Cornel West is a philosopher, author and the University Professor at Princeton University. A widely cited figure in a variety of fields, he is the author of the new memoir, “Brother West: Living & Loving Out Loud,” as well as “Race Matters,” “The Future of Race,” “Democracy Matters: The Battle Against Imperialism,” among many others. Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Sacramento, California, West graduated Magna Cum Laude Harvard University and went on to complete his Ph.D at Princeton. The winner of numerous awards, including the American Book Award, he has also received more than twenty honorary degrees.
Here is a video of Dr. West speaking on how the poor have suffered from the idea that an “unfettered market” was good for America. Click here to watch Video.
This and other completely smart, mindblowing, and relevant interviews are on BigThink.com. I have attached a transcript of the video for those without speakers.
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Transcript of interview:
Question: Why are we no longer concerned with the working class?
Cornel West: I think one was, there was an idolizing of unfettered markets. And much if not most of the intelligentsia were duped. I recall traveling with my dear brother Michael Harrington and talking with brother Stanley Aronowitz years ago. And you know, here we’re engaged in critiques of unfettered markets, and it looked as if we were medieval thinkers. Everybody was saying, we’re followers of Milton Friedman. Everybody was saying Frederick Hayak got it right. Everybody was saying marketize, commercialize, commodify, and we were still reading Lukasch. And Lukasch was saying commodification is not simply an asymmetric relation of power, of bosses vis-à-vis workers, so workers are being more and more marginalized. Profits are being produced, wealth is being produced, hemorrhaged at the top, no fair distribution of that wealth or profit for workers. Poor are being demonized because they are viewed as those persons who are irresponsible, who will not work, who are always looking for welfare; i.e., failures in the society of success. And we reached a brink, and the chickens came home to roost. And a few years ago the unfettered markets led us off and over the brink.
And all of a sudden, very few intellectuals want to be honest and acknowledge the greed with which they were duped. Don’t want to talk about the inequality that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the demonization of the poor that went along with it. Don’t want to talk about the politics of fear that produced a Republican Party that was more and more lily-white, using not just race but also demonizing gay brothers and lesbian sisters, you see. Don’t want to talk about the indifference toward the poor, and greed being good and desirable and so forth. Now is a very different moment, and it’s not, you know, just about pointing fingers, but saying somebody’s got to take responsibility. This was a nearly 40-year run. Who paid the cost? As is usually the case, you know, poor working people paid the cost, disproportionately black and brown and red, you see.
Question: Is this changing in the age of Obama?
Cornel West: So in the age of Obama, we say, okay, can we have a different kind of discussion? And that’s what we’re trying to do, but of course you’ve got two wars going on; you’ve got still Wall Street in the driver’s seat in the Obama administration when it comes to the economic team, you see. And you’ve got very — you know, I think in some ways unimaginative thinking when it comes to foreign policy, be it the Middle East or be it European Union or be it Latin America, you know, calling Chavez a dictator; the man’s been elected! If he’s calling into question rights and liberties, criticize him as a democratic president. We did the same thing for Bush. Bush was calling into question rights and liberties; we didn’t call him a dictator. We said he’s a democratically elected president who’s doing the wrong thing. Chavez ought to be criticized. He’s not a dictator; the man’s been elected.
But it’s that kind of demonizing that obscures and obfuscates the kind of issues that are necessary, because Chavez is also talking about poor people. So of course I want libertarian and democratic sides. I want right and liberties and empowerment of poor people. But talking about poor people is not a joke; it’s crucial, it’s part and parcel of the future of any serious democratic project. The fundamental question of any democracy is, what is the relation between public interest and the most vulnerable? That’s the question, you see. That is the question. The test of your rule of law is going to be, how are the most vulnerable being treated? It’s not whether the torturers are getting off; we know the torturers don’t have the rule of law applied to them. The wiretappers, they’re getting off scot-free. What about Jamal with the crack bag? Take him to jail for seven years. Oh — so you’ve got a different rule of law when it comes to Jamal on the corner versus your torturers and your wiretappers? Torture is a crime against humanity; it’s not just illegal. Wiretapping is illegal, you see. Now, it’s not a crime against humanity, because I mean, I’m sure I’ve had my phone tapped for years. I don’t think they committed a crime against humanity; they just ought to quit doing it God dangit.
