How we view ourselves individually and as a nation often comes down to one idea, freedom. Freedom, the central term in our politics, is embedded in our history and our language. It is used interchangeably with liberty in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Yet it remains a subject of debates and dissents.
The history of the republic can be told as a narrative about expanding freedoms to include more and more people. The chief vehicle for this came first in the form of amendments to the Constitution. The first ten Amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, guarantee civil liberties. Subsequent amendments ended slavery, defined citizenship, and extended the franchise to blacks, women and 18 year olds.
Women, racial and ethnic minorities, workers, and others have struggled to deepen and transform the definition of freedom. Over the past generation, some real strides have been made in reducing disparities based on race and sex. Women and minorities have gained greater access in the areas of employment, politics, education, and athletics. In 1998, an amendment to the Iowa constitution added women to the equal rights under the law provision.
On June 26, 2015, the United States Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in a landmark ruling. The states can no longer deny gay men and lesbians the same marriage rights enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. This victory reflected growing public support for marriage equality. In 2009, Iowa became only the third state in the union to give same-sex couples the right to marry in a unanimous ruling of the state’s Supreme Court.
Belief in freedom as a right of all humanity has coexisted with persistent efforts to limit freedom by race, gender, class and in other ways. Limiting freedom has a long history in our country. Slaves, immigrants, the poor, and others have been deprived of liberty. The meaning of freedom has been constructed at various levels, in congressional debates, in political essays, on picket lines, and even in bedrooms.
Since 2009, Republicans have orchestrated a series of voter suppression laws in states they control. The laws supposedly prevent voter impersonation fraud, a largely non-existent problem. Several states require government-issued photo IDs—like drivers’ licenses—to vote. This disenfranchises those who do not own a car as well elderly and disabled non-drivers. Other measures include restricting early voting, eliminating same-day registration, and shortening polling hours. The new rules limit the voting rights and electoral power of Democratic leaning constituencies, blacks, Hispanics, lower income people, the poor, and college students. Several states gerrymander districts to reduce the political power of minorities and Democrats, and thereby guarantee Republican control in Congress.
In the 1970s, freedom as a political category became the appropriated domain of conservatives. The adherents of this ideology care little for the common good and public welfare or shared sacrifice and mutual responsibility. Rather they worship the “free market” and define government as intrusive and overreaching. Thus freedom, to them, became a matter of unrestrained individualism, not social citizenship.
Today, the idea of freedom continues to circumscribe our culture and politics. Freedom’s meanings remain vigorously contested. The debates will continue and new definitions will emerge. Rather than a fixed category or concept, then, conflicts over freedom have become an essential part of our democratic tradition.
The promise of American freedom leaves no one out. Securing American freedom for all, moreover, remains an ongoing struggle. We live in an age of impermanence and instability which requires courage and steadfastness in protecting our civil liberties.
June 30, 2016
Interesting to note last week that Steve King made a big splash with an amendment to stop any funding for the Treasury that would be used to redesign the $20 bill. King claimed his amendment was concerned only with the waste of government money for a project that he deemed not worthwhile.
Most observers noted that King’s motivation was more likely due to the fact that the redesign will put a black woman on the face of US currency for the first time. Such motivation would be in line with King’s career. As noted by Congressman Dave Loebsack when King introduced his amendment:
Although the House Rules Committee isn’t allowing King’s amendment to be considered, Loebsack today issued a one-sentence statement saying, “Steve King and his history of racist and sexist comments is an embarrassment to Iowa.”
This past week King had another chance to show his fiscal concern. The House Select Committee on Benghazi abruptly finished their assignment, issued a biased report that in the bottom line said they found nothing, just as five previous committees investigating the very same thing had fond.
Now this committee spent $7 million. In total Republicans have wasted over $20 million of tax money chasing what they knew was nothing on Benghazi. Add in the valuable time wasted by congressional staff and other bureaucrats who had to spend time and money to produce documents for this committee. Add in money spent trying to tar and feather the Clintons during Bill’s presidency and the total comes to nearly $200 million.
This was congressional money and time that even Republican Party last year admitted was being used on a partisan witch hunt aimed at presidential contender Hillary Clinton:
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable right? But we put together a Benghazi Special Committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping,” McCarthy said. “Why? Cause she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought and made that happen,”
Now, Mr. King it is time to show your true conservative chops. It is time to prove you are what you claim you are. Stand up and show some outrage at this arrogant and many would say illegal waste of money. Show us some outrage, Congressman!
< < crickets >>
< < crickets >>
What a surprise. Steve King is once again shown to be a phony. Congressman Loebsack’s statement is true.
Remember elections have their consequences. One of the consequences of electing Steve King for so many years is that he embarrasses Iowa and gives others a false impression of the good people that live here.
Kim Weaver can change that with your vote.
