States’ Usury Laws Allow Interest Rates up to 438% on $500 Six-Month Loans

Goldman Sachs Gets into the Non-Collateralized Personal Loan Business

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: June 18, 2018 ~ 

Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein famously said in 2009 at the height of the financial crisis that he was “doing God’s work.” What Goldman Sachs was actually doing in secret at that time was receiving billions of dollars in undisclosed loans from the Federal Reserve – often at the insanely low interest rate of .01 percent. Goldman was also living off billions of dollars in publicly acknowledged taxpayer bailouts, while paying out obscene bonuses to its executives, including those who had shorted (made bets against) the U.S. housing market as it collapsed into the greatest disaster since the Great Depression. (See related articles below.)

Last week we received an unsolicited direct mail offer from Goldman Sachs. It was offering us the ability to borrow a personal loan ranging from $3500 to $40,000 with rates ranging from 6.99 to 24.99 percent. The solicitation noted that “only the most creditworthy applicants qualify for the lowest rates; and longer term loans have higher rates.”

The Goldman deal was coming from “Marcus,” which a footnote informed us “is a product of Goldman Sachs Bank USA,” a bank being backstopped with Federal deposit insurance, which is, in turn, backstopped ultimately by the U.S. taxpayer.

To summarize, a bank that received a cumulative total of $814 billion in bailout funds during a financial crash it helped to create, with much of that amount consisting of secret loans from the Fed at an interest rate close to zero, wants to charge interest rates as high as 25 percent to Americans, many of whom are still struggling to recover from the greatest economic downturn since the 1930s.

We decided to find out what ever happened to state usury laws that capped the amount of interest that banks and other types of lenders could charge to consumers. What we found wasn’t pretty. America has traveled from an age of enlightenment on usury to the Dark Ages.

In the early 18th Century, the American colonies set an interest rate cap on loans at 8 percent. In the late 18th Century, most states adopted a 6 percent cap on interest rates on loans. The early 1900s saw a rise in the power of Wall Street banks in Washington: 11 states eliminated their usury laws completely while others raised the cap to 10 to 12 percent interest. Between the 1940s and late ‘70s, the caps exploded across the United States, with many states allowing interest rates as high as 36 percent. Things have gotten dramatically worse since that time.

The Wall Street banking cartel – where a handful of banking behemoths now control the majority of savings deposits, and mortgages, and credit cards in the United States – also effectively control through

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Federal Gov’t Greenlights Massive Predatory Lending

Banking in the U.S. Got a Lot More Dangerous this Week

By Pam Martens and Russ Martens: August 3, 2018 ~

Joseph Otting, Comptroller of the Currency

The Trump administration seems hellbent on turning every Federal regulator into a snake oil salesman.  The latest scandal du jour comes yesterday from Politico’s Ben Lefebvre who reports that the Inspector General of the Interior Department is investigating whether the Interior’s head honcho, Ryan Zinke, colluded with the head of Halliburton to build him his dream brewery in his hometown of Whitefish, Montana.

Against that backdrop, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced on Tuesday that financial technology companies, known as fintech, which provide various types of banking activities other than accepting insured deposits, will now be allowed to apply for a special purpose national bank charter and operate across state lines. The OCC announcement promptly followed a report from the U.S. Treasury which recommended that the OCC make the charter available.

The immediate impact of gaining such a charter would be that online lenders who now must abide by state by state limits on the amount of interest they can

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The Collapse of Our Humanity

Hepatitis A outbreak worsens in West Virginia, Kentucky

August 4, 2018

By Naomi Spencer
4 August 2018

Hundreds of Kentuckians and West Virginians have been diagnosed with Hepatitis A, with dozens of new cases being reported in recent weeks. More than 1,200 cases have been reported in Kentucky, over half resulting in hospitalization. Eight Kentuckians have died from the infection. In West Virginia, at least 699 people have been diagnosed and two have died.

Officials in both states caution that the real rate may be far higher, and that the outbreak may take months or even years to peak.