Question: How can we strengthen the demos?
Cornel West: Well, you — I think you keep in mind — I mean, the demos is always a heterogeneous, diverse — got a lot of xenophobic elements among the demos — a lot of ignorance, a lot of parochialism. You also have a lot of cosmopolitanism, a lot of globalism, a lot of courage, moral courage. So the demos is not one thing. But when it comes to the ability of the demos to organize, mobilize and bring power and pressure to bear, we certainly are in a crisis; our system is broken. We’ve got seventy one percent of the people who want universal health care, and you can barely get through a reform bill with a weak public option. It’s clear lobbyists from the top, pharmaceutical companies, drug companies have tremendous influence, much more than the demos from below, you see. So that those preferences don’t get translated easily because our politicians are beholden to that big money and that big influence. But I mean the demos is still around, thank God. You’ve got your own institution. Dialog — dialog is the lifeblood of a democracy. You’ve got to allow ideas to flow. You have to expose people to different visions, alternative arguments and so on, to try to keep the torch of the progressive demos alive. But it’s very difficult to organize it. Complacency is deep; apathy is deep; people are wondering how can you confront, you know, big finance, big government tied to big finance, when all you’ve got is these little people, who are willing to talk and so forth, but have tremendous power bringing serious pressure to bear. We can march; you know, we marched against the war by the millions. We were ignored by the Bush administration. Some of us went to jail. We were ignored; we couldn’t translate into foreign policy. That happens sometimes. It was **** Vietnam.
Recorded on: November 3, 2009
100% of this post was taken from http://bigthink.com. Just thought you needed to see it.
There are those “people” in this world that take advantage of people (any retail establishment, insurance company, or mortgage broker) and then there are those that take advantage of the people who legitimately have no other viable recourse left and are grabbing at any straw they can to survive. These predators are the worst people in this world. I read The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David Shipler recently. That book has taught me more about poverty than anything else I have ever read. The American experience of working, not one, but two full time jobs and still existing under the poverty line is an unacceptable, yet a REAL facet of many American’s lives. The book speaks about the “circle of poverty” and how one act a poverty stricken family takes leads to the next act that keeps them in poverty. It is truly sad. When I read this article and had to share it with you. Read, Think, Get Smarter
The skeevy business of payday loans.
By Timothy Noah
Roughly 20 years ago, during the administration of President George H.W. Bush, I wrote a news article for the Wall Street Journal about the federal government’s plans (later codified in legislation during the Clinton administration) to distribute food stamps and other government benefits electronically. Poor people would have debit cards and could have immediate access to the funds they needed. This was a more novel idea than it sounds today, because speedy, point-of-sale credit card terminals still lay in the future. In those distant days, when you went to the supermarket, you had to bring cash or write a check.
The Bush appointee I interviewed was very excited about the new scheme for one simple reason: It was going to put check-cashing companies out of business. This was an industry despised even by Republicans for exploiting society’s least advantaged by charging them outrageously high fees. Instant access to cash would eliminate this market. I don’t remember exactly what the Bush appointee said, but his overall message was loud and clear: Good riddance to a sleazy and predatory business.
Two decades later, check-cashing companies are still around and a thriving new sleazy and predatory business, the payday-loan industry, has grown up beside them. Payday loans replace check-cashers’ outrageously high fees with usurious interest rates. What neither the Bush appointee nor I anticipated was that the same technology that sent welfare moms and retirees their government benefits in the blink of an eye could give a new kind of predatory lender instant access to unwary customers’ bank accounts. Electronic banking giveth and electronic banking taketh away.
