ChrisWeigant.com

Friday Talking Points [482] -- Democratic Party Approaches Tipping Point On Legalizing Marijuana

[ Posted Friday, April 27th, 2018 – 17:52 PDT ]

Last week, we were admonished for celebrating 4/20 in a manner that was too subtle by half. We subtitled last Friday's article: "Dazed And Confused," and began with: "We don't know why that headline sounded like such a good idea on today, of all days. [Ahem.]" But the rest of the article didn't really have much to say about the issue of marijuana. So today we are going to correct that lack, as you can tell by this week's subtitle.

We wrote an article back in January which predicted that marijuana legalization had passed a "tipping point" with the public. No matter how hard the War On Weed warriors fought back, the growing swell of public support for legalization would ensure that America's second Prohibition would come to an end, the article predicted. We wrote this right after Vermont became the first state in the nation to legalize recreational adult use of cannabis through its legislature (rather than through the direct democracy of a ballot initiative). This law was signed by a Republican governor, it's worth pointing out. But we were only cautiously optimistic that national politicians would be part of the process this year:


Marijuana legalization has reached the tipping point, folks. We are simply not going back, no matter what Jeff Sessions thinks. We are fast approaching the point where one out of every four Americans lives in a state with legal weed. In 2018, more and more politicians at the national level are going to start realizing it is in their own best interest to support legalization. It probably won't be that big an issue this year, at least outside the states that are holding referenda (there are many other issues which will dominate the 2018 election cycle, in other words), but look for it to be a core issue in 2020.

But now it seems that things are moving forward faster than expected. More and more Democrats are coming around to legalization -- a position that only a few years ago was considered radical and a political liability in all but the most liberal areas. So politicians (from both parties) mostly avoided the subject altogether, which was the safest thing to do.

This has now shifted, which is why today we're predicting that the Democratic Party has reached a tipping point on legalization -- defined as: "when supporting a political issue becomes the default go-to position because opposing it would be a big liability with the voters."

Now, we've been trying to convince Democrats for years -- ever since Colorado and Washington legalized recreational pot use in their states -- that the issue was a big winner for them. Not only did it inspire young people to get out and vote, but it was actually a bipartisan issue, and one that for many voters was the single issue which decided their vote.

But, not unlike gay marriage before it, supporting full recreational legalization was deemed by many Democratic politicians as too risky a stance to take. But then support for gay marriage then suddenly became the default Democratic Party position -- the same process that perhaps has now reached a tipping point with marijuana legalization. The Washington Post ran an article this week examining how fast things are shifting, in both parties:

Democrats are increasingly embracing looser restrictions on marijuana -- and a growing number of high-profile Republicans are joining them, marking a shift in the politics of cannabis.

As Democrats try to regain control of Congress in the November elections and make gains in state races, some strategists are wagering that being firmly on the side of easing marijuana laws will help boost turnout among millennials, a key bloc in the party's coalition. Many of those voters have sat out recent midterms.

While pot enthusiasts celebrated their unofficial "4/20" holiday on Friday, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced his support for decriminalizing marijuana at the federal level. Echoing others who have revised their positions, Schumer said his thinking had "evolved."

. . .

As they gear up for the fall campaign, both parties are trying to energize their bases to turn out at the polls. For Democrats, who have embraced the most liberal platform in decades, marijuana reform is another issue they hope will enliven their core voters.

"This motivates young people because it's a question of freedom, of justice," said Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, part of a younger, more liberal generation of Democratic lawmakers.

Schumer's decision was informed in part by this belief, according to a Democrat familiar with his thinking.

"We see getting millennials to the polls in the midterms as a potential huge boon for us. And we need to give them something to affirmatively pull the lever for a Democrat in the midterms," said this Democrat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe strategy.

In a written statement announcing his decision, Schumer said "there's no better time than the present" to decriminalize marijuana. He said his planned legislation would remove it from the list of scheduled substances under the Controlled Substances Act.

We handed Chuck Schumer a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award last week for his evolution, of course. But the sentence which leapt out at us was: "...we need to give them something to affirmatively pull the lever for a Democrat in the midterms," since that could indeed apply to all sorts of issues the Democrats have been weak on in the recent past. You do indeed do better at the polls when you give the voters something to vote for and not just against. Marijuana support is an excellent motivator for younger voters.

We'll get to a few more examples of Democrats finally deciding to stand strongly for a few issues in this week's awards section, but we did want to begin today's column with a bit of a positive rant, for once. Could this be the "Year Of The Stoner Voter" at the polls? Well, probably not. All signs currently are still pointing to it being the "Year Of The Suburban Woman" voter, in fact. But no matter what label is used in the aftermath, this year also might just be the one where the Democratic Party as a whole realizes fully that supporting marijuana legalization is now a major asset for any political candidate, while the converse also becomes true: opposing legalization becomes a real liability within the party. Support among the general American public is at an all-time high, at 60 percent or greater, and that trendline is only going to go up in the years to come. The snarky bumpersticker "When The People Lead, The Politicians Follow" seems apt, at this point. The people are indeed leading. And finally, a tipping point may have been reached as Democratic politicians follow their lead.

Moving right along, let's see what else has been going on in the world of politics this week. Yet another Republican House member has announced he's stepping down, after being caught in a sexual harassment scandal within his own office. There's a reason for all these hasty departures, and that reason is that when a House member quits his office, any Ethics Committee investigation against him is immediately closed. Representative Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania decided to take this quick route rather than face an investigation into the payment of tens of thousands of dollars to a staffer he had harassed. Nothing like good old GOP family values, folks!

Which brings up the two parties' emerging themes for this fall's midterms. The Republican Party seems to have settled on the forward-looking theme of running against Hillary Clinton. No, really! This is technically known as "the generals trying to refight the last war," and it seldom leads to a good result. Meanwhile, the Democrats have a much more relevant theme, recently pushed by Nancy Pelosi: running against "the Trump administration's culture of corruption, cronyism, and incompetence." Here's a recent statement from Pelosi, explaining this position:

Some may recall that in 2005, 2006, one of our mantras during the campaign was to drain the swamp, to end the Republican culture of cronyism, corruption and incompetence, and that is exactly what we did. The president has misappropriated that term of art, "drain the swamp," and what does he do but have an administration that is wallowing in it.

