USE COMMON SENSE: Why would anyone do that? Most consumers are in a new class of disabled Americans.

I have long believed that the reason why Hillary Rodham Clinton became radioactive consisted of two things: first was the popularity of Ronald Reagan who hated a program that started with bipartisan consensus in 1971. It was called the Legal Services Corporation. The LSC was an obviously needed program to provide access to legal services to those who would otherwise be unable to receive it. That was when Republicans like Nixon and Democrats like Kennedy all believed in the same basic premise: the role of government was to keep the playing field level and mitigate the inevitable tilting of the playing field in favor of successful people.

The general premise behind it was the same as the necessity of providing criminal defendants with a defense attorney. Reagan’s hatred of this program was buttressed by his political popularity, which in turn was supported by the business community, who viewed economically disadvantaged people as food. And they didn’t want anything to interfere with their food supply.

All of that was based upon a simple premise that is generally understood and accepted by all political spectrums: the lower the income and wealth of an individual, the more likely it is that they will spend every penny they can lay their hands on whether in the form of wages, loan, gift, or anything else. This was virtually glorified by the ascent of the payroll advance “lenders.”

Contrary to what everyone thought and believed, the average income of the person who used a payday advance financial product was around $56,000 20 years ago. By most economic metrics, that equates to at least $68,000 now.

These are the people who literally live paycheck to paycheck and still can’t quite make it. So when they are confronted with improper or false claims asserting the right to administer, collect or enforce money they allegedly owe, they are on their own. The LSC was designed to help at least the lower rungs of this class.

Hillary Clinton was a highly effective leader and promoter of the LSC. When the wind was at her back, she increased funding geometrically and provided highly effective representation to people who would otherwise have been unable to obtain legal services. But perhaps more importantly, these are the people who were most likely deprived of sufficient education even to know that they had rights and that those rights were being violated. The political opposition to the LSC and the political opposition to the healthcare reform proposed by Hillary Clinton in the early years of the Bill Clinton administration made her the target of disgust and hatred, mostly by people who have no idea that she had been working effectively for them and not against them.

Congress was all revved by the republican revolution led by Newt Gingrich. They steadfastly sought and passed measures that restricted the ability of the LSC to function, while Democrats were not so steadfast in opposing those efforts. Republicans were able to paint Hillary as ineffective and “entitled”. At the same time, she and her allies failed to defend against that portrayal. They failed to seize the opportunity to paint the Republican opposition as the party opposing rights for the average American, curating the dominance of big businesses that wanted to feed on those Americans.

The second reason is that she remains radioactive because she failed to market her leadership skills effectively. The “scandals” thrown at her by partisans were not why she lost the 2016 election. I’ll concede that the rollout of her plan for healthcare reform was less than appealing. But it was doomed before it started. Americans had been brainwashed that health benefits through an employer were a good thing and were convinced that the loss of those “benefits” would leave them without health care coverage.

The message that health care would have become more accessible and less expensive was completely lost in the PR wars between the financial industry and big Pharma on one hand and a small unfunded and understaffed vocal minority of people seeking reform.

But that was not the end of it. We all know that eventually, Healthcare reform was, in fact, passed in the Affordable Care Act. And various groups have emerged on statewide and local levels to bring affordable and accessible legal services on issues affecting wide swaths of the population. Some of those focus particularly on the class of citizens who are above the poverty line but, as I stated above, were completely unable to defend improper or illegal claims.

These claims were asserted and pursued to terrorize people into making payments to stop the claim, regardless of whether any legal obligation existed. One such group is the successful non-profit Southern Legal Counsel organization (SouthernLegal.org) operating in Florida.

Established in 1977 — the year I was admitted to the Florida Bar association — and supported by donations and grants, this organization has had many victories, large and small, that favored the consumers who consistently entered into “agreements” without knowing the terms or who were victims of breaches of those agreements.  It is also supported by dozens of law firms who pledge pro bono hours to assist in worthy causes.

