Category Archives: Financial Protection

Warren Releases Plan to Fix Bankruptcy, Repeal Harmful Provisions of 2005 Bill She Fought Against

Just before taking the stage at Kings Theater in Brooklyn, NY, in her campaign for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren detailed how her administration will fix the bankruptcy system to protect working families and give people a second chance © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Just before taking the stage at Kings Theater in Brooklyn, NY, with Julian Castro, in her campaign for president, Senator Elizabeth Warren detailed how her administration will fix the bankruptcy system to protect working families and give people a second chance. It is part of her plan to restructure the systemic impediments to financial and economic opportunity for ordinary Americans. The plan to reform bankruptcy laws is a particular jab at Vice President Joe Biden, who as Senator representing the State of Delaware, helped push the George W Bush re-write of the bankruptcy laws that shielded financial institutions but put consumers on the hook. This is from the Warren campaign:


As one of the nation’s leading experts on the financial pressures facing middle class families, Elizabeth conducted groundbreaking research on why families go broke. Elizabeth spent ten years battling the banking industry over the bad 2005 bankruptcy bill — which spent $100 million on lobbying efforts. The bill became law with  overwhelming support from Republicans and support from some Democrats in Congress.

The credit card companies raked in giant profits after the bill passed — and families in need paid the price. After the bill passed, bankruptcy filings went down permanently by 50%, and the number of insolvent people went up permanently by 25%. By making it harder for people to discharge their debts and keep current on their house payments, the 2005 bill made the 2008 financial crisis significantly worse: experts found that the bill “caused about 800,000 additional mortgage defaults and 250,000 additional foreclosures.” And despite the claims from the industry and their allies in Congress that the 2005 bill would reduce credit card costs across the board for consumers, the cost of credit card debt went up too.  

Elizabeth has a plan to repeal the harmful provisions in the 2005 bankruptcy bill and overhaul consumer bankruptcy rules to level the playing field for consumers.
 
Elizabeth’s plan will:

Make it easier for people being crushed by debt to obtain relief through bankruptcy.

Expand people’s rights to take care of themselves and their children while they are in the bankruptcy process.

End the absurd rules that make it nearly impossible to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy.

Let more people protect their homes and cars in bankruptcy so they can start from a firm foundation when they start to pick up the pieces and rebuild their financial lives.

Help address shameful racial and gender disparities that plague our bankruptcy system.

Close loopholes that allow the wealthy and corporate creditors to abuse the bankruptcy system at the expense of everyone else.

Read more here and below:

I spent most of my career studying one simple question: why do American families go broke?

When I started my career as a young law professor, I thought — like a lot of people at the time — that most families went broke because they were irresponsible or wasteful. They lived beyond their means. And when their irresponsibility finally caught up with them, they took advantage of our bankruptcy system to get out from under their debts.But when I started to teach bankruptcy, I found that no one — not even the supposed “experts” — had actually dug into the data to figure out what drove families into bankruptcy.

So I found two incredible partners and set out to gather the data about why families go broke. That was back when you had to collect information by hand, and courts charged a lot to make copies for you. To save money, I flew around to courthouses all over the country with my own photocopier — nicknamed R2D2 — strapped into the airplane seat next to me, copying thousands of bankruptcy filings to begin understanding why American families turned to bankruptcy.

I’ll never forget sitting in a wood-paneled courtroom in San Antonio on one of my first trips, watching the families filing for bankruptcy move in and out of the courtroom to appear in front of the judge. They looked just like the family I grew up in — hanging on to the ragged edge of the middle class. Now they were standing in front of a judge, ready to give up nearly everything they owned just to get some relief from the bill collectors.Our research ended up showing that most of these families weren’t reckless or irresponsible — they were just getting squeezed by an economy that forced them to take on more debt and more risk to cling to their place in America’s middle class.

And that meant one bad break could send them tumbling over the edge. The data showed that nearly 90% of these families were declaring bankruptcy for one of three reasons: a job loss, a medical problem, or a family breakup.