Meanwhile, one Democrat in particular is doing his part for the party by baiting Republicans to retire now. Former Representative John Dingell tweeted this week: "To my Republican friends in Congress: Retirement is a blast. Naps. Snacks. Join me." He followed this up with an even funnier enticement: "Example: I just ate a Hostess cupcake for breakfast."

This did not amuse his wife, who ran for and won her husband's seat when he retired. Current Representative Debbie Dingell tweeted back: "Naps are okay, but I thought I hid the cupcakes. Yogurt > Hostess." Heh.

OK, we've been intentionally ignoring all the Trump idiocies of the week, which culminated with an extraordinary call-in interview yesterday on the Fox News morning "news" show. We'll cover most of Trump's antics in the talking points this week, but two really stood out. Trump called North Korean dictator "very honorable" this week, which provoked the following response from Senator Jeff Flake: "For the president to describe a leader who stands incredibly accused of starving his own people, violently executing his political opponents and murdering members of his own family as very open and very honorable is beyond comprehension."

In other bad news for Trump this week, his nominee to head the V.A. was forced to withdraw after dozens of people made allegations against him to the members of the Senate who were charged with vetting his nomination. Among these charges were being called the "Candyman" for handing prescription drugs out with abandon to any and all who wanted them, as well as being drunk on several occasions, one of which resulted in him driving drunk and wrecking a government vehicle. Whoops! Looks like the Keystone Kops White House vetting office fell on their faces once again. Trump threw Dr. Ronny Jackson under the bus early in the week, saying of the Senate confirmation process, "If I were him, I wouldn't do it." By week's end, Jackson realized this was the only exit and withdrew his nomination in disgrace.

What else? Housing and Urban Development chief Ben Carson just launched what is being called "a new war on the poor," with legislation that would hike the rent of anyone in public housing. Because that'll surely inspire them to get a better-paying job! How very Christian of Carson.

Speaking of so-called Christians who have never apparently read all those quotes from Jesus about being merciful to the poor, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan forced out the House's official chaplain this week. Reports are that Ryan was incensed at Father Patrick Conroy for daring to speak to the issue of the poor, while the House Republicans were busy deciding how many billions of dollars to shower on the rich with their tax cuts. Conroy was only the second Catholic House Chaplain in history, and his firing has upset many Catholics from Ryan's own party, so this story may get bigger over time.

And finally, we have to end on an amusing note. James Comey had a book tour party in Washington this week, and one attendee tweeted a photo of the bar's menu. The first drink is listed as: "[REDACTED] -- gin & tonic with a secret ingredient." Even more amusing was the second drink, a martini titled: "Lordy, I Hope There Is Vodka."

 

Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Before we get to the main award, we have an Honorable Mention this week, for Steve Stern, who won a special election for a New York state assembly seat this Tuesday, flipping a district that had been solidly Republican for over three decades. This was the 40th such state-level victory for the Democratic Party since the 2016 election. In the same period, Republicans have flipped four seats, for a net gain of 36 to the Democrats.

This week we have two Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week awards, both for Democratic senators who have introduced very progressive bills. Now, we often hear the complaint that a Democratic bill in a Republican Congress doesn't have a prayer of passing, but that misses a very large point. Democrats have to show the voters what they are for, as we discussed in the introduction. And it's a lot better to be for a concrete piece of legislation than it is to just offer vague support for a concept. So bills like these will help define the direction of the Democratic Party for years to come, even if they never pass in their current form.

Senator Bernie Sanders this week unveiled his new idea, for guaranteeing employment for all Americans. It would create a jobs program on a scale not seen since the Great Depression.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) will announce a plan for the federal government to guarantee a job paying $15 an hour and health-care benefits to every American worker "who wants or needs one," embracing the kind of large-scale government works project that Democrats have shied away from in recent decades.

Sanders's jobs guarantee would fund hundreds of projects throughout the United States aimed at addressing priorities such as infrastructure, care giving, the environment, education and other goals. Under the job guarantee, every American would be entitled to a job under one of these projects or receive job training to be able to do so, according to an early draft of the proposal.

What also made this newsworthy was the fact that while Sanders may decide to make another run for president in 2020, two other prominent Democratic senators who are also considering a run also support the basic idea: Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker.

A followup article explored how this could turn out to be a pretty good move, politically, for Democrats:

Coming from where they do, Republicans may make the mistake of treating a federal job guarantee as self-evident lunacy, when in fact it sounds like a pretty good idea to lots of Americans, including many of those vaunted working-class white voters the GOP has come to depend on. It isn't a giveaway, it's the promise of a job, which means it can have an appeal that crosses party lines. If we get a serious debate about this topic, Republicans will find themselves arguing against jobs, and saying it's important that private-sector employers don't feel pressure to increase wages. That may not be such a great place to be.

Republicans would be caught between their ongoing efforts to make it as difficult as possible to use the safety net without working, and the fact that there often aren't enough jobs in certain areas for people to work at, no matter how much they may want to work. And a whole lot of those areas are in Trump country.

Senator Gillibrand not only supports Bernie's plan, but she also wins her own MIDOTW this week, for introducting a bill to allow the U.S. Post Office to offer basic banking services. Her real target? The payday loans industry.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) is introducing legislation Wednesday that would require every U.S. post office to provide basic banking services, an ambitious step aimed at improving the lives of Americans with limited financial resources.

The bill brings to Congress for the first time a policy idea that has already won the support of liberal economists and anti-poverty activists: Turning the nation's sprawling network of U.S. Postal Service facilities into places where working-class and low-income Americans who lack adequate access to commercial banking can obtain low-cost, short-term loans. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have both spoken out in favor of postal banking, but Gillibrand is the first to introduce legislation mandating it.

The central goal of the bill is to replace risky financial products like payday loans, which can trap borrowers in prolonged cycles of debt, with regulated alternatives.

