House Speaker Ryan, GOP Rep. Chabot tout tax overhaul
By DAN SEWELL
Thursday, May 31
SPRINGDALE, Ohio (AP) — House Speaker Paul Ryan touted the federal tax overhaul Thursday during a visit to a grocery chain’s plant with an Ohio Republican who is facing a spirited Democratic challenge in November.
Officials of Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. said tax cuts have enabled the company to increase tuition assistance for employees along with other benefits ranging from higher company contributions to their retirement plans to expanded employee discounts.
“This is what we were thinking about when we passed tax reform,” Ryan told workers at Kroger’s Springdale ice cream and beverage plant, referring to the increased benefits. He toured the plant with veteran GOP Rep. Steve Chabot, who is running for a 12th term in the traditionally Republican 1st District. Democrats are hopeful about their nominee, Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval, fresh off an upset victory in 2016 for the county job. Chabot lost his seat while Democrat Barack Obama carried Ohio in 2008, but won it back in 2010.
Ryan praised Chabot for promoting business growth, saying he’s well-positioned to do so as chairman of the House Small Business Committee.
Kroger employee Jamie Trentman, among some three dozen Kroger employees gathered for a town-hall format in the plant’s break room, grew tearful as she asked what will be done to protect her son Trey, who has joined the Air Force, and help him transition into a job after his service. Ryan replied that the hike in military spending passed this year will give him better equipment and provide training for a future career.
Pureval, meanwhile, said he’d like to meet Chabot in a town hall on “the Ryan-Chabot” tax overhaul.
“If Mr. Chabot truly believes it was good for the people, let’s debate,” Pureval said in a statement.
Ryan, who’s not running for re-election in Wisconsin, also is fundraising in Ohio for House Republicans. Jacob Peters, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spokesman, said Ryan’s visit shows that some GOP-held Ohio seats are vulnerable.
Follow Dan Sewell at http://www.twitter.com/dansewell
House sends bill loosening banking regulations to Trump’s desk
By Donna Borak, CNN
President Donald Trump pledged on the campaign trail to “do a big number” on the Dodd-Frank Act.
And now a Republican bill that offers the most sweeping changes to rules crafted following the 2008 financial crisis is now headed to his desk for his signature.
In a final step on Tuesday, the House voted 258-159 in favor of a bipartisan Senate-crafted bill aimed at loosening regulations for thousands of community banks and regional lenders, including State Street, BB&T and SunTrust.
Its passage marks the end of years of lobbying by the financial industry to soften post-crisis rules and tense negotiations in Congress to win bipartisan support for the bill.
Democrats who supported the bill crafted by Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, have drawn backlash from more progressive members of the party, who argue that a regulatory rollback would make the financial system more vulnerable to another crisis.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who opposed the bill, wrote on Twitter after it passed the Senate in March that “bankers are popping champagne.”
Ahead of the House vote, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters, the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, urged their colleagues not to the vote in favor of the bill.
“We must not allow the GOP Congress to drag us back to the same oversight that ignited the Great Recession,” they wrote to Democratic colleagues this week.
House GOP leaders agreed earlier this month to proceed with a vote after striking a deal with the Senate counterparts. In exchange for bringing it to the floor for a House vote, Senate leaders would press ahead with a companion package of bills supported by House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, a Texas Republican.
Hensarling wanted to add a number of measures to the Senate bill. One would ease disclosure requirements for banks on mortgage loans. Another would allow more companies to file confidential IPOs without divulging all their sensitive financial information right away.
But any changes in the House would send the bill back to the Senate. And moderate Senate Democrats, whose support was critical in advancing the banking bill, have said they won’t vote on the bill twice.
For years, small and regional banks have claimed regulations under Dodd-Frank have hurt their ability to lend and help stimulate the economy.
The legislation will now provide smaller financial institutions with relief from the same set of strict rules as behemoth Wall Street banks. But there are fewer wins for the country’s biggest banks whose failure could endanger the entire financial system if they go under. Top bank regulators agree fixes should be made for community banks.