Email posted to us from the Patty Judge campaign Thursday afternoon carried some great news:
Earlier this month: A PPP poll showed us just 7 points behind Chuck Grassley — a popular incumbent. And another PPP poll showed Grassley’s popularity has plummeted since he blocked hearings for Judge Garland.
Today: A brand new poll was released showing that this race is virtually tied:
Patty Judge: 45% | Chuck Grassley: 46%
Loras College, 06/30/2016
Well, isn’t that exciting? Independence Day and maybe Iowa will be looking at relieving itself of one of its ruling elite of nearly 4 decades in Washington. Indeed this is exciting.
Don’t sit back and rest, though. Grassley will not go down without a huge and expensive fight. Judge will need your money and your time. Get in touch with her campaign or with your county Democratic Party.
Also do not forget that Monica Vernon, Jim Mowrer and Kim Weaver have excellent opportunities to defeat their opponents this fall. Dave Loebsack needs your help retaining his seat.
Just as important is Democrats being elected to the state house and senate. Terry Branstad wants to turn Iowa into another Kansas or Wisconsin. Two seats in the senate and no change in the house and Branstad gets his wish. Kansas may not even be able to open their schools this fall because the Republican controlled legislature plus Governor Brownback have made such a mess of the state finances.
Voting is the minimum commitment needed this year. Join in. It will be fun.
Iowa’s recent very unpopular and poorly thought out experience with the privatization of the administration of Medicaid in Iowa makes one wonder what are the roots of privatization in this country and how pervasive is privatization. Much like guns or health care, no one else in the industrialized world does privatization (or profitization as many call it) like we do in the United States.
How was the right able to get the country to move from having most of their public services provided by governmental agencies to a point where even some of the most basic of public services are contracted out to a private supplier? For those of us who have had it happen to us but never understood why or what the driving force behind it was, Talking Points Memo has begun a series that will hopefully answer those questions.
So far the introduction and the first part of a four part series have been posted at the site. From the looks of the start this will be an extremely informative series and one well worth your time to read and understand.
Here is a little teaser from part one of The Hidden History Of The Privatization Of Everything:
“Austrian-born economist Friedrich von Hayek was the movement’s intellectual leader. His 1944 book, The Road to Serfdom, is considered to be the intellectual wellspring of anti-government, pro-market ideas and the privatization of public goods. The book was met with surprising success – with excerpts printed in Readers Digest and Look Magazine. It continues to be a significant influence on politicians, journalists, and business leaders. House Speaker Paul Ryan considers Hayek his intellectual guru.
Yet public support for government remained high throughout the postwar years as public services expanded and the economy grew. Hayek and his followers, therefore, were powerless to stem the continued growth of government activities throughout the 1950s. This began to change in 1962 with the publication of Capitalism and Freedom by economist Milton Friedman. Friedman was an effective promoter of two critical ideas: governments were just like markets and government was a public monopoly. Both of these became central arguments of privatization advocates in the 1970s and 1980s.
Friedman’s most important insight was that privatization didn’t necessarily mean cutting popular public services. The public still trusted and valued government programs; Friedman’s argument gave privatization advocates a new approach by making the distinction between government responsibility and government provision of public goods. You could put public services in the hands of private contractors while still maintaining the program. Friedman’s real agenda, though, was clearly about removing public responsibility as well. He called for the elimination of Social Security, the minimum wage, public housing and all national parks.”
A friend told me way back in the 80s that once the privatization started it will be impossible to stop, let alone reverse. This is an easy way for politicians to claim they are saving taxpayer dollars, even though they often are more expensive. Privatization is also an easy way to avoid blame when something goes wrong. This is near and dear to a politician’s heart.
Republicans lost no time in blaming Muslims for the massacre in Orlando last weekend. As the investigation unfolds it becomes more and more clear that the perpetrator was a lone wolf who was really screwed up. Apparently he was really screwed up about his sexuality. His targeting of gays seems to be quite premeditated.
This aspect of the crime is all but ignored by Republicans. The last thing they want to do is to say anything that would promote sympathy for one of their perpetual punching bags.
What they do want to do is to once again is to ignore any evidence and catapult the propaganda that once more we must be in fear and we must turn to the Daddy party for safety. The bogey man du jour is Muslims. In the past it has been Communists, blacks, Latinos or any one of a number of “other” humans. Those folks are still pulled out of the trunk now and then and shaken to remind us to be scared of them, but today we must fear Muslims.
So while the real target was the LGTB community, Republicans once again tilt at the windmill marked “Muslim.”
Not only do they tilt at that windmill, but they insist that we all must talk about their windmill in only a certain way. They insist that their windmill be called “radical Islam” and nothing less. Republicans lecture others on political correctness, that speaking of people and things in a respectful way is somehow evil. Yet within their ranks they practice their own version politically correct speech. In their version anyone or anything marked as an enemy must only be spoken of in a denigrating way. To not do so illustrates your unfitness for office.
