few.
In addition to greedy, though, these people are rank thieves. As Woody Guthrie succinctly put it: “Some’ll rob you with a six-gun, some with a fountain pen.” We’re now in a rapacious fountain-pen economy. Since the Wall Street crash of 2008 (itself a product of grand theft by financial elites), the productivity and creativity of all Americans have regenerated every bit of the wealth that was frittered away by bankers, and we created trillions of dollars in new income. What a phenomenal national achievement that is, produced in an astonishingly short time by the shared effort of our people!
But strenuous effort is all we shared. The richest one-percent of Americans have grabbed 91 percent of the gains in income, and the even-richer one-tenth-of-one-percent sucked up 22 percent of the new wealth. Thus, the vast majority of us have still not recovered the wealth we lost (homes, cars, savings, etc.) and 99 percent of us are getting less income today than we were before Wall Street crashed our economy seven years ago.
It’s time we robees started talking plainly about what’s going on. The rich are not getting richer because they’re more enterprising than everyone else, harder-working, or of strong moral character. They’re thieves. They’re getting richer by stealing from you.