Category Archives: Banking & Lending Issues

‘What Happens When You Put Someone in Charge of Agency They Think Shouldn’t Exist,’ Says Warren After Mulvaney Guts CFPB Panel

“Mulvaney is only interested in obtaining views from his inner circle, and has no interest in hearing the perspectives of those who work with struggling American families,” says the board’s ousted chair

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-6-2018

Mick Mulvaney press conference about President Donald Trump’s budget plan. Screenshot: YouTube

Mick Mulvaney, acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), disbanded the Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) on Wednesday in what critics are calling just his latest in a series of moves to “quietly sabotage” the agency.

“Everyone on the board has been fired,” said Judith Fox, a professor of consumer law at Notre Dame Law School and three-year member of CAB—a group of 25 economic and financal experts that the watchdog agency is legally required to meet with at least twice a year. Continue reading

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San Juan Mayor Says Trump’s “Total Neglect’ of Puerto Rico Must Be Called Out

“The United Nations says that when people are denied the access to basic human services—like electric power, like water, like food, like appropriate medical care—it is like a violation of human rights.”

Rally for Puerto Rico hurricane relief at the Capitol. Screenshot: YouTube

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-4-2018

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz tore into the Trump administration’s response to the ongoing catastrophe on Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and denounced the president’s “total neglect.”

Her comments to MSNBC on Sunday follow a Harvard study estimating that the death toll as a result of the storm was in the range of 793 to 8,498 and deeming the original official estimate of 64 excess deaths “a substantial underestimate.” Continue reading

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Trump Taxpayer-Funded Coal and Nuclear Bailout Decried as ‘Breathtaking Abuse of Authority’

Critics called the plan an “outrageous ploy” by Trump “to help his rich friends” at the expense of Americans’ pocketbooks and the environment

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 6-1-2018

Photo: flickr

Environmental advocates on Friday responded with outrage to confirmation from the White House that President Donald Trump has ordered Energy Secretary Rick Perry to plot what’s being called an “unprecedented intervention” by the federal government to bail out financially strapped coal and nuclear power plants that can’t compete with the renewable energy sector.

“This is an outrageous ploy to force American taxpayers to bail out coal and nuclear executives who have made bad decisions by investing in dirty and dangerous energy resources,” declared Mary Anne Hitt, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. Continue reading

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Investors Controlling $2.5 Trillion Stand With Indigenous People Against Trump Plan to Drill ‘Sacred’ Arctic Refuge

“Any oil company or bank that supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge…would be associated with trampling on human rights, destroying one of the world’s last remaining intact wild places, and contributing to the climate crisis.”

By Julia Conley, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-14-2018

Investors and indigenous people alike appealed to oil and gas companies on Monday, demanding that they end efforts to drill for fossil fuels in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Photo: Alaska Region USFWS/Flickr/cc)

An indigenous group was joined by investors controlling trillions of dollars in assets on Monday as they called for fossil fuel companies and the banks that fund them to end efforts to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge—making clear that harming the protected land is bad for business as well as destructive to indigenous groups’ land and the environment.

“We strongly urge banks and oil and gas companies to honor their fiduciary duty to investors and refuse to engage in drilling in the Arctic Refuge,” the investors wrote. “We, as investors, encourage expanding support for the wide range of clean energy solutions and sustainable industries in Alaska, instead of helping to destroy this natural wonder.” Continue reading

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#ShutDownChase: Environmentalists Occupy Bank’s Seattle Office to Denounce Its Funding of Climate Disaster

350.org Seattle says that since President Donald Trump took office, “JPMorgan Chase has quadrupled its investments in tar sands and increased its financing of coal by 2,100%.”

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 5-7-2018

Female environmentalists occupied one of JPMorgan Chase’s bank lobbies in Seattle to demand divestment from fossil fuels. (Photo: @350_Seattle/Twitter)

With JPMorgan Chase’s annual shareholder meeting set to take place in Texas next week, 350.org Seattle and five other environmental groups organized a demonstration to protest the bank’s ongoing investment in fossil fuels, particularly tar sands.

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‘Incredible’ News as Banking Giant HSBC Ditches New Coal, Tar Sands, and Offshore Arctic Drilling Projects

The development is “yet another signal to Donald Trump and the rest of the world that, despite their worst laid plans, the era of fossil fuels is coming to a close.”

By for Common Dreams, Published 4-20-2018.

Climate groups applauded HSBC’s announcement that it is moving away from fossil fuels. (Photo: ItzaFineDay/flickr/cc)

In another signal that “the era of fossil fuels is coming to a close,” Europe’s biggest bank, HSBC, announced Friday that it will no longer fund oil or gas projects in the Arctic, tar sands projects, or most coal projects.

The move was cheered by climate campaigners on social media, who said, “This is huge,” and called it “incredible news.”

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Trump’s $60 billion in China tariffs will create more problems than they solve

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Business such as California winemakers could be hurt by the new tariffs as a result of retaliation. AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

William Hauk, University of South Carolina

After spending seven months investigating whether China is engaged in unfair trade practices, the Trump administration announced March 22 that it will impose tariffs on as much as US$60 billion in Chinese imports.

The tariffs are meant to address two problems: intellectual property theft by China and a steep and persistent trade deficit.

As an economist and expert in international trade, I don’t see how the proposed tariffs will resolve either one. In fact, it’s more likely that they will create two new problems by hurting both consumers and businesses.

IP theft and trade deficits

The administration formally justified its tariffs by invoking Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974, which allows the president to impose tariffs on countries in violation of international trade deals.

In particular, the Trump administration accused China of engaging in intellectual property theft forbidden by World Trade Organization agreements.