In the early 1990s, Congress launched a blue-ribbon commission to review the bankruptcy laws and suggest improvements. I was asked to help. Initially, I said no. Then I thought about the stories I had come across in our research. I thought about the family that finally got a shot at their lifelong dream to launch a new restaurant — and it went belly-up. The young and very tired woman who described how she finally managed to leave her abusive ex-husband, but now was alone with her small children and a pile of bills. The elderly couple who had cashed out everything they owned and then went into debt to bail out their son who was fighting addiction and put him through rehab again and again. And then I called back and said yes.

That’s what started my ten-year fight against the banking industry’s effort to change our bankruptcy laws to squeeze everything they could out of working families. Just as the commission’s report was due, the banking industry wrote its own version of a bankruptcy bill and got its allies in Congress to introduce it. In the industry’s version of the world, Congress could support either “honest people who pay their bills” or “people who skip out on their debts.” There wasn’t any room to talk about rising health care costs or lost jobs that pushed working families to the brink. I knew that those hundreds of changes in the industry-backed bill would make it harder for struggling families to get relief.

And I knew I needed help. I was lucky to pick up some terrific allies in the Senate. Senator Ted Kennedy, who led the fight for years. Senators Paul Wellstone, Russ Feingold, and Dick Durbin all enthusiastically jumped in. For the next three years, we fought off the industry as best we could. Ultimately, however, the Senate and House passed the industry-backed bill by wide margins. But President Clinton, in the last days of his presidency, upended the industry plan and vetoed its bill.

The financial industry lost that round — but it didn’t quit. Eventually, it rallied its allies in Congress again and managed to push through another version of its bill in 2005 with overwhelming Republican support and some Democratic support.

The banking industry spent more than $100 million to turn that bill into a law because they knew it would be worth much more than that to their bottom lines. And they were right — by squeezing families harder, they managed to rake in giant profits.

But it was terrible for families in need. After the bill passed, bankruptcy filings went down permanently by 50%, and the number of insolvent people went up permanently by 25%. By making it harder for people to discharge their debts and keep current on their house payments, the 2005 bill made the 2008 financial crisis significantly worse: experts found that the bill “caused about 800,000 additional mortgage defaults and 250,000 additional foreclosures.” And despite the claims from the industry and their allies in Congress that the 2005 bill would reduce credit card costs across the board for consumers, the cost of credit card debt went up too.

I lost that fight in 2005, and working families paid the price. But I didn’t stop fighting to hold the financial industry accountable and to help American families. I started laying the groundwork for new protections for credit card users and in 2007 proposed the idea of a new federal agency to protect American families from tricks in mortgages, student loans, and other financial products. The rules helping credit card users ended up in the Credit CARD Act, which President Obama signed into law in 2009. And in 2010, President Obama signed that new consumer agency — the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau — into law too. That agency has now returned $12 billion to people who were cheated by big banks and other financial firms.

But there are still serious problems with our bankruptcy laws today, thanks in large part to that bad 2005 bill. That’s why I’m announcing my plan to repeal the harmful provisions in the 2005 bankruptcy bill and overhaul consumer bankruptcy rules in this country to give Americans a better chance of getting back on their feet. 

Making it Easier to Obtain Relief Through Bankruptcy

Thanks in part to the 2005 bankruptcy bill, our current system makes it far too hard for people in need to start the bankruptcy process so they can get back on their feet. My plan streamlines the process, reduces costs, and gives people more flexibility in bankruptcy to find solutions that match their financial problems.

Streamlining the bankruptcy filing process. Currently, there are two main types of bankruptcy proceedings for individuals — the traditional Chapter 7 proceeding and the longer and less generous Chapter 13 proceeding. In Chapter 7, bankruptcy filers pay off their debts by surrendering all of their property other than that protected by “exemption” laws, but keep their future income. In Chapter 13, filers keep their property, but undertake a multi-year repayment plan. 