Hepatitis A is a highly contagious infection of the liver, caused by contact with infected fecal matter. The virus can take several weeks to manifest symptoms. It causes abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and jaundice. A large number of those diagnosed with Hep A are intravenous drug users, and many are homeless.

Although restaurants where workers are infected have dominated news headlines, overcrowded shelters and jails are among the primary sources of contracting the infection.

In Lexington, Kentucky, the Catholic Action Center homeless shelter began mandating a Hep A vaccine for people seeking overnight shelter, and has put clients on sanitizing all surfaces to help prevent contamination. Unlike many viruses, Hep A can remain alive on a surface for months.

Catholic Action Center co-founder Ginny Ramsey pointed out in a July 30 interview with reporter Mary Meehan of the Ohio Valley ReSource that low-wage restaurant workers and the homeless population are not mutually exclusive groups. “We do have a lot of people who do that,” she said; “about 40 percent of our clients have full-time jobs.”

In Ashland’s Boyd County, on the border with West Virginia, a spate of infections among food service workers prompted county health officials mandating vaccination of all food workers. The mandatory order reflects business owners’ distress at plummeting restaurant visits by many who are scared by local news reporting. Ohio Valley ReSource cited one restaurant franchise owner who said another restaurant “lost 70 percent of its customers after a Hep A infection was linked to the business.”

Since 2016, the CDC has warned of the danger of an HIV and Hepatitis C outbreak in Kentucky and West Virginia. In February, the Northern Kentucky Health Department reported a cluster of 43 cases of HIV, centered in injection drug users. Similarly, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found 40 new cases of HIV last year in West Virginia, spreading in 15 largely rural counties. Ten of the HIV-diagnosed individuals had already developed AIDS.

In Madison County, Kentucky, south of Lexington, the local health department has warned of a Hep A outbreak in the massively overcrowded detention center in Richmond. The facility was built to house 240 inmates, but currently houses over

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Following the Face in the Mirror

The Bizarre Facebook Path to Corporate Fascism

Glen Ford, BAR executive editor

02 Aug 2018

The Bizarre Facebook Path to Corporate Fascism

The Bizarre Facebook Path to Corporate Fascism

“The Facebook intervention is a qualitative escalation of the McCarthyite offensive.”

Facebook has assumed additional political police powers, disrupting a planned counter-demonstration against white supremacists, set for August 12th in Washington, on the grounds that it was initiated and inspired by “Russians” as part of a Kremlin campaign to “sow dissention” in the U.S. The Facebook intervention is a qualitative escalation of the McCarthyite offensive launched by the Democrat Party and elements of the national security state, and backed by most of the corporate media, initially to blame Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat on “collusion” between Wikileaks, “the Russians” and the Trump campaign to steal and publicize embarrassing Clinton campaign emails.

After failing to produce one shred of hard evidence to support their conspiracy theory, the anti-Russia hysteria mongers switched gears, focusing on the alleged purchase of about $100,000 in Facebook ads by the Internet Research Agency (IRA), a St. Petersburg-based Russian company, over a multi-year period. The problem was, most of the ads had no direct connection to the presidential contest, or were posted after the election was over, and many had no political content, at all. The messages were all over the place, politically, with the alleged Russian operatives posing as Christian activists, pro- and anti-immigration activists, and supporters of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller was forced to flip the script, indicting 13 Russiansfor promoting general “discord” and undermining “public confidence in democracy” in the United States – thus creating a political crime that has not previously been codified in the United States.

Mueller was forced to flip the script.”

In doubling down on an unraveling conspiracy tale, the Mueller probe empowered itself to tar and feather all controversial speech that can be associated with utterances by “Russians,” even if the alleged “Russians” are, in fact, mimicking the normal speech of left- or right-wing Americans — a descent, not into Orwell’s world, but that of Kafka (Beyond the Law) and Heller (Catch-22).