Among the fixes proposed include raising the threshold at which banks are considered “too big to fail.” That trigger, now set at $50 billion in assets, will rise to $250 billion.
That would leave only a dozen US banks — including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo — facing the strictest regulations by the Federal Reserve.
But those two dozen midsize regional banks will no longer have to hold as much capital to cover losses on their balance sheets. They will not be required to have plans in place to be safely dismantled if they failed. And they will have to take the Fed’s bank health test only periodically, not once a year.
It will also loosen regulations for mortgage lenders, expand access to free credit freezes for Americans who are worried about identity theft, and change the rules for student loan defaults.
Community banks with less than $10 billion in assets will no longer have to comply with the so-called Volcker Rule. The rule bars financial institutions from making risky bets with money that is insured by taxpayers.
The reporting agencies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will also be required to freeze and unfreeze Americans’ credit reports for free. That would be a reprieve for millions of Americans whose data was exposed in the breach of Equifax, disclosed last year.
CNN’s Ted Barrett and Ashley Killough contributed to this story.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson recently announced a new policy proposal calling for an increase in rent for residents who rely on subsidized housing.
Previously affordable housing will become unaffordable for low-income families. Over 700,000 low-income families will see their rent triple potentially tossing more families deeper into poverty and on the streets.
Secretary Carson claims the rent hikes are to encourage “self-sufficiency”. But critics say these hikes will only hurt low-income families who rely on subsidized housing for basic shelter and prevent them from escaping poverty.
Families like these often struggle to make ends meet on their low incomes. And that struggle can become more difficult as the cost of living rises in cities across the U.S.
No family should have to choose between shelter and food, or shelter and needed medication.
The universe consists of 5% protons, 5% neutrons, 5% electrons and 85% morons…. Zappa
KEEP YOUR EYES WIDE OPEN FOR THESE UPCOMING SUPREME COURT RULINGS
The Supreme Court is heading into the final month of its term, facing decisions on gerrymandering, unions, gay rights, abortion and Trump’s travel ban.
This term’s best-known case is a culture-war clash that pits equal rights for gay customers against a claim of religious liberty from a Christian store owner. It is one of three major cases that feature a “compelled speech” claim from conservatives who object to liberal state laws. The others involve union fees and California’s required disclosures for “crisis pregnancy centers.”
The justices are expected to announce decisions on the first day of every workweek until the end of June, and then adjourn for the summer.
Major pending cases:
– Partisan gerrymandering: The court will decide a political line-drawing dispute that could determine which party controls Congress and many state legislatures in the decade ahead. At issue is whether state lawmakers may deliberately redraw election districts to ensure that a particular party controls most of the seats, even when most voters cast ballots for the other party. In the past, the court has struck down districts drawn along racial lines, but it has never struck down an election map because it was unfairly partisan. The justices are set to decide two cases on the issue. One from Wisconsin (Gill v. Whitford) challenges a statewide map that assured Republicans at least 60 percent of the seats in its state House. The other, from Maryland (Benisek v. Lamone), challenges a successful Democratic scheme to transform a Republican-held congressional district into a solidly Democratic one by shifting tens of thousands of voters.
– Gay rights and religion: The court will decide whether certain store owners are entitled to an exemption from a state’s anti-discrimination law because of their religious beliefs. The case began when Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker and a conservative Christian, refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Colorado, like California and 20 other states, requires businesses that are open to the public to provide “full and equal” service to all customers regardless of sexual orientation. Phillips appealed on free-speech grounds, arguing that designing a custom cake is a form of expression. The court’s conservatives, including Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, suggested during arguments that the owner may have been a victim of bias against religion. (Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission)
– Unions and public employees: The court will decide whether teachers, police and other public employees in California, New York and 20 other mostly Democratic states can be required by law to pay a “fair share fee” to cover the cost of collective bargaining even if they don’t belong to a union. The justices upheld such contracts in 1977, but said then that employees did not have to pay for the union’s political spending. Anti-union advocates say the court now should go further and rule that forced fees violate the First Amendment because they require some employees to support a group whose views they may oppose. The Illinois case is Janus v. ASCME.)