The core of the 2005 bankruptcy bill was an onerous and complicated means test that forces many people with income above their state’s median income to file for Chapter 13 and make payments from their wages for an extended period. That is a big additional burden. In Chapter 13, debtors remain in bankruptcy longer and must pay more to creditors. Many are unable to complete their repayment plans and do not obtain a discharge of their unpaid debts at all. 

My plan does away with means testing and the two chapters for consumer debtors. Instead, it offers a single system available to all consumers. Here’s how it would work.

When people file for bankruptcy, they would disclose all of their debts, assets, and income, just as they do now. And just as under the current system, creditors must stop all collection actions against the debtor outside of bankruptcy court.

Filers would then choose from a menu of options for addressing their debts. The menu of options available would include a Chapter 7-type option of surrendering all non-exempt property in exchange for having their unpaid debts “discharged,” as well as options that allow people to deal with specific financial problems without involving all of their obligations. For example, someone might use bankruptcy to cure a home mortgage delinquency while continuing to pay other debts outside of bankruptcy. Or if someone has long-term debt she needs to restructure, non-exempt property such as a car that she needs to get to work, a family home she wants to protect, or if the debtor simply wants to try to pay her creditors, the debtor can also choose to file a payment plan and request that the court limit the stay of collection actions to the extent necessary to execute that plan. 

As with the current system, certain types of debts would be non-dischargeable. Additionally, creditors could seek to dismiss a case or object to an individual’s discharge on grounds of abuse, and they would have an easier time proving abuse for higher-income debtors. These provisions would protect against misuse of the bankruptcy system. 

My plan would make the bankruptcy system simple, cheap, fast, and flexible. It would eliminate the burdensome paperwork that drives up costs for filers and deters them from seeking bankruptcy protection in the first place. The 2005 bill imposed the same onerous paperwork requirements on a middle-class American filing bankruptcy that it did on a wealthy real-estate developer. Both must file the same documentation — including months of pay stubs and old tax returns — much of which is useless to creditors looking to get debts repaid.

These requirements are costly and ineffective. The nonpartisan Government Accountability Office estimates that these requirements increased what a Chapter 7 filer had to pay for a lawyer by over 50%. My plan scraps this unnecessary paperwork and simply requires that bankruptcy filers disclose their assets, liabilities, income, and expenses. If necessary, the court can always direct people to provide more information.

Further, my plan reverses the provisions in the 2005 bill that required people to seek pre-filing credit counseling. This is a costly and time-consuming requirement, with little, if any, evidence that it’s effective.

Congress also added to the cost of bankruptcy relief in the 2005 bill by putting onerous requirements on consumer bankruptcy attorneys. Congress required attorneys to certify the accuracy of debtor’s financial disclosures, to certify the debtor’s ability to make certain payments, to advertise their services in certain ways, and to provide certain financial advice to clients. These rules, opposed by the American Bar Association, increase costs to lawyers that get passed on to consumers, while failing to adequately protect consumers against unscrupulous lawyers. My plan gets rid of these requirements and authorizes local bankruptcy courts to develop disciplinary panels to strengthen enforcement of the existing rules that discipline ineffective or dishonest lawyers.

Reducing the costs of filing for bankruptcy. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy case today costs the person filing for bankruptcy $1,200 in attorneys’ fees on average. Academic studies document how families and individuals, ironically, have to save up for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy filings spike every spring as tax refunds go to pay a bankruptcy lawyer, and on days when people often receive paychecks.

Worse, many bankruptcy filers are shuffled into a more onerous Chapter 13 bankruptcy because it is the only way they can afford to pay their bankruptcy lawyer. These people often do not need the more complicated and more expensive Chapter 13 procedure, which at $3,200 on average costs more than twice a Chapter 7 filing. Chapter 7, however, requires the filer to have the cash to pay the lawyer up front, and most people filing bankruptcy are by definition short on cash, while Chapter 13 allows the person filing to pay the lawyer over time. Forcing people into Chapter 13 because they cannot afford to pay their lawyer up front is a ridiculous way to run a consumer debt relief system.