Facebook this week announced that it had taken down 32 pages and accounts that had engaged in “coordinated and inauthentic behavior” in promoting the August 12 counter-demonstration against the same white supremacists that staged the fatal “Unite the Right” demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, a year ago. Hundreds of anti-racists had indicated their intention to rally against “Unite the Right 2.0” under the banner of Shut It Down DC, which includes D.C. Antifascist Collective, Black Lives Matter D.C., Hoods4Justice, Resist This, and other local groups.

Facebook did not contend that these anti-racists’ behavior was “inauthentic,” but that the first ad for the event was purchased by a group calling itself “Resisters” that Facebook believes were behaving much like the Internet Research Agency. “At this point in our investigation, we do not have enough technical evidence to state definitively who is behind it,” said Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy. “But we can say

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#MeToo Screwed

Opera singer Anne Sofie von Otter blames #MeToo witch-hunt for her husband’s suicide

August 3, 2018

#MeToo turns deadly

By David Walsh
3 August 2018

Anne Sofie von Otter, the famed Swedish mezzo-soprano, is speaking out to the press for the first time about the March 2018 suicide of her husband, Benny Fredriksson. She recently gave a lengthy interview to Die Zeit, the German weekly newspaper.

Anne Sofie von Otter in 2011 (Photo credit: Ewa-Marie Rundquist)

After Aftonbladet, a leading Swedish newspaper, published anonymous accusations that he was guilty of sexual and psychological abuse, Fredriksson resigned from his post at the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern (House of Culture and City Theatre) in Stockholm, the country’s premier cultural center and theater, in December 2017. On March 17, while accompanying his wife on tour in Australia, Fredriksson killed himself.

Toward the end of his life, his widow disclosed, Fredriksson was afraid of going out into the street for fear of being recognized. “Suddenly he turned inward and everything was about ‘what did I do wrong?’” she said, according to the Irish Times. Von Otter criticized the #MeToo herd mentality. “What has happened,” she asked, “to our independent, critical thinking?”

An investigation by the city of Stockholm, whose results were published after Fredriksson’s death, revealed there was no evidence of sexual abuse.

Fredriksson’s death was the tragic and terrible product of the ongoing sexual harassment witch-hunt, spreading within affluent upper middle-class circles from country to country like a plague. Many of the vices of this social layer—selfishness, subjectivism, vindictiveness, professional jealousy and ambition—show themselves in the Fredriksson case.

In a recent article, the Washington Post noted that for 16 years Fredriksson led the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern: “He discovered his love for theater at the age of 13 or 14 … and began working in the city theater at 16. The playhouse was an escape from Fredriksson’s hard-knock childhood, circumscribed by the one-room apartment where his family lived. His mother was an alcoholic, his wife said.”

The Irish Times reported July 27 that last December Aftonbladet “printed anonymous accusations that he [Fredriksson] was a ‘little Hitler’ who bullied and terrorised … The newspaper interviewed 40 people who claimed he had turned the centre into his own personal ‘dictatorship’, forced women to rehearse naked and pressed a woman to either have an abortion or forfeit a role.”

None of this

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This is a bummer.

Of particular note in the rallies to which Ocasio-Cortez spoke was the absence of any reference to foreign policy or the slightest hint of opposition to war. In fact, it was as if the rest of the world did not exist.

When a WSWS reporter asked the candidates at the post-rally press briefing in Detroit, “Do both of you support withdrawing all US troops from the Middle East and Africa?” El-Sayed gave an evasive non-answer: “We’ve got to make sure that we are focused on a foreign policy that articulates what we all can do when we come together around a more peaceful world.”

A staffer immediately attempted to conclude the briefing. When the reporter restated the question, “Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, are you anti-war? Do you support withdrawing all US troops from the Middle East?”

She replied, “I’m sorry, I’m here to support Abdul.”

The press conference immediately concluded, and the candidates were whisked away. (The next day, another WSWS reporter asked Ocasio-Cortez the same question at a rally in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She gave the same rehearsed answer.)

After the conclusion of the press conference, a WSWS reporter asked a high-level Ocasio-Cortez staffer, “What does she think the tax rate on the top income bracket should be?” He said he could not answer that question, because “She’s just focused on getting candidates with a similar program elected right now.”

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