My new column expands on an earlier blog about the romantic conservative belief in ordinary Americans’ ability to bushwhack through the market for complex and tricky financial products, much less the outright frauds.
In the conservative paradise, hard-working Americans save money, care for their health, borrow responsibly and invest for their future needs. They don’t need government telling them what to do or rescuing them from their folly.
I like that vision, but it has little to do with the world we live in. In the world we live in, folks who jog and diet come down with cancer. Careful drivers get hit by drunks. Tornadoes and plagues of locust play havoc with the righteous.
And good, working people fall for misleading promises, downright lies or small print they don’t understand — and go broke as a result. That’s why we need the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, plus a bunch of new state laws, to protect the little guy and not a few bigger guys, as well.
To say that any willing adult may make a contract with any willing lender is like saying that any willing teen may work for any willing pornographer. We have laws protecting minors that don’t apply to adults because they lack the cognitive ability to fend for themselves.
Ture, some people facing foreclosure or in other credit trouble were greedy or too lazy to read their contracts. But many were drawn into risky situations by assurances from our top authorities — including a Federal Reserve Bank chairman — that house prices were merely “frothy” and that adjustable mortgages were a great idea.
Some borrowed heavily due to sudden crisis, such as a family illness. Some were lured into predatory loans by fellow church members or trusted friends. (The friends Bernie Madoff’ conned included some of the most sophisticated investors in America.)
Rep. Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican negotiating the financial reform bill, complains that the new bureau would “take choices away from consumers and choke desperately needed credit out of our economy.”
Shall we go back to shabby lending practices, credit bubbles and to all those other things that shattered our economy? Americans — including those of us who never borrowed a dime — are now paying for that free-for-all ten times over. Our world is all too real.
When it comes to pensions in the United States, private-sector workers live in America. Government workers live in Europe. One can be pro-union and pro-labor and still resent lavish public-employee retirement deals, as I write in my latest column:
While cap-and-trade is tangled in a political brawl, there’s one excellent piece of energy legislation that most people agree on — the bi-partisan bill to promote electric cars. Let’s pass it fast:
Jennifer Senior perfectly captured the baloney side of Christopher Hitchens in yesterday’s New York Times. Reviewing his new memoir, Hitch-22, she damned both man and book with faint praise.
Hitchens is one of those Brits with all the answers. His opinions, though sometimes wrong on facts, are always delivered with unswerving righteous anger.
I used to admire Hitchens for his cleverness, independence and willingness to beat up on silly paleo-liberals. But the provocateur act grew less entertaining with time. Finding the point often required first wading through a string of brutal and witless ad hominen attacks.
I officially dropped out of the Christopher Hitchens Fan Club in 2008, when Hitchens called presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, “an aging and resentful female.”
The comment seemed another campaign in his sloppy war against Bill Clinton. Hitchens wasn’t so much a sexist jerk as just a jerk.
In his book, Hitchens speaks of his discomfort in hearing fellow leftists oppose military intervention to stop the genocide in Bosnia. Their “moral arithmetic” just didn’t add up, he said.
But Senior takes him down a notch or three:
it was Bill Clinton, a center-left president Hitchens detested for his opportunism and slipperiness, who finally ordered the troops in, and he did so over a squall of conservative objection, with 29 Republican senators voting against the intervention, versus only one Democrat. (How’s that arithmetic?)
Speaking of arithmetic, do note that Mitt Romney is several months older than Hillary Clinton.
My plans were to spend this Saturday morning drinking coffee and staring at the birdbath. But my column, MAKE LOUISIANA A U.S. PROTECTORATE, has provoked some alligator reactions. Let me address the more relevant ones.
Several of my correspondents complain that I named only Republican politicians in my discussion of what’s wrong with Louisiana’s political class, whereas Democrats have been as bad, if not worse.
Point granted. It was not my intention to make this discussion partisan. It happened that the two examples are Republicans. I could have included Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, who is also defends the timber industry’s cutting of trees that hold the wetlands in place. But unlike Republican Sen. David Vitter, she wasn’t in a position in 2005 to castrate the Army Corps of Engineers’s powers to regulate these activities.
What makes the Republicans less charming is their baloney spiel about cutting down the size of the federal government combined with their constant howling for more federal money. And, of course, they never want to pay for anything with taxes.
However, I have been a resident of Rhode Island for the last two decades. Rhode Island is also famously corrupt and for that has been called the Louisiana of the North. Our legislature is overwhelmingly Democratic and does appalling things on a weekly basis. One thing the politicians don’t do, however, is mess with the environment. The people would not stand for it.
As a sucker for the environment, I would be happy to see my tax dollars spent on fixing up the ravaged Gulf coast. But ,no, I don’t care to spend billions restoring the wetlands as the locals continue destroying them for a quick buck or, in the case of Jindal and his berms, to make a show of doing something.
That shouldn’t be a very controversial position.
Meanwhile, let me offer my sincere condolences to the people of the Gulf.
But there’s no hypocrisy in the man about how he makes his living. Barton raises prodigious sums from the oil and gas industry — $265,000 in the 2008 election cycle and another $177,000 in this one, so far. When it comes to his benefactors, he has a heart of gold.
With great emotion, Barton apologized to BP, accusing the Obama administration of shaking down the company to compensate victims of the Gulf oil disaster. Hey, it’s his job to shake down oil companies.
For shining a light on this arrangement in a politically unhelpful way, Barton got beat up by fellow Republicans. Party leaders demanded that he retract his statement, or else. And so he apologized for his apology to BP.
To these expressions of regret I’d like to add my own apology — to Joe Barton. Barton is being persecuted for honesty. He defended the nature of his business without putting on pumps, pearls and a pillbox hat. Thank you, congressman.
POSTSCRIPT: We note that the 7th annual Joe Barton Family Fishing Trip fundraiser is still scheduled for October. Wonder where they’ll go for fish. Greenland, I suspect.
The time has come:
Louisiana is said to have the fattest people in America and also the happiest.
Meanwhile, the pain never stops.
It’s time that the people started controlling that part of the pain they have power over. Time to get its economy off oil. Which is going to take some doing. Gov. Bobby Jindal has just asked Obama to lift the moratorium on deep water drilling, even as a deep-water drilling crisis threatens the state’s very future.
Parents are ignoring their children as they go off in their own techno-cloud of texting, cell-phoning and chatting with Facebook friends. Such distractions may not be all bad, however, as I discuss in