"This is a solution to take on payday lenders, to take on the problems that the unbanked have all across the country. It's a solution whose time has come," Gillibrand said in an interview with HuffPost.

To hear Gillibrand and other postal banking proponents tell it, the Postal Service and underbanked Americans are the perfect complements.

The postal system's 30,000 locations touch every community. A majority -- 59 percent -- are in so-called banking deserts, or zip codes that have either no bank branches or just one.

This is no liberal, big-ticket pie-in-the-sky proposal, either. It would probably boost the revenue of the Post Office, in fact:

A postal banking system could be a major boon to the financially strained Postal Service. If even 10 percent of the money Americans currently spend on interest and fees for risky financial products went toward postal banking loans that cost 90 percent less, the Postal Service would gain almost $9 billion in annual revenue, according to a 2014 study conducted by the Postal Service Inspector General.

This proposal, like Bernie's, also would disproportionately affect a whole lot of Trump voters for the better:

Under Gillibrand's proposal, Americans could cash paychecks and deposit money in accounts free of charge at each post office location. Deposits would be capped at the larger of two amounts -- $20,000, or the median balance in all American bank accounts.

The postal banks would be able to distribute loans to borrowers of up to $1,000 at an interest rate slightly higher than the yield on one-month Treasury bonds, currently about 2 percent.

A postal banking system would be an alternative to the for-profit payday lending system, in which people routinely pay triple-digit fees to borrow money for bills that come due before their next paycheck. The average payday loan of $375 typically costs a borrower an additional $520 in interest and fees, according to Pew Charitable Trusts.

These costs are disproportionately shouldered by the most vulnerable people in the economy: Lower-earning workers who can't afford fees that commercial banks levy if an account balance falls too low, or simply live in an area that lacks a traditional banking option. The lack of resources typically precludes these Americans from qualifying for a credit card with a reasonable interest rate.

Most other Western nations have some form of postal banking, as indeed America also did up until the 1960s. So it's not all that radical an idea, really. It will also conveniently serve to point out how many members of Congress have taken massive amounts of campaign contributions from the payroll loan industry over the past few years, which helps because absolutely nobody (except the companies making billions on exploiting people's misery) is going to stand up and defend the industry. In fact, it's hard to think of a more-hated industry in America, really.

So to Senators Bernie Sanders and Kirsten Gillibrand, for introducing bills that address real needs across both red and blue America, for boldly proposing ideas that millions of voters would support, you both well deserve a Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award this week. Proposing bills that show real leadership is the way to get voters enthused about your party -- and when voters are enthused, they elect more of your party. Eventually, you get enough of them elected to actually make such legislation a reality. That's what showing leadership is all about, in fact.

[Congratulate Senator Bernie Sanders on his Senate contact page, and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand on her Senate contact page, to let them know you appreciate their efforts.]

 

Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

This one is pretty easy, this week. Senator Bob Menendez wins the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week this week, after the Senate Ethics Committee issued a scathing final report on his corruption. They "severely admonished" Menendez, and will force him to pay back all of the gifts he received from his wealthy buddy in Florida. Here's the whole sordid story:

The Senate Ethics Committee said Thursday that Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who avoided conviction in a federal corruption trial last year, violated federal law and Senate rules in accepting unreported gifts from a friend and political ally.

In a four-page "letter of admonition," the panel's three Republicans and three Democrats ordered Menendez to pay back the gifts he received from Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, and said he is "hereby severely admonished."

"Your assistance to Dr. Melgen under these circumstances demonstrated poor judgment, and it risked undermining the public's confidence in the Senate," the letter reads. "As such, your actions reflected discredit upon the Senate."

The Ethics Committee findings complete a winding, six-year saga in which the New Jersey senator was accused of corrupt dealings to benefit a political donor, Melgen, only to see his prosecution end in a mistrial in November after 10 weeks in court.

As long as Menendez repays the gifts, he is unlikely to face further official sanctions. But the stern reprimand stands to cloud his pending campaign for a third Senate term, though he retains an advantage as a Democratic incumbent in a liberal-leaning state.

Accepting tens of thousands of dollars in "gifts" from "a friend," and then attempting to intervene when that friend has problems with the federal government out of the goodness of your heart (totally unrelated to the tens of thousands of dollars in gifts, of course) is known as nothing short of pay-to-play bribery and corruption. He can argue "there was no quid pro quo" until he's blue in the face, but it won't stop us from handing Senator Bob Menendez another Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week award.

[Contact Senator Bob Menendez on his Senate contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]

 

Friday Talking Points

Volume 482 (4/27/18)

Since our introduction this week was so positive, we're going to balance it by largely going negative in this week's talking points. Although we did throw in one hopeful bit at the end (which should be keeping Florida Republicans awake at night), just for fun.

 

1
   A million other things to do

Maybe you've got better things to do, Mister President?

"President Trump, who hasn't given a solo press conference in over a year, decided to bask in the warm glow that emanates from his teevee set every time Fox And Friends is on, by calling them up to chat. He went on an extended half-hour rant that meandered through all his favorite subjects at great length. Finally, even the Fox hosts got embarrassed by Trump's incoherence, and actually hustled the president off the air. That's extraordinary, when you think about it. Most networks would have allowed Trump to ramble on for as long as he wished, but Fox -- the official Trump cheerleader network -- had to get him off the air before he embarrassed himself more than he already had. In the end, the hosts pointedly told Trump: 'We could talk to you all day, but it looks like you have a million things to do,' before hooking him off the stage with: 'I hope you can join us again.' I'm surprised they didn't just play him off the air by turning up the music, like they do at the Oscars."

 

2
   Cheapskate-in-Chief

Among other amusing things to come out of Trump's extended rant (full transcript here, for anyone who wants to read the whole thing) was that he is an incredible cheapskate.

"President Trump, at the beginning of his Fox News meltdown, said he had called in because it was Melania Trump's birthday. When asked what Trump had gotten his wife, Trump replied, quote: Well, I better not get into that, because I may get in trouble. Maybe I didn't get her so much. I'll tell you what. She has done -- I got her a beautiful card. You know, I'm very busy -- to be running out looking for presents, okay? But I got her a beautiful card and some beautiful flowers. Unquote. So Trump is too busy -- or too much of a cheapskate -- to go shopping for a birthday present for his wife, but he's got all the time in the world to chat with Fox News. As one late-night comic remarked, Trump really needs to spend around $130,000 on a present for Melania, at this point."