My plan makes it easier for people to pay for the bankruptcy relief they need. It automatically waives filing fees for anyone below the federal poverty level and slowly phases in the fees above that line. And it allows the bankruptcy filer to pay off reasonable lawyers’ fees at any time during or after the bankruptcy, not just up front.

These proposals will make it cheaper and quicker for people to obtain debt relief. And speed is important. Research has shown that the “sweatbox” period when consumers wrestle with the decision to file for bankruptcy is particularly damaging to families and their financial health. The 2005 law benefited credit card companies by extending the sweatbox period. Bankruptcy is not the right solution for every family facing financial difficulties, but for those who need bankruptcy relief, it should be available without unnecessary obstacles or costs. My plan will shrink the sweatbox and make sure that consumers who need bankruptcy are able to promptly obtain help.

Expanding People’s Rights to Take Care of Themselves and Their Families During the Bankruptcy Process

Bankruptcy law places certain spending limitations on people while they are in the bankruptcy process. My plan pares back some of the limitations that place a particular burden on people — particularly parents with children — and limit their ability to recover after the bankruptcy process.

For example, during the debate on the 2005 bankruptcy bill, Democrats proposed modifying the bill so that renters in bankruptcy could continue paying their rent if it allowed them to avoid eviction. While that change was voted down in Congress, my plan adopts it as a fair way to let people avoid the incredible disruption of an eviction during the bankruptcy process.

Similarly, my plan allows people in the bankruptcy process who select a repayment plan option to set aside more money to cover the basics for themselves and their children. In 2005, Congress rejected an amendment to the bankruptcy bill that would have allowed parents to spend a reasonable amount of money on toys and books and basic recreation activities for their kids during the bankruptcy process. That’s just wrong — and my plan will provide those protections.

In that same vote, Congress rejected a change that would have allowed union members to continue paying their union dues during the bankruptcy process — a critical protection so that people can maintain their employment and get back on their feet after the bankruptcy process is over. My plan adopts that protection too for those people who choose a repayment plan.  

Ending the Prohibition on Discharging Student Loan Debt in Bankruptcy

We have a student loan debt crisis in America. And one reason is that our bankruptcy system makes it nearly impossible to get rid of that debt, even when you have nothing left.

Over the past forty years, Congress and the courts have made it progressively more difficult to gain relief from student loan debt in bankruptcy. Congress initially passed a law saying that publicly backed student loans could be discharged only with a showing of “undue hardship” by the borrower. The courts eventually interpreted that language to impose a very high standard for discharge — a standard that generally doesn’t apply to other forms of consumer debt. Then, as part of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, Congress explicitly protected private student loans with the same undue hardship standard.

These requirements have harmed borrowers. Today, 45 millions Americans are being crushed by $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, including more than a hundred billion dollars in private student loan debt. And the 2005 bill closed off almost any path to relief.  

As President, I’ll attack the student debt crisis head on. My student loan debt cancellation plan cancels up to $50,000 in debt for 95% of people who have it, relieving a massive burden on families and boosting our economy. But for people who may still have debt, my bankruptcy reform plan ends the absurd special treatment of student loans in bankruptcy and makes them dischargeable just like other consumer debts.

Letting People Protect Their Homes and Cars in Bankruptcy

My plan also makes it easier for people to protect their homes and cars in bankruptcy so they can start from a better foundation as they try to rebuild their financial lives.

The current system allows bankruptcy filers to protect a certain amount of home equity value (called a “homestead exemption”) in bankruptcy. But these values vary widely from state to state. Some states have limited exemptions that make it hard for anyone in those states to save their homes. Meanwhile, certain states exempt the full value of the filer’s home from bankruptcy, regardless of how much it’s worth. This is ripe for abuse, and disgraced corporate executives (such as Lehman Brothers’ Dick Fuld and WorldCom’s Scott Sullivan) and celebrities (such as O.J. Simpson and Fox News’ Roger Ailes) facing financial distress frequently move to these states as part of their asset-protection planning. And while Congress acted aggressively in the 2005 bill to clamp down on mythical “bankruptcy abuse” by working families, it did little to address this obvious opportunity for abuse by the rich and powerful.