So to get the point of this article (besides stirring up debate about Hillary and Healthcare), there is no greater challenge or need for consumers on the lower economic scale than protection from dubious financial products that they do not understand — and which lawyers do not understand because they were not schooled in accounting or auditing. Virtually all of these people are “disabled Americans.” They were disabled by education withheld so they could not possibly understand that they were being lured into “contracts” that only imitated consent.

If you want to know why we have so many vacancies in teacher positions (9500 in Florida), it is because we don’t pay enough to enable them to pursue their dream of teaching — and we make them pay for their own supplies. Next, we will make bus drivers buy their own transportation and buy their own fuel. The initial premise of public education is in the process of being buried — to create thinking, knowledgeable citizens who make up their minds based upon all available relevant information.

Go to any law office or courtroom today, and the opinion will be the equivalent of caveat emptor despite specific statutes and case law to the contrary. The idea that the deal isn’t a loan and was never meant to be a loan by the scheme’s promoters is dismissed as absurd. So let me ask a single question:

Virtualy every installment payment offering today contains low or noninterest for years and low or no payments for at least one year. With interest rates still near historic lows, there is no possible way to make money on that deal if you are the source of funds. So here is the question: why would anyone do that?

The answer is obvious: they are making boatloads of money offering “loans” for what appears to be no payments or small payments. The actual collection from consumers is not nearly as important as getting their signature. It is their signature that is being sold and securitized, not any debt. And all such deals are securitized.

What is the harm? Consumers who depend upon market forces correcting unconscionable and stupid deals are counting on a nonexistent option. Incporated into every American contract is the duty of fair dealing and honesty. Incorporated into every American contract that labels itself as a “loan” is the risk of loss to the vendor of that financial product. That is the self-regulating mechanism that is assumed by consumers, lawyers and judges. But since securitization began its ascent in the 1990s, that risk of loss has been missing completely.

There is no free market nor any free market forces. The vendors of these deals have absolutely no risk of loss on the illusory loan account because the underlying debt either does not exist or had been eliminated trhough the sales of unregulated securities — the proceeds of which are not reported as related to the consuemr transaction that produced the sale. .

Instead there is a pot of revenue and profits that are not reported to consumers, the lawyers or the courts and never credited to an unpaid loan account because everyone was paid at the outset. The money they coerce from consumers is merely gravy on a dish that has already served and satsified dozens of appetites.

The point was not just profit but also the elimination of any possibiity of a reported loss on the financial or accounting ledgers of any company. Thisincludes the company that has been designated by third aprties on behalf of fourth parties as “creditor” for purposes of coerced collction and enforcement of nonexistent debt.

All this is done without any acknowledgement or warranty of the existence and status of the underlying claimed obligation by the company whose name is used and abused (with permission, for a license fee) for purposes of collection and enforcement.

Consumers basically have no access to proper legal services because of two factors. First they have been deprived of education, depriving them of the means to function in a complex financial and legal world. And most would say that they have even been brainwashed about the need for legal services since the alleged delinquent payment is due on a legal debt. Second, even if they knew their rights and even if they knew that their rights were being violated, the cost of legal representation makes it impossible for them to properly defend or contest improper or illegal claims.

The financial community, through a variety of misleading financial products, as adopted business plans that target people of lower education, low income, and any other attributes that could be interfering with the ability to understand or question the terms of a transaction. In my view, the lack of education throughout the school curriculum and into college and postgraduate studies, has created a class of disabled consumers.

Those people have no basis or experience even knowing what questions to ask. The existence of laws requiring disclosure to them, a violation of those laws, and the remedies for violating them are completely unknown. It is up to state and local nonprofit legal services organizations to fill this gap. In doing so they will be correcting a marketplace that is essentially closed, dominated, and controlled by three or four banks, whose impact is felt worldwide. Trillions of dollars have been siphoned from the economies of this country and other countries through this scheme. It is time to tilt the playing field back toward “level.”

The recent renewal of efforts by the department of justice to enforce antitrust legislation that has existed for more than 100 years is a helpful step toward creating conditions that will favor a marketplace in which free market forces can operate. But without active litigation on behalf of those on the financial community who cannot defend baseless claims, it will take much longer to bring back equal opportunity and justice.

 

 

 

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