 

3
   Just like the mob

Hoo boy. Instant karma's gonna getcha.

"Donald Trump's personal lawyer-slash-fixer has announced he will be taking the Fifth Amendment in the civil case brought by Stormy Daniels against him and President Trump. Now, we already know what Trump thinks of such a move, since he repeatedly brought the subject up while campaigning for president. During one of the debates against Hillary Clinton, Trump said: 'When you have your staff taking the Fifth Amendment, taking the Fifth so they're not prosecuted... I think it's disgraceful.' On another occasion, Trump was even more disdainful, stating: 'The mob takes the Fifth. If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?' But the most prophetic thing Trump may have said was when he brought up one specific Clinton aide, saying: 'Did you see her I.T. specialist? He's taken the Fifth. The word is he's ratting her out like you wouldn't believe.' His prediction didn't come true in that instance, but it might just come back to bite him if Michael Cohen winds up flipping because of a criminal case against him."

 

4
   Pay-to-play, explained

Mick Mulvaney got in some hot water this week.

"Mick Mulvaney, who is now supposed to be protecting average Americans from the abuses of the big banks, just told a convention of bankers how the system really works. Mulvaney used to be a congressman from South Carolina, and he told his banker buddies how the world operated in his office: 'We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress. If you're a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn't talk to you. If you're a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.' Honest Republicans are now admitting how bad things have gotten for their party. Veteran Republican strategist Steve Schmidt said as much this week, pointing out: 'We're living in a season of corruption the likes of which we haven't seen but in a banana republic. Everywhere you look, you see incompetence, malfeasance, self-dealing, and corruption.' Yep, there's nothing like draining the swamp, eh?"

 

5
   I see nothing!

Speaking of incompetence and malfeasance....

"Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee just issued a report on Donald Trump and the Russians that should really have been written by Sergeant Schultz of Hogan's Heroes. Despite all the evidence, the report stated that nobody in Trump's campaign had ever heard of Vladimir Putin, and couldn't find Russia on a world map even if their lives depended on it. None of them had ever even ordered Russian dressing on their salads, it seems. The entire whitewash of a report could have very easily been handled in a tweet that quoted Sergeant Shultz's most famous line: 'I see nothing... NOTHING!' Thankfully, this is not the way that Bob Mueller's investigation is being conducted, though."

 

6
   Hey, it worked in Nuremberg, didn't it?

Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it, it seems.

"Speaking of whitewashing a sketchy past, the Central Intelligence Agency just declassified a report into Donald Trump's pick to head the agency. Gina Haspel was in charge of a 'black site' which tortured prisoners, but the declassified report only dealt with one specific allegation, that Haspel had drafted the memo that ordered C.I.A. agents to destroy all the evidence -- including videotapes of the interrogations. As a result of a disciplinary review in 2011, Haspel only wrote this memo 'on the direct orders' of her superior, who was worried the tapes would leak out to the public, and who believed his actions were legal -- without clearing them with his superior at the time. The report stated that 'It was not her decision to destroy the tapes,' and therefore the C.I.A. 'found no fault with her performance.' Because, as we all know, the 'I was only following orders' defense was proven to be a valid one by all those Nazi prisoners tried at Nuremberg. Oh, wait a minute...."

 

7
   Getting the vote out

And finally, as promised, a positive note to end on today.

"Puerto Rico's governor has been paying some attention to Florida recently, encouraging Puerto Ricans who have moved there to become more engaged in politics. Since Puerto Ricans are American citizens, they instantly become residents of whatever state they happen to move to, just like all other citizens. Meaning that the exodus of people from the island to Florida could become a new and important demographic in Florida's elections. In a statement, Governor Ricardo Rosselló made his intentions clear: 'Seven months after Hurricane Maria... we learned who was willing to support us and who wasn't. With the 2018 midterm elections just around the corner, we want to fully exercise the influence we can have.' He is launching an organization to focus on voter registration, so that Puerto Ricans living elsewhere in the United States can, quote, 'fully participate in the democratic process and become agents for change for the island.' Florida's already a purple state, and with this new effort, it might just become a little bluer. So there's that to look forward to."

-- Chris Weigant

 

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Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground

 

30 Comments on “Friday Talking Points [482] -- Democratic Party Approaches Tipping Point On Legalizing Marijuana”

  1. [1] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Anybody who thinks that the U.S. gov't, in the form of the Postal Service, making unsecured loans to the type of people who normally patronize the infamous "Payday Loan Industry" (i.e., people with bad credit/no credit) will generate a profit for the Postal Service, simply isn't living in the real world.

    If you think the default rate on sub-prime mortgage loans was bad, wait till you see the rate on unsecured loans!

  2. [2] 
    Kick wrote:

    Thankfully, this is not the way that Bob Mueller's investigation is being conducted, though.

    I know, right!? Benedict Donald can refer to Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt" until over and over until he's orange in the face because everybody knows that "Bobby Three Sticks" is actually on a "snitch hunt," and I have it on good authority that he being quite the seeker has already caught himself more than one golden snitch already. ;)

  3. [3] 
    Kick wrote:

    ^^^ Y'all see what happens when you mix drinking with thinking? ^^^ *LOL*

  4. [4] 
    John M wrote:

    [1] C. R. Stucki

    "Anybody who thinks that the U.S. gov't, in the form of the Postal Service, making unsecured loans to the type of people who normally patronize the infamous "Payday Loan Industry" (i.e., people with bad credit/no credit) will generate a profit for the Postal Service, simply isn't living in the real world.

    If you think the default rate on sub-prime mortgage loans was bad, wait till you see the rate on unsecured loans!"

    I guess YOU aren't living in the real world then. Both myself and a friend of mine used the payday loan system in the past.