– Trump and the travel ban: The court will decide whether Trump has the power, acting on his own, to bar most visitors and immigrants from several Muslim-majority nations. The controversy over Trump’s travel ban erupted during his first week in the White House, and his orders were repeatedly blocked by judges on the West and East coasts. They ruled that his orders were unconstitutional because they discriminated against Muslims. Others said he overstepped his authority under U.S. immigration laws. But the Supreme Court allowed the latest version of Trump’s order to go into effect in December. (Trump v. Hawaii)
– Cellphones and privacy: The court will decide whether police must obtain a search warrant based on “probable cause” before they obtain data from a cellphone company that would allow them to track a suspect’s movements for days or weeks at a time. Privacy advocates on the right and the left agree on the need for warrants, and California law already includes such a requirement. But investigators say they sometimes need the data to identify a crime suspect or a terrorist. (Carpenter v. United States)
– Pregnancy centers and abortion: The court will decide whether California can require faith-based “crisis pregnancy centers” to notify their patients that the state provides free or low cost “prenatal care and abortion for eligible women.” State lawmakers said these posted disclosures were needed because these centers use “deceptive advertising” to confuse or misinform women. But the challengers say the required notifications are “compelled speech” that violates the First Amendment and “drowns out the centers’ pro-life messages.” (National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra)
– Online merchants and sales taxes: The court will decide whether internet merchants can be required to collect sales taxes for all the states and thousands of municipalities where their customers live. It is a $10 billion a year issue for states, a potential headache for small-scale merchants and a matter of basic fairness for traditional retail stores, which must collect such taxes. In 1992, in the era of mail-order catalogs, the court ruled it unconstitutional to impose such a tax-collecting duty on merchants who had no stores or “physical presence” in a state. In South Dakota v. Wayfair, the states say the justices should overturn that ruling.
– Voting rolls and purges: The court will decide whether states can remove people from the voting rolls if they do not cast ballots for two years and do not respond to several notices in the mail. Ohio says it wants to clean up its voting rolls, but civil rights lawyers said the state has wrongly removed thousands of registered voters. And they point to a federal law that says voters may not be dropped simply because of they don’t vote. (Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute)
Decisions already announced:
– Workers rights and group arbitration: In Epic Systems v. Lewis, the court ruled that employers can require workers to resolve all complaints through one-on-one arbitration, including allegations that the company was violating federal wage and hour laws. By a 5-4 vote, the justices rejected the argument that the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 gave workers the right to join together to sue in court or bring group claims before an arbiter. The ruling is a victory for employers and the Trump administration, and it will limit the rights of more 60 million private-sector workers whose companies rely on private arbitration.
– Sports betting: In Murphy v. NCAA, the court by a 6-3 vote struck down the federal law that prohibited the states from sponsoring or licensing betting on sports. The ruling in favor of New Jersey was based on the principle that the Constitution does not allow Congress to give the orders to the states. The justices said Congress was free to make sports betting a federal offense, but there is no sign that such legislation is in the works.
– Deportation and home burglaries: In Sessions v. Dimaya, the justices, by a 5-4 vote, struck down part of a federal law that called for deporting noncitizens for a “crime of violence,” but did not describe which crimes qualify. The disputed provision referred to “a substantial risk that physical force” may be used, but the justices said that was too vague. Justice Neil M. Gorsuch cast a key vote for the majority. The California defendant, a long-time legal immigrant, was scheduled for deportation because he pleaded guilty to the burglary of an unoccupied home.
– Jail and deportation: In Jennings v. Rodriguez, the court ruled that U.S. immigration law permits long-term jailing of legal immigrants who are fighting their deportation. By a 5-3 vote, the justices rejected the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ view that these detainees had a right to a bond hearing after six months. The ruling dealt only with federal law and left open whether the Constitution puts a limit on such a detention. Justice Elena Kagan recused herself from the case.