My plan creates a uniform federal homestead exemption. The exemption would be set at half of the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s conforming loan limit for the bankruptcy filer’s county of residence. Because the conforming loan limit varies by county to reflect variations in housing markets, my plan would avoid a cap that is too generous for people in low-cost housing markets and too stingy for those in high-cost markets. Additionally, the use of the conforming loan limit as a benchmark would be more generous than the current federal $170,350 homestead exemption limit. For most communities, it would be $255,200 in 2020. Because home equity makes up a larger share of personal wealth for communities of color, a larger homestead exemption improves racial equity in the consumer credit system.

My plans also permits people to modify their mortgages in bankruptcy — something that is generally prohibited by law. The restriction on mortgage modifications in bankruptcy — even though other types of debts can be renegotiated in bankruptcy — can hurt both bankruptcy filers and mortgage lenders. Studies have found that the existing restriction on modifications has not led to a lasting reduction in mortgage rates. My plan ends this harmful limitation. 

My plan further encourages win-win mortgage modifications by creating a streamlined, standardized mortgage modification option in bankruptcy.

The 2008 financial crisis resulted in an unprecedented wave of mortgage foreclosures, with nearly 8 million foreclosures completed in the decade starting in 2007. While not all of these foreclosures could have been prevented, there were many foreclosures that made no sense. In these cases, the lender and borrower should have been able to agree to a win-win modification. Yet these common sense deals weren’t happening.

A key reason was that most mortgages were securitized. The servicers had little incentive to restructure loans because it was easier and cheaper (and sometimes actually profitable to the servicer) just to foreclose. These foreclosures, however, harmed both the borrowers and the lenders, as well as the owners of neighboring properties.

Bankruptcy does not currently provide a solution for this problem. My plan does. As part of the menu of options available to a bankruptcy filer, it offers a special streamlined pre-packaged mortgage bankruptcy procedure that will allow struggling homeowners to get a statutorily defined mortgage modification. Under this procedure, if a foreclosure has started, and the homeowner certifies that she has attempted to negotiate a modification in good faith, she could seek an automatic modification of the mortgage debt to the market value of the property, with interest rates reduced to achieve a sustainable debt-to-income ratio.

The homeowner benefits by receiving a sustainable mortgage. The lender benefits from a modification that produces significantly better recovery than foreclosure. The neighborhood also benefits by avoiding a nearby foreclosure. This commonsense proposal should not only be win-win, but the possibility of a mortgage modification in bankruptcy should encourage more negotiated modifications outside of bankruptcy.

Finally, my plan will help address so-called “zombie” mortgages. Mortgage lenders sometimes start, but do not complete, foreclosures to avoid assuming liability for property taxes and code violations on the mortgaged property. When the homeowner has vacated the property, the result is a “zombie” title situation, in which the homeowner remains liable for taxes and code violations but does not have use of the property. My plan uses bankruptcy law to “slay” these zombie mortgages by enabling a homeowner who is no longer in residence to force the lender to complete the foreclosure or otherwise take title to the property and pay its ongoing costs. This will enable families to move on with their lives and get a fresh start without the overhang of liability for a former property they no longer live in. It will also help communities by reducing the number of abandoned and derelict properties.

My plan goes beyond protecting homes to offering more fair protection for people’s cars too. For over one-third of bankruptcy filers, cars represent their most important asset. For these struggling Americans, the family car is the principal resource that bankruptcy’s safety net is protecting. And access to a car is often a requirement for commuting to a job, getting children to child care, and starting to rebuild finances.