I thought about all this on Oct. 4, when the Federal Trade Commission announced that the co-founder of Swish Marketing Inc. paid $850,000 to settle charges that he allegedly debited customers’ bank accounts without their knowledge. According to the FTC, Swish operated Web sites that guided consumers to payday lender sites. (One of them piously named “Christian Faith Financial“; never mind Matthew 21:12.) To get the loan, you filled out a form giving the lender access to your bank account. That’s a bad idea, but standard practice for payday lenders, and perfectly legal. The illegal part (according to the FTC) was what followed. When you submitted your application, you were automatically sent to a Web page with a button that said “Finish matching me with a payday loan provider!” (example here). This Web page also happened to offer consumers the chance to acquire four additional items. Three of these offers were pre-clicked “No,” but a fourth was pre-clicked “Yes,” which was easy to miss. This fourth offer was for the purchase of a debit card on which you could load $2,500, in the unlikely event that you happened to have $2,500. (If you had $2,500 why would you be applying for a payday loan?) Just to purchase the empty debit card cost $54.95. Some sites billed the debit card as a “bonus offer” and revealed the $55 charge only in tiny type. In any event, it was very easy for the borrower to miss entirely the fact that in applying for a payday loan, he or she was also letting a separate company reach into his or her bank account to extract $55 to pay for an unrelated product that he or she almost certainly didn’t need.
The attorney for alleged perp Jason Strober said in a press release, “We are confident that [he] would have prevailed in court.” Strober settled only because “it became too expensive to continue fighting.” Strober, meanwhile, has created a blog, Prosmallbusiness.org, whose first entry states that the FTC’s “power to destroy businesses they don’t like is truly scary.”
It may or may not give Strober solace to learn that under the recently-passed Dodd-Frank financial regulation law, the FTC will yield jurisdiction over payday loans to the newly created Consumer Financial Protection Agency, whose overseer, Elizabeth Warren, really, really hates payday loans. In a 2008 paper coauthored by Oren Bar-Gill of New York University Law School, Warren offered payday loans as a key example of “a credit product that can impose substantial costs on imperfectly informed and imperfectly rational borrowers.” Typically, she explained, you pay a $30 fee for a two-week cash advance on a $200 paycheck, which amounts to an annualized interest rate of 400 percent. That’s not particularly high for this type of loan; some of them go up to 780 percent. Thirty bucks “is unlikely to bankrupt any consumer,” Warren conceded, but the payday lender is counting on the likelihood that many customers will roll the loan over for another two weeks, and then another. Ninety percent of the industry’s profits come from suckers who do this five times or more over the course of a year. “This is very expensive credit,” Jean Ann Fox of Consumer Federation of America told me.
Indeed, interest rates don’t get more insanely high than this. That raises the question: Isn’t usury illegal? It turns out the federal government imposes no statutory maximum on interest rates. Many states do, and some states (for instance, New York) ban payday loans altogether. But under federal law, payday lenders who don’t commit outright fraud may operate with impunity. Well, almost. The Pentagon got fed up with its recruits getting ripped off by payday lenders and in 2007 got Congress to make it illegal to extend such loans to members of the military. But civilians remain fair game.
Indeed, one of the sketchier provisions in Dodd-Frank affirmatively prohibits Warren’s new agency from setting a maximum interest rate on payday loans. This was inserted at the behest of Senator Bob Corker, R.-Tenn. (The payday-loan business was reportedly born in Corker’s home state and continues to thrive there.) You might think the banking industry would pressure Congress to shut down payday lenders because they give lending a bad name. But a recent report by National People’s Action, a network of community activist groups, and the nonprofit Public Accountability Initiative revealed that big banks extend $2.5 to $3 billion in financing to payday-loan companies. Wells Fargo is in especially deep.
“The payday industry WELCOMES regulation,” according to Payday Loan Industry Blog, operated by Trihouse Enterprises, which owns 16 payday-loan stores. “It helps the industry legitimize their industry, it manages the few unscrupulous payday loan operators that exist in all industries, and it creates a level playing field for consumers.” Implicit in this assertion is the confident belief that no regulator would dare put them out of business. The authors don’t seem terribly worried that Warren will prove that assumption wrong. Do they know something we don’t?
Below is an article written by Sam Stein, a political blogger. You can read the original posting here. I am not going to expound on what this article expresses until you read it for yourself. I will let you draw your own conclusions and my comments will follow. However, I will highlight my favorite parts of it, so you can easily predict what is currently pissing me off. (HINT: RED = BAD )
Well, just when you thought you had heard the pinnacle of all ignorant quotes by an elected official, up walks Andre Bauer, South Carolina’s republican lieutenant governor, and makes this gem of a remark concerning free school lunches for the poor. Read the rest of this entry