So if say a president does not refer to Muslims as “radical Islamists” then that is proof that he is in sympathy with the enemy and must resign. In a similar strain, blacks are referred to as “thugs”; latinos as “drug smugglers or criminals”; anyone who wants strong government as a “communist” or “socialist”; union members are likened to thieves and government workers are portrayed as lazy and worthless. But guns are never bad or a tool of death. Nope guns are good and the more the better.
Republicans want the media and their opponents to only discuss issues using their terms. In other words they want issues spoken of in their politically correct language. Their words are loaded with images they conjure up – my favorite is that Reaganesque term “welfare queen.” The only way we can have substantive discussions is to use words of respect that are not loaded with hate. We can’t make good decisions if our thought process is clouded.
And of course Iowa’s politicians are always ready to join the parade. Here’s Terry Branstad: “My heart goes out to the people that were killed and their families, and I think it underscores why we need to be vigilant, and we need new leadership that’s going to take this threat from Islamic terrorism seriously,”
Steve King once again shows his shallow understanding of any problem that all our ills are caused by terrorists that we don’t talk about in the Republican way:
“King also said that “political correctness” was keeping the United States from responding to and preventing terrorist attacks, a view shared by Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).”
A simple google search gives us Mother Jones’ continuing investigation of mass shootings in the US 1993 to 2016. This table shows that most of the mass murders in the US were perpetrated by whites (see pivot table 1 on MJ link). “Islamic Terrorist” doesn’t as yet rate a category.
What we do see in this table is guns, guns, guns. At a glance that is at the core of every mass murder listed. Potential mental illness rates second place. The guns – even weapons of war – are easily obtained in this country thanks in great degree to a lobbying group named the NRA and spineless congress critters like Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst.
Republicans once again take a serious situation and twist the data to fit their narrative rather than investigate to find the real sources of the problems. If this sounds familiar, let me remind you that 15 years ago airplanes were hijacked and flown into buildings in New York City. Then the Republican administration began the task of fitting an attack by religious extremists from Saudi Arabia to their desire to invade Iraq and steal Iraq’s oil.
Based on statements by various Republican officeholders and candidates we know there is a strong desire to once more have the US get deeply militarily involved in the Middle East. Once again they will need to create a reason for military action. Getting the public to go along with such an adventure again after the last disaster will take a lot of PC – propaganda channeling.
CFPB Proposes Prohibiting Mandatory Arbitration Clauses that Deny Groups of Consumers their Day in Court
Bureau Seeks Comment on Proposal to Ban a Contract Gotcha that Prevents Groups of Consumers from Suing Consumer Financial Companies
MAY 05, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is seeking comments on proposed rules that would prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses that deny groups of consumers their day in court. Many consumer financial products like credit cards and bank accounts have contract gotchas that generally prevent consumers from joining together to sue their bank or financial company for wrongdoing. These widely used clauses leave consumers with no choice but to seek relief on their own – usually over small amounts. With this contract gotcha, companies can sidestep the legal system, avoid accountability, and continue to pursue profitable practices that may violate the law and harm countless consumers. The CFPB’s proposal is designed to protect consumers’ right to pursue justice and relief, and deter companies from violating the law.
“Signing up for a credit card or opening a bank account can often mean signing away your right to take the company to court if things go wrong,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “Many banks and financial companies avoid accountability by putting arbitration clauses in their contracts that block groups of their customers from suing them. Our proposal seeks comment on whether to ban this contract gotcha that effectively denies groups of consumers the right to seek justice and relief for wrongdoing.”
In recent years, many contracts for consumer financial products and services – from bank accounts to credit cards – have included mandatory arbitration clauses. They affect hundreds of millions of consumer contracts. These clauses typically state that either the company or the consumer can require that disputes between them be resolved by privately appointed individuals (arbitrators) except for cases brought in small claims court. Where these clauses exist, either side can generally block lawsuits from proceeding in court. These clauses also typically bar consumers from bringing group claims through the arbitration process. As a result, no matter how many consumers are injured by the same conduct, consumers must proceed to resolve their claims individually against the company.
Through the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Congress required the CFPB to study the use of mandatory arbitration clauses in consumer financial markets. Congress also gave the Bureau the power to issue regulations that are in the public interest, for the protection of consumers, and consistent with the study.