    I can tell you from personal experience that it took more than one year to pay off a simple one time loan. The maximum amount you can "borrow" at any one time is 500 dollars. People struggle to make regular payments every two weeks and not default. You are basically rolling over the same loan every two weeks unless you pay it off completely, which most of the time is virtually impossible once you get "hooked." You think it's only going to get you over this one time shortage, say your paycheck that week isn't quite enough to cover your rent for that month. But it becomes a trap. It's not like you are taking out a completely NEW loan every couple of weeks. If you miss your payment, they automatically try to deduct your payment from your bank account that you used in order to secure the loan in the first place. So that it comes out of your paycheck before rent, food or anything else.

    They made far more money in interest payments on the loan than they would EVER lose on someone just defaulting on the loan itself. It made a HUGE profit for them.

  5. [5] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Funny how when I point out that a Democrat is proposing a bill that doesn't have a chance of passing that it is missing the larger point, but One Demand is not worth discussing because it will take time build support just like all the other issues you mentioned in the article did and it can't be fully effective right away.

    Seems to me you are missing the larger point on One Demand.

  6. [6] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M.

    If I created the impression in your mind that my [1] post was intended in the slightest way as a defense or an advocacy of the 'Payday Loan' industry, you have my sincerest apology. I FREELY admit that 'Payday Loans" are outright highway robbery, and that the entire industry profits by taking advantage of the poor/innocen/stupid/gullible/vulnerable segment of the public, and that such usury ought to be outlawed.

    And I fully understand that the industry makes huge profits by preying on the ignorant, but my point was that if the gov't got into the business, they would never be permitted to charge outrageous interest in order to cover the defaults, and still make a big profit, so the result would be huge losses for the Postal Service (aka the taxpayers).

  7. [7] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    It's like March Break, so much to unpack, very little time, fun to be had.
    The Weed issue is first...I have enjoyed the measured and sober opines of Dr. Sanjay Gupta over the years ( I thought he'd gone the way of other CNN experts like Miles O'Brien, dusted off and wheeled out when needed) but he's active and talking about medicinal kush. I'm impressed that he's reversed his position on weed (he previously took the stance that it had little or no medicinal value) Upon review, he's come to the same conclusion many have, that Pot can be a weapon in the arsenal against the opiate scourge (a scourge introduced by big pharma and their political lackeys as safe and within acceptable parameters of 'addiction' acceptability!) The first battlefield for nationwide legalization of pot has to be the changing of weed's designation of 'schedule one' drug, not for the short-run of making it legal, but for the 'rescheduling' would open it up for billions of dollars of research.
    I came, I saw, I vaped.
    I observed the Trumpian disintegration on FOX and Fiends, I was reminded by this... https://youtu.be/Ggl72wOwoQE John Cleese was right, as per...it's funnier to watch the people watching the event than the event itself. Pure comedic platinum.
    TP, VI... As a student of history ( I had little choice in the matter, my Mother was a history professor,) I think the lesson of the Nuremberg Trials can be widened in scope as a warning to all the folks in Washington that shill for, and condone the actions of Trump. Nuremberg wasn't a legal proceeding in the typical sense, it was a 'comeuppance' a 'settling of accounts' that the allies, having learned the lesson of the Treaty of Versailles, chose to punish the motley crew that was the Nazi hierarchy, and not the general public. It's obvious to anyone with a grade 5 education and above, what's happening in Washington with the GOP is is nothing short of a criminal conspiracy to maintain Trump in his throne. It's equally obvious, like all good things, it will come to an end...hence the exodus of all the GOP incumbents that made it to grade six unimpeded. There will be a time of, ''paying them back in their own coin'' (a Hitlerian reference, last week's 4/20 reference was noted, I remember what I was doing in 1989 on that date, therefore I have a slightly different take on that date!) for the GOP for this shambles known as the Trump era, democracy has that effect on political adventurers...I digress. Simply put, the umbrella of 'their POTUS' the GOP will have pile of hard questions to answer in 32 months, should the GOP lose three straight houses, the only place left for them to go, for the circle to be complete, is the wood shed...we all know what happens there.

    LL&P

  8. [8] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    I'm sort of on the fence about recreational use, but at the very least marijuana should be universally legal for medical use. My friend's mom died painfully of cancer and there's no reason on earth she should not have had access to legal marijuana to ease her passing.

  9. [9] 
    Paula wrote:

    [7] James: I think the comparison to the Nuremberg Trials is spot on. We will need something - some kind of "truth and reconciliation" effort post-Blotus. If we get proof of high-level GOP complicity in the Russia-meddling story - then heads need to roll. Quite possibly the complicity will amount to "we knew it was happening and did nothing" versus active participation pre-election. But then there's obstruction post-election - the laughable report issued by the House Intelligence Committee being one of many examples. And just plain abdication of responsibility as Blotus smashes and grabs and puts criminals and incompetents in charge of federal agencies, etc. Not to mention Blotus and others using their personal phones, private email accounts, hiding who they're meeting with, getting loans in exchange for favors - all the different forms of corruption the GOP leadership is allowing to occur.

  10. [10] 
    John M wrote:

    [6] C. R. Stucki

    "If I created the impression in your mind that my [1] post was intended in the slightest way as a defense or an advocacy of the 'Payday Loan' industry..."

    Not at all, actually...

    "but my point was that if the gov't got into the business, they would never be permitted to charge outrageous interest in order to cover the defaults, and still make a big profit, so the result would be huge losses for the Postal Service (aka the taxpayers)."

    It is simply my contention that this basic premise of yours is factually wrong to begin with.

    1) Subprime loans have a total default rate of about 20 percent. Regular loans about 5 percent. But this still compares favorably with small third world bank loans to the poor. The famous Grameen Bank also has a total default rate of about 20 percent.

    2) In the case of loan defaults, most lenders still manage to make a substantial profit. It's the borrowers who get into trouble with defaulted loans, not the lenders. Puerto Rico is another prime example of this.

    3) The whole point of U.S. postal bank loan industry would be NOT to make a HUGE profit, but to either simply break even or make only a small one, just enough to cover expenses and keep ahead of operating cost increases and NOT be a burden or drain to the taxpayer.