Commentary: My $200,000 Debt Should Not Disqualify Me For Governor of Georgia
By Stacey Abrams
April 24, 2018
One of the traditional rites of passage for political candidates is the revelation of financial status–a catechism-like recital of money mistakes made and debts owed. As a candidate for governor of Georgia, I have spent the past few weeks dealing with the fallout from my personal financial disclosure report. As everyone following the race now knows, I owe the IRS over $50,000 in deferred tax payments (I am currently on a repayment plan) and hold more than $170,000 in credit card and student loan debt.
I am in debt, but I am not alone. Debt is a millstone that weighs down more than three-quarters of Americans. It can determine whether we are able to run for office, to launch a business, to quit a job we hate. But it should not—and cannot—be a disqualification for ambition.
I grew up one of six children with working class parents in the Deep South. My mother was a college librarian and my father worked in a shipyard. I never saw them balance a checkbook, but they kept a roof over our heads and got all six of us into college. I went on to Yale Law School, and eventually landed my first law firm job, where I made $95,000—three times what my parents made, combined.
But despite earning nearly six figures, my financial situation was fraught. I had racked up student loans, and throughout college and beyond, I’d swiftly turned every credit card application into those magical slivers of plastic that allowed me to pay for daily necessities. I finished my higher education deeply in debt and with seven years of bad credit in my future. Using my law firm salary, I started to pay down my credit cards and make student loan payments.
I’d love to say that was the end of my financial troubles, but life had other plans. In 2006, my youngest brother and his girlfriend had a child they could not care for due to their drug addictions. Instead, my parents took custody when my niece was five days old.
Underpaid, raising an infant, and battling their own illnesses, my parents’ bills piled up. I took on much of the financial responsibility to support them, and even today remain their main source of financial support.
Paying the bills for two households has taken its toll. Nearly twenty years after graduating, I am still paying down student loans, and am on a payment plan to settle my debt to the IRS. I have made money mistakes, but I have never ignored my responsibilities; I will meet my obligations—however slowly but surely.
I suspect my situation will sound familiar to others who are the first in their families to earn real money. Money dictates nearly step of social mobility from the very first moments of life. How much our parents make often determines whether we go to college. It affects the jobs we get offered and the ones we can afford to take. If the goal is entrepreneurship, good luck getting access to the capital you need to build a business. Even with a well-paid job, we often live paycheck to paycheck.
Race and gender play a major role in determining just how big of a financial disadvantage we’re likely to face. In 2013, the average wealth per U.S. household was $81,000. But dig into the numbers and a clearer picture appears: White families averaged $142,000 in wealth, Latinx households came in at $13,700, and black families brought up the rear at $11,000. Asian Americans are closer to whites than other people of color, but they still lag. The combined effects of discrimination in labor, housing, and education have compounded the struggle for wealth among communities of color.
The woman’s wage gap, meanwhile, is real: In 2016, women working full-time were generally paid only 80% of what men received. That missing 20% becomes almost 40% for black women and nearly half for Latinas. Achieving wealth after losing a such a significant portion of your earning power can hobble even the most focused woman’s economic plans.
The takeaway: The difficulty of catching up and moving forward isn’t all in your head. Systemic biases, legacy barriers, and current explosions of inequality conspire to undermine wealth generation among minorities, and especially women in these communities. But, as with all obstacles, our obligation is to acknowledge they exist and then fight like hell to circumvent them.
So, what can we do right now? First, ask yourself about your personal relationship with money and the claims that are being made on your resources. Are you doing more than you should to support others? Do you have a choice? You may not like the answers, but it’s important to understand the reality of the situation. From there, dedicate yourself to building your financial knowledge. The more you know, the more confidence you’ll have to make smart money decisions. Yes, we all still make money mistakes—but they don’t have to be fatal to our dreams.
Stacey Abrams is a Democrat running for governor of Georgia. If elected, she would become the first-ever black female governor of any state. Her new book, Minority Leader: How to Lead from the Outside and Make Real Change, goes on sale today.
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