A law professor and associate professor of geography set out to create the most comprehensive map of U.S. payday lenders to date. What they found, to their surprise, was “a surprising relationship between populations of Christian conservatives and the proliferation of payday lenders.” And it’s not a side effect of a poor population that happens to be Christian, according to the authors: “Our research showed that the correlation between payday lenders and the political power of conservative Christians was stronger than the correlation between payday lenders and the proportion of a population living below the poverty line.”
A look at where the candidates stand on the sub-prime mortgage meltdown and credit crisis. [Bankrate]
Last week, a United Airlines flight from the US to Tokyo cost $400, plus $300 in fuel surcharges. Airlines say they’re passing on higher fuel costs, but some see it as an excuse to jimmy a hidden fare hike. The Los Angeles Times writes, “You can argue forever about whether this is justified, but how they are doing it shows their worst nature,” [Joesentme.com, a business traveler website] said, noting how, for instance, a surcharge is not eligible for a corporate discount.” Companies love to stuff their operating costs into the fees, taxes and surcharges on your final bill. It means they get to advertise artificially low prices, lure deal hunters, then soak them later.
Tony Blair will join JPMorgan Chase & Co Inc, the third largest bank in the U.S., as a senior advisor. We wonder if Countrywide is courting President Bush for a similar position in 2009.
Most Presidential candidates could not care less about consumer protection, but several have taken a stand on one of the sexier consumer issues: toy safety. Let’s break down where they stand.
Last week, the House of Representatives voted 407-to-0 to approve a consumer product safety bill that greatly increases the scope and power of the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Today the EPA announced that California and 16 other states will not be allowed to make their own laws governing greenhouse gas emissions, because “The Bush administration is moving forward with a clear national solution, not a confusing patchwork of state rules.” California’s robot leader of the future and erstwhile killing machine promptly announced that California will be suing the federal government, and in a press conference today said that “It’s another example of the administration’s failure to treat global warming with the seriousness that it actually demands.”
Today, in an attempt to anger fans of both regulation and deregulation, the FCC approved two new rules. The first one restricts cable companies to owning no more than 30% of a market; the second one “gives owners of newspapers more leeway to buy radio and television stations in the largest cities.” One nice thing about the first rule is that Comcast can’t buy any more cable companies. One bad thing about the second one is that it will likely mean that Rupert Murdoch will win “permanent waivers to control two television stations in New York, as well as The New York Post and The Wall Street Journal.”
Committee Caller is a free service that lets you easily call an entire congressional committee. Just select the House or Senate committee, or subcommittee, and entire your phone number. Click the “put me in touch with democracy” button to activate. The system then calls you after it’s connected your call to that representatives front office. Press asterisk to end the call. Then rate the call by pressing 0-5, 5 being the best, and the system moves on to calling the next committee member. A neat way to make your voice heard, (like telling them to support the Arbitration Fairness Act), though our primer on writing to Congress is pretty great, too.
With all the hoopla in the media about all things Chinese—exports, Chinese investors in the United States, the U.S. trade deficit with China, and so on—we thought this myth-exploding article was worth the read. It’s aimed at investors, but relevant to anyone interested in the U.S. economy and how our relationship with China really works. For example, the U.S.’s foreign direct investment (FDI) in China so far this decade is only a third of what we’ve put into Ireland and Germany.
Russia has banned the import of chicken and pork from 30 U.S. facilities in the wake of a midsummer audit. Russia has not disclosed what, if anything, the audits uncovered, according to a concerned spokesman from the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council.
All of the banned poultry plants were major suppliers of U.S. poultry to Russia and are some of the most efficient facilities in the country, the export council said.
This summer, almost 6 million pounds of beef were recalled due to E. coli contamination. Last week, almost 22 million pounds of frozen hamburger meat were recalled after reports surfaced of E. coli infections. It was the biggest meat recall in 10 years, and “the American Meat Institute (AMI) says it noticed a slight rise in positive E. coli tests by the government this summer,” says a USA Today article. In fact, 2007 is the first time in 3 years that the rate of positive USDA sample-tests have gone up. At the same time, the Chicago Tribune reports that in July, a congressman from Minnesota slipped a special measure into the 2007 farm bill that would reduce the need for federal inspections for small meat producers.
Happily, most of our poll’s respondents say they are citizens before they are consumers. Perhaps there is hope yet.
Heard some interesting commentary this morning on the Leonard Lopate show by former Secretary of Labor Robert B. Reich on why he thinks “super-capitalism” has outmoded democracy.
Bush will announce later today a plan for helping low-income homeowners curtail foreclosure. [NYT]
The subprime meltdown has made its way into campaign speeches, thanks to one Sen. H. Clinton (D-NY).
Sure, being a more conscientious shopper is gratifying; we’ve gotten in the habit of refusing bags at the store whenever we can manage to carry the goods some other way, and although it’s a small step, it feels good. But Monbiot, a British journalist and political activist who was interviewed this week on the website of newconsumer magazine, would laugh in our stupid faces at how ineffectual we’re being as consumers: “In the absence of political action it is a form of passivity.”
I am very sceptical of consumer power. I believe better consumption by itself is an entirely useless means of achieving political change. Those who have the most votes – the vote being the money you have to spend as consumers – are generally inclined to use them the least.