    4) Most banks are not going to make small personal loans to people who are in most need of them. They mostly make huge loans chiefly to people who have so much in assets that they really don't need the loan in the first place. The only exceptions being car or house loans which are covered by the car or house to begin with itself. Postal banking and loans would fill in a much needed gap. The person who only needs 2,000 dollars, for instance, to cover car repairs in order to keep the job they have.

  11. [11] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    John M.

    Gov't/Postal banking systems are very common throughout the civilized world, and we even had one here years ago, but I fear you and Sen Gillebrand are dreaming that we could initiate a new one here and thereby eliminate the hateful "payday Lending" loanshark industry.

    As far as I'm aware, postal banking systems exist solely to accept poor people's money (savings accts.), and NOT to make unsecured short-term loans.

    There is a valid reason why commercial banks don't make the kind of loans we're talking about - they know they'd never be repaid!!

    Your repaymen/default stats are simply not realistic for the type of loans under discussion. Ask yourself, why would ANY 'poor' person EVER repay an unsecured loan to the gov'T??? There would be no incentive. What are they gonna do if you don't repay?

    And you've got the Puerto Rico situation backward. It's the lenders who are going to eat $billions of losses, the borrowers are in no trouble whatsoever. The banks and hedge funds that loaned the money wil sue, hassle, etc, but you still can't get blood out of a turnip, as the saying goes.

  12. [12] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    CW...was that you photo-bombing when CNN was interviewing Sean Spicer at the 'Secret Washington Correspondent's Other Ball?' hehe

    [9] Paula...Post war Germany, after having been split into four zones of control overseen by France, England, USA and the USSR went about their own versions of 'De-nazification.' The western powers decided to educate the people under its control from kindergarten age and up to expose the Germans to the true horror of the Nazi system, unvarnished. The Russian's decided to demonize the people and the former system and ultimately replaced one system with an equally brutal regime...the effects of that choice can still be seen today, the majority of the nationalistic far-right groups that have sprung up since reunification have their genesis in for Russian controlled urban areas.

    In order for a 'De-Trumpification' of the US to be effective, the western allies model should be applied. This would have to include laying bare all of the misdeeds of Trump and his 'odious apparatus', the removal of his right wing media support apparatus that seem to think telegraphing his verbal sewage is ok. Hannity, Drudge and the NRA will have to go, obviously. Truth about the past is essential if truth for the future is to gain a foothold. The first amendment, last I checked, has no fine print that says freedom of speech includes bald-faced lies, it was designed to allow people to disseminate their own view, not to allow people in a position to influence great swaths of the population with 'alternate facts.'

    *An aside...I saw the speech Wayne La Pierre spat out at C-Pac earlier this year, I thought it odd that he spent more time talking a bunch of nonsense about socialism and how it destroys democracies. Socialist democratic countries, like France, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Australia, New Zealand and the two I call home, England and Canada have much stronger democracy than the US, hell-bells, we even go so far as to elect the winner of the popular vote...go figure! What is now becoming clearer is, I think that speech was as much to get out ahead of the NRA-Russia-Trump triumvirate of conspiracy to nobble the US election, as it was to point out all the above mentioned 'true democracies' also have sane gun laws. It's going to be interesting to see how this NRA funneling of Ruskie cash into Trump's so-called 'self-funded campaign' plays out.

    Humpty Trumpty is so broke...all the kings horses and all the kings men...etc etc.

    LL&P

  13. [13] 
    John M wrote:

    [11] C. R. Stucki

    "There is a valid reason why commercial banks don't make the kind of loans we're talking about - they know they'd never be repaid!!"

    First of all, you are assuming something that is patently false. You are making the assumption that most people are inherently untrustworthy, undeserving, conniving, lazy, worthless, irresponsible, etc. When in fact most people hate having to rely on charity, or government handouts, don't like not being self-reliant, are responsible, do want to work, etc. Most people in fact want off welfare. They want and need helping hand ups, not hand outs. Most people will conform to whatever expectations you have of them. It's human nature. Treat them like responsible adults, and most, granted not all, will behave like responsible adults.

    "Your repayment/default stats are simply not realistic for the type of loans under discussion."

    Actually they came from both government and private company statistics.

    "Ask yourself, why would ANY 'poor' person EVER repay an unsecured loan to the gov'T??? There would be no incentive. What are they gonna do if you don't repay?"

    Since we are talking about a loan from the Federal government, one option would be taking your tax return refund away from you in order to repay your loan, for example. I would call that a pretty good incentive. There are others.

    "And you've got the Puerto Rico situation backward. It's the lenders who are going to eat $billions of losses, the borrowers are in no trouble whatsoever."

    No they are not, since they have already made money on the interest payments. We are talking about the default and loss of the principal, not interest payments already made. You might also want to talk to the borrowers and the trouble they are already in, such as cuts being endured in education, health care, public utilities, higher taxes, etc. all because loan repayments come first.

    "The banks and hedge funds that loaned the money will sue, hassle, etc, but you still can't get blood out of a turnip, as the saying goes."

    No, but you can hassle the turnip to death and keep them from ever trying to accumulate or make any kind of capital advancement in the future through things like bad credit ratings, etc.

  14. [14] 
    Paula wrote:

    [12] James:

    In order for a 'De-Trumpification' of the US to be effective, the western allies model should be applied. This would have to include laying bare all of the misdeeds of Trump and his 'odious apparatus', the removal of his right wing media support apparatus that seem to think telegraphing his verbal sewage is ok. Hannity, Drudge and the NRA will have to go, obviously. Truth about the past is essential if truth for the future is to gain a foothold. The first amendment, last I checked, has no fine print that says freedom of speech includes bald-faced lies, it was designed to allow people to disseminate their own view, not to allow people in a position to influence great swaths of the population with 'alternate facts.'

    Yes, yes, yes!

  15. [15] 
    Paula wrote:

    On another topic, for the record, I liked Michele Wolf's WHCD routine. But I agree with those who believe the whole thing should be abolished. Although I guess it's good for us to be reminded annually that much of the beltway media is out-of-touch, more concerned about their access to power than about reporting on power-abuses, etc.