Released in March 2015, the CFPB’s study showed that very few consumers ever bring – or think about bringing – individual actions against their financial service providers either in court or in arbitration. The study found that class actions provide a more effective means for consumers to challenge problematic practices by these companies. According to the study, class actions succeed in bringing hundreds of millions of dollars in relief to millions of consumers each year and cause companies to alter their legally questionable conduct. The study showed that at least 160 million class members were eligible for relief over the five-year period studied. Those settlements totaled $2.7 billion in cash, in-kind relief, and attorney’s fees and expenses. In addition, these figures do not include the potential value to consumers of class action settlements requiring companies to change their behavior. However, where mandatory arbitration clauses are in place, companies are able to use those clauses to block class actions.
The CFPB proposal is seeking comment on a proposal to prohibit companies from putting mandatory arbitration clauses in new contracts that prevent class action lawsuits. The proposal would open up the legal system to consumers so they could file a class action or join a class action when someone else files it. Under the proposal, companies would still be able to include arbitration clauses in their contracts. However, for contracts subject to the proposal, the clauses would have to say explicitly that they cannot be used to stop consumers from being part of a class action in court. The proposal would provide the specific language that companies must use.
The proposal would also require companies with arbitration clauses to submit to the CFPB claims, awards, and certain related materials that are filed in arbitration cases. This would allow the Bureau to monitor consumer finance arbitrations to ensure that the arbitration process is fair for consumers. The Bureau is also considering publishing information it would collect in some form so the public can monitor the arbitration process as well.
The benefits to the CFPB proposal would include:
* A day in court for consumers: The proposed rules would allow groups of consumers to obtain relief when companies skirt the law. Most consumers do not even realize when their rights have been violated. Often the harm may be too small to make it practical for a single consumer to pursue an individual dispute, even when the cumulative harm to all affected consumers is significant. The CFPB study found that only around 2 percent of consumers with credit cards who were surveyed would consult an attorney or otherwise pursue legal action as a means of resolving a small-dollar dispute. With class action lawsuits, consumers have opportunities to obtain relief from the legal system that, in practice, they otherwise would not receive.
* Deterrent effect: The proposed rules would incentivize companies to comply with the law to avoid group lawsuits. Arbitration clauses enable companies to avoid being held accountable for their conduct. When companies know they can be called to account for their misconduct, they are less likely to engage in unlawful practices that can harm consumers. Further, public attention on the practices of one company can affect or influence their business practices and the business practices of other companies more broadly.
* Increased transparency: The proposed rules would make the individual arbitration process more transparent by requiring companies that use arbitration clauses to submit any claims filed and awards issued in arbitration to the CFPB. The Bureau would also collect correspondence from arbitration administrators regarding a company’s non-payment of arbitration fees and its failure to adhere to the arbitration forum’s standards of conduct. The collection of these materials would enable the CFPB to better understand and monitor arbitration. It would also provide insight into whether companies are abusing arbitration or whether the process itself is fair.
The proposed rules which the CFPB is seeking comment on would apply to most consumer financial products and services that the CFPB oversees, including those related to the core consumer financial markets that involve lending money, storing money, and moving or exchanging money. Congress already prohibited arbitration agreements in the largest market that the Bureau oversees – the residential mortgage market.
In October 2015, the Bureau published an outline of the proposals under consideration and convened a Small Business Review Panel to gather feedback from small companies. In addition to consulting with small business representatives, the Bureau sought input from the public, consumer groups, industry, and other stakeholders before continuing with the rulemaking. That process concluded in December 2015 with a written report to the Bureau’s director, which is also being released today.
The public is invited to comment on these proposed regulations when they are published in the Federal Register. Written comments will be carefully considered before final regulations are issued.
The proposal is available here.
The Small Business Review Panel report is available here.
The March 2015 CFPB report on arbitration is available here.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov
Why wasn’t this ruling unanimous?
We congratulate the Iowa Supreme Court for ruling that governmental boards could not hold meetings via proxy. This they said violated the the open meetings provision of Iowa law.
If a majority of a board conveys communication on policy matters back and forth and in some way seeks to do this in a way that blocks the public from from these discussions it definitely violates the spirit of the law that sought to stop the practices of secret meetings with policy made in secret and without public input.
Briefly, the three members of the Warren County board of supervisors held individual meetings with the county administrator concerning downsizing. The county administrator then relayed information from those individual meetings to the other members. Thus he acted almost as a meeting facilitator even though there technically was not a meeting. Very sneaky and at that time technically not illegal, but certainly seemed on the edge.
America moved away from decisions made in back rooms long ago, or so they thought. Any attempt to circumvent the open meeting rules should be viewed as an egregious betrayal of the public trust. These supervisors were not elected to ignore the public input and purview.
It is strange that there was even a dissent let alone three. When lawmakers draw up laws they can’t possibly think of every conceivable way to get around a law. It is hard to believe that an Iowa Supreme Court justice could say “this specific instance isn’t listed in the law, so therefore meetings held this way are legal.’
Thank you, Justices, for a decision that keeps the public from being shut out of its right know what goes on in their government.