Intellectual property theft has been a major complaint of American companies doing business in China for decades. Sometimes this theft occurs through illicit means, such as industrial espionage. It also occurs through legal channels, such as when U.S. companies are forced to form a joint venture with a Chinese business. In other cases, technology transfers are a precondition of doing business in China.

Altogether, the U.S. trade representative estimates that these policies cost U.S. businesses around $50 billion a year.

The other problem that has long irked the president is the significant trade deficit. Since the U.S. normalized trade relations with China in 2000, the deficit ballooned from less than $84 billion to over $375 billion in 2017.

This “China shock” of cheap goods has caused considerable disruption in the U.S. economy. The labor market has been surprisingly slow to adjust, leading affected workers to earn far less money over a lifetime.

President Trump signs a presidential memorandum imposing tariffs and investment restrictions on China. AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The wrong solutions

It remains to be seen, however, whether the tariffs will alleviate either problem.

The administration’s calculation seems to be that China will back down on intellectual property theft if faced with less access to U.S. markets.

But China is less dependent on U.S. trade now than it was a decade ago, making its economy resilient to these sorts of punitive measures. The U.S. accounted for 18.4 percent of Chinese exports in 2016, down from 21 percent in 2006.

The U.S. likely would have better luck resolving this problem at the WTO, which China joined in 2001 and must abide by its rulings. The best part about a WTO ruling is that it would affect all of China’s exports, not just those to the U.S.

Similarly, the trade deficit is unlikely to be resolved through higher tariffs. The primary cause of the persistent trade deficit – $566 billion in 2017 – is an imbalance between savings and investment in the U.S. economy.

The U.S. personal savings rate has fallen steadily since the late 1970s. At the same time, the government has run persistently large budget deficits, both of which have increased the level of borrowing in the U.S. economy.

As a result, foreign investment, particularly from China, has become increasingly critical to financing U.S. economic growth. This is great news in terms of helping Americans buy cheap Chinese goods and the government finance its budget deficit. But all that foreign cash going into the financial market isn’t being used to buy the stuff Americans are producing, like Harley Davidson motorcycles and Iowa corn.

This results in lower exports and a higher trade deficit. Tariffs will not change this reality.

Two new problems

While the full details of the tariffs have yet to be released, it’s clear they’ll cause at least two immediate problems.

One is that U.S. consumers will be hurt. The typical consumer has about $260 in extra purchasing power as a result of trade with China. Those benefits, which disproportionately go toward working-class Americans, will fall due to the U.S. tariffs, as American importers will pass some of their increased costs along to consumers.

Secondly, American companies that export to China will be exposed to retaliation in the form of tariffs on U.S.-made goods. Shortly after Trump’s announcement, China released its own policy statement targeting $3 billion worth of U.S. exports.

Particularly vulnerable to Chinese retaliation are the pork and soybean industries, which are concentrated in the Trump-friendly Midwest. This list could grow if a trade war with China escalates.

A broader concern is that, by acting unilaterally, the Trump administration is undermining the broader system that has facilitated the growth of international trade and adjudicated grievances between countries since World War II.

The ConversationWhile far from perfect, organizations such as the WTO have limited the scope of trade wars since the chaos of the 1930s. Failing to uphold these institutions could have major consequences in the future.

William Hauk, Associate Professor of Economics, University of South Carolina

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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What We Found in Trump’s Drained Swamp: Hundreds of Ex-Lobbyists and D.C. Insiders

 

By Derek KravitzAl Shaw and Isaac Arnsdorf. Published 3-7-2018 by ProPublica

When the Trump administration took office early last year, hundreds of staffers from lobbying firms, conservative think tanks and Trump campaign groups began pouring into the very agencies they once lobbied or whose work they once opposed.

Today we’re making available, for the first time, an authoritative searchable database of 2,475 political appointees, including Trump’s Cabinet, staffers in the White House and senior officials within the government, along with their federal lobbying and financial records. Trump Town is the result of a year spent filing hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests; collecting and organizing staffing lists; and compiling, sifting through and publishing thousands of financial disclosure reports. Continue reading

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As Trump Threats Stir Global Arms Race, New Report Details the Nuclear War Profiteers

“If you have been wondering who benefits from Donald Trump’s threats of nuclear war, this report has that answer.”

By Andrea Germanos, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-7-2018

The new report “names those that are still okay with trying to make a profit from producing nuclear weapons.” (Photo: ippnw Deutschland/flickr/cc)

A new report offers a comprehensive look at who’s profiting from the new nuclear arms race.

“If you have been wondering who benefits from Donald Trump’s threats of nuclear war, this report has that answer,” said Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize.

ICAN, along with Netherlands-based peace group Pax, released the report, entitled “Don’t Bank on the Bomb,” on Wednesday. It shows that 329 financial institutions in 24 countries invested $525 billion into the top 20 companies involved in the production, maintenance, and modernization of nuclear weapons from January 2014 through October 2017. Continue reading

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17 Democrats Decried for Sending This Clear Message: “I Work for My Bank Donors, Not My Constituents’

“Voters have seen this movie before. It didn’t work out in 2008 and it’s no wiser today. There is simply no excuse for a Democrat to add their name to Wall Street deregulation.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 3-6-2018

Senators Tim Kaine and Angus King. Both senators were among the seventeen Democratic caucus members who voted in favor of a financial dergulation bill on Tuesday. “This bill wouldn’t be on the path to becoming law without the support of these Democrats,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) following the vote. Photo: flickr

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are not impressed.

And they were not alone Tuesday as outrage and disgust erupted among consumer watchdogs and progressives after Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) and sixteen Democrats joined with 50 Republicans in the U.S. Senate to advance a bill that critics say is just another handout for Wall Street banks—one that also sets the stage for the next major financial meltdown. Continue reading

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