  16. [16] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    After immersing myself in Trumpworld this weekend, I've come to a startling realization: everything, every single thing that the Democrats think is a bug in the Trump presidency is, in the minds of Republicans, a feature.

    This is unfortunately true of everything we have been shocked to see these last two years, from the revolving door hiring practices of the White House(Trump likes a competitive atmosphere, like the one we saw on The Apprentice), to being hip-deep in investigations over Russian connections (which just demonstrates how desperate the Democrats are to undermine Trump - because he's winning!), to Trump's incoherence (keeps his enemies off-guard), to his insistent lying (see previous entry), to his corruption (Democrats hate anyone who has ever had money - unless they're a movie star or is named Clinton or Soros - therefore anything having to do with money is inherently 'corrupt' to them. Trump is doing business, not 'engaging in corrupt practices' and the fact that the Democrats don't know the difference is a large part of the problem).

    And the reason is, is that after years of getting lip service from establishment Republicans who said that they wanted to abolish the entire New Deal and its progeny, the Nanny State, Trump and his team of radicals are actually trying to accomplish that goal, and to undermine the Democratic raison d'êtres in the process. It's a wildly ambitious agenda, one only a madman would undertake, so....

    Scott Pruitt may be feathering his own nest over at the EPA, but he's also, according to the faithful, restoring "balance" to environmental policy that has for too many years essentially attempted to label the oil and mining industry criminals just for doing their jobs. So he gets a pass, right?

    And so on. Deficits? Requires entitlement cutting, not tax hikes, to solve. Diplomacy? A sucker's bet if there ever was one. The only way to negotiate is through strength - starting with 'or I'll kill you' is much more effective than the traditional UN pussy opening, 'would you mind..?'.

    I point these things out to demonstrate the absolute futility of the hope of 'winning over' on-the-fence Republicans by pointing out what a horrible disaster Trump is. Or that we could wring more votes out of rural America by 'understanding' Trump voters more, which sounds like a prototypical Democratic plan if I ever heard one.

    No, we should point out Trump's flaws in order to activate Democratic turnout in the midterms, and by the way, treat it like a dress rehearsal for the bigger contest that will be held in 2020, when we'll not only have to redouble voter turnout, but also have to defend whichever jackass makes it to the top of the Democratic Ambition Demolition Derby that year.

    But don't, for god's sake, don't rely on large numbers of Republican voters to defect and pad the numbers. It won't happen. They put Trump in the White House in the first place, and are so far very pleased with the result, in part because Democrats are so upset themselves with everything that Trump and his allies have done so far, and fearful for the future.

    "That's good", Republicans think, "fear breeds respect". See? Hopeless.

  17. [17] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Paula [15]: On another topic, for the record, I liked Michele Wolf's WHCD routine. But I agree with those who believe the whole thing should be abolished.

    I ended liking Michele Wolf's routine too, after calming my mother down on the phone. It was a bit blue.

    But good modern comedy.

    And that's why the whole thing should remain a staple part of the DC calendar.

    In fact, the value of whole point of the exercise was more or less proven last night.

    My beef with it is that the organizers of the event have steadfastly refused to fully modernize the thing, move it to the Kennedy Center and make it a full-on yearly roast of the President and Washington Press Corps, with embarrassing clips, skits and sarcastic musical numbers. I'm sure 'The Capitol Steps' have plenty of material for a gig like that.

    With what motivation? Well, let's start with the poor situation that the press is in right now. Suppose that instead of handing out a few journalism scholarships, the press association was able to cover the entire cost of hiring investigative journalists for smaller newspapers, or able to fund FOIA battles in court, or provide seed money to start up newspapers in under-served areas? Or maintenance costs for serious bloggers?

    A little celebrity glitz would go a long way toward paying for bigger ambitions.

    As for the Press Corps themselves, they should have some smaller event with just themselves and a few guests. A dinner, perhaps.

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Paula[15],

    I think what the media doesn't realize - among other things, of course - is just who the audience for the comedy routine actually is. Hint - it's not them!

    But, their reaction to it is oh so predictable and hypocritical.

    The next time they complain about the lies and dismissive attitude with raised eyebrows above smoky eye that greets them at each and every press briefing at the White House, they should instead ponder their own dismal approval ratings.

    So, until the WHPC and media at large begin to act like professional journalists whose primary function is to inform the electorate, the lot of them should have to endure a comedy routine just like the one Michele Wolf served up on a regular basis.

  19. [19] 
    Paula wrote:

    [18] Elizabeth:

    The next time they complain about the lies and dismissive attitude with raised eyebrows above smoky eye that greets them at each and every press briefing at the White House, they should instead ponder their own dismal approval ratings.

    Exactly!

  20. [20] 
    Paula wrote:

    [17] Balthasar:

    With what motivation? Well, let's start with the poor situation that the press is in right now. Suppose that instead of handing out a few journalism scholarships, the press association was able to cover the entire cost of hiring investigative journalists for smaller newspapers, or able to fund FOIA battles in court, or provide seed money to start up newspapers in under-served areas? Or maintenance costs for serious bloggers?

    Good ideas!

  21. [21] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    It's a warm spring day, and the hawks are making lazy circles way up in the air above Iran.

    Netayahu's presentation, filled with slides, and 'dramatic' reveals, was a good rundown of Iran's nuclear program before the Iran Agreement, but showed no evidence that inspectors have missed any ongoing activity.

    If anything, it's a good argument for sticking with the agreement, as it's better to keep the inspectors on the ground there to keep an eye on what the Iranians are actually doing.

    What is needed are guys with geiger counters, not bellicose rhetoric. Under the present deal, inspectors get unprecedented access - more than enough to detect the sort of activity that Bibi alleges, if it exists.

    Did the hawks learn nothing from Iraq and Afghanistan? Silly question: of course not!

  22. [22] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    Back to the Michelle Wolf controversy, which gets better by the second: Talev has admitted that she hired Wolf because she was 'provocative', before complaining after the fact that she was 'divisive'. Apparently there is a space in her mind where those two things aren't synonyms.

    Dennins Miller says he will have some good jokes on the subject 'in a few days'. Someone of course pointed out that this is the very definition of 'slow-witted'.

  23. [23] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Balty [16]

    (Clapping) Standing ovation! I could not agree more with your comments after spending the last two weeks back in Georgia with my Fox-News-Only family. I would only add that I realized that my family’s lack of understanding of how law enforcement works has aided Trump’s reputation with them when Trump constantly yells that Mueller’s investigation has not found Trump was guilty of collusion with Russia.

    My dad is a very intelligent, kind, and reasonable man, yet he had a hard time accepting that law enforcement investigations do not announce any of their findings until they complete the investigation! Granted, usually we never know about investigations until they are finished — law enforcement doesn’t usually tell those being investigated what they are doing as it spoils all the fun. My father kept saying, “They’ve been doing this for over a year, just how much money does Mueller make for this gig?” I kept having to remind him that Mueller was paid a salary to work for the FBI and that this “gig” wasn’t just a way for lots of attorneys to bill the government for as long as they could without producing any results! And despite what Fox News kept telling him, Mueller’s investigation HAS produced lots of results so far! Multiple guilty pleas and multiple indictments have already occurred, and more were surely to come!

    But like you said, Trump was shaking things up as far as my family was concerned. I honestly believe that they are fine with Trump’s making money off of his presidency because at least he does it for all the world to see instead of doing it secretly the way the rest of our elected officials have been doing it all this time. My dad is sick of politicians and their lies. He voted for a person he knew was a liar and greedy because Trump was at least honest about being a liar and greedy, unlike the others. That is some messed up and depressing realizations, but it is what Devon and I both walked away from our time down South feeling.

  24. [24] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    LWYH (23): I swear that I had almost that same conversation at the Waffle House this afternoon, with a fair amount of Hillary-bashing thrown in. The whole litany, including the specious 'Uranium One' bullshit. It IS messed up and depressing, especially when you consider that it's basically deliberately concocted disinformation from Fox News writers.

    In fact, it's really a disservice to legitimate news organizations to call Fox "news". It belongs on the entertainment/fiction menu, and shouldn't be allowed into any journalistic organization or forum at all.

  25. [25] 
    Kick wrote:

    Balthasar
    16

    But don't, for god's sake, don't rely on large numbers of Republican voters to defect and pad the numbers. It won't happen.

    Many Republicans are being exposed for the spineless hypocrites they always have been (not saying they're the only hypocrites) since their heads would be exploding if Obama were saying/doing the same things they ignore from Trump as long as it makes the "libruls" angry, but keep in mind that a healthy number of them are defecting and while they may not vote for a Democrat, they are not remotely motivated at the present time to vote for the "bait and switch" fake populism and con of Benedict Donald again. Fool me once...

    So many more shoes still to drop too.

  26. [26] 
    neilm wrote:

    Ask yourself, why would ANY 'poor' person EVER repay an unsecured loan to the gov'T???

    I guess nobody pays their taxes then. How is a $1,000 loan different from a $1,000 tax bill on April 15th?

    The government is very good at getting the money it is owed. And if you stiff the government, they usually are also the same people who are giving you welfare.

  27. [27] 
    italyrusty wrote:

    Samantha Bee had a funny and intelligent (so what else is new?) segment recently about marijuana.

    As for the Republican who 'prayed so hard' for Trump to win the election, as we say in the South, "Bless her Heart".

    https://youtu.be/_WjxBS93OVY

  28. [28] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    neilm

    If you're having difficulty discerning the differences between the statutory mechanisms available to the IRS for collecting delinquent income taxes compared to the collection of other types of debt, research and compare how many delinquent taxpayers are in jail or have had their assets confiscated compared to the number of student loan defaulters in similar circumstances.

  29. [29] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    Hypocrisy, noun...'the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform; pretense.'

    In other news, seems it's and assault on the rights of society and the rights of the individual to have the FBI, armed to the teeth with court ordered warrants, to raid a lawyers office, but it's somehow ok to send your personal Gehime Staatspolize to raid your doctor's office.

    Why do I get the feeling the 'spit's going hit the spam' in the upcoming weeks?

    LL&P

  30. [30] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    It's not until snippets of Trump's fertilizing of his fan-base started appearing that I remember how completely annoying he is while preening. Vanity is one thing, unabashed vanity another, but unabashed unvarnished vanity makes me want to give myself an uppercut to see if the world is real. All this drivel about a Nobel Peace Prize reminds me of some twitchy dude ABC interviewed about a month ago, this benighted creature started an online campaign to have Trump's likeness chiselled into Mt. Rushmore! While I'm always impressed by temerity, my eye started twitching at the thought. Maybe someone can explain this American phenomenon of the right-wing to reach a completely opposite take on reality than that which is supported by cold facts. Trump, in all likelihood, is going to yank the US out of the Iran agreement to please his base, most of whom, I'll wager, can't find Iran on a map. It makes no-never-mind that welshing on yet another international agreement won't instill any confidence on the part of the Korea's, but hey...let's throw Trump's hat and hair-cream into the Nobel ring for chortle.
    I think we all know how this Korean caper will end...in a classic Trumpian debacle, from which he'll emerge with a catastrophe of his own making and a person, other than himself, to blame. It's Trump's bailiwick to reach beyond his ability, fail utterly, then cast about for handy fall-guys.

    As for Ms. Wolf, I watched her routine and found some of it funny, some of it obvious and some of it dull...I couldn't care less if Sarah Huckabee Sanders was given a lick of the cat, she's been pissing down the backs of reporters for months, that stony face she pasted on during her humiliation is no different from the blank stares she inaugurates five times a week from her imodium podium. I'm not a fan of abortion jokes in the same way I don't find be-headings a curiosity. Shock-value humour is a lose-lose gambit at the best of times. Were I to have my druthers at that gig, I would have stuck with the equal opportunity gags that the political climate writes for itself on a daily basis...Such as, Ben Carson and his 'pyramid granaries', Scott Pruitt and his 'safety Tardis', Kelly-Anne Conway and her 'Machiavellian microwave' and the nausea inducing Trump-Macron bromance, to name a few.

    LL&P

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