As part of the 2005 bankruptcy bill, Congress made it more difficult for Chapter 13 bankruptcy filers to keep their cars. Under prior law, a debtor could keep their car by paying the lender the fair market value of the car over a reasonable time. But the 2005 bill changed the law so that families who want to keep their cars often repay more than the fair market value of the car; they must pay the full amount of their original car loan, regardless of the true worth of the vehicle. 

Families should not have to pay more than the car is actually worth to keep it. That’s why my plan repeals the 2005 bankruptcy bill requirement, makes it easier for bankruptcy filers to keep their cars, and ensures that their fresh start includes the ability to get to work, to school, and to the doctor.

Addressing Racial and Gender Disparities in the Bankruptcy System

Bankruptcy doesn’t affect all people equally — it mirrors the systemic inequalities in our economy. Women and people of color are more likely to file for bankruptcy, which is in part a reflection of wealth and income disparities. The situation is especially dire for middle-class families: my research found that Black middle class families are three times more likely to file for bankruptcy, and Latinx families are twice as likely, than white families. The persistent wealth gap in America means that families of color have far less wealth than white families on average — and at the same time, families of color are far more likely to be abused by predatory lending practices. The outcomes in our current bankruptcy system aren’t equal, either. Black Americans appear to be much more likely to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13, a costlier and more burdensome form of bankruptcy that requires people to make several years of payments before getting their debts wiped out — and leaves many in an even worse position as they struggle to make these payments. The data suggests Black filers are more likely to have their cases dismissed, too: people who live in majority Black zip codes are more than twice as likely to have their cases thrown out as those living in majority white areas.I raised the alarm on the disparate effects of bankruptcy during the years-long debate over bankruptcy reform. I called out racial disparities in the economic security of middle-class families filing for bankruptcy. I published articles showing that bankruptcy reform is a women’s issue, and that women — in fact, more women than would graduate from four-year colleges or file for divorce — would be most affected by the changes Congress was considering.The changes I’ve outlined above — like the new single entry point system that eliminates the steering of Black bankruptcy filers into Chapter 13, the new homestead exemption, and the elimination of the means test — will help address some of these shameful racial and gender inequities in the bankruptcy system.

But my plan takes additional steps as well: Local fines. Under current law, people who file for bankruptcy are generally not able to discharge local government fines. Although some of these fines may have an important governmental function, many operate as a regressive form of revenue targeting lower-income Black communities in particular for truly minor offenses. My plan eliminates the special privilege for local fines, with an exception for fines related to death, personal bodily injury, or other egregious behavior that threatened public safety.Civil Rights Debts. While current law prevents people from discharging local fines, it permits discharging debts resulting from civil rights violations. That is unacceptable, especially as police brutality and the shooting of unarmed Black children and adults in particular remain serious problems in our country. My plan changes the law so it’s clear that individuals cannot get relief from debts arising from the commission of civil rights violations such as police brutality.Improved data collection and audits. When individuals file bankruptcy petitions, they are obliged to make a long list of disclosures — but not their race, gender, or age. Although extensive data collection efforts by academics helped bring to light the differential experiences of filers of color, women, and older Americans, we can continue to improve upon our bankruptcy system if we collect this information systematically. That’s why my plan invites bankruptcy filers to provide their racial identification, gender, and age if they choose to.

My plan also addresses serious gender disparities in our current bankruptcy system. Because of systemic discrimination, women generally earn less than men, even for the same job, and it often takes women longer to pay off loans than men, resulting in them paying more interest. Tackling underlying problems of gender inequality may reduce some of the need for bankruptcy in the first place. But there will always need to be a bankruptcy system.

A simpler single portal into the personal bankruptcy system and replacing many line-item categories with a lump-sum personal property exemption, separate from the homestead exemption, will help align those values. The lump-sum personal property exemption would be provided by household, adjusted by the number of dependents, rather than by number of bankruptcy filers in the household, to prevent under-protecting a single parent with children.

In addition, my plan adds extra protections for alimony, child support income, the child tax credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), ensuring that people (especially single mothers) will be able to provide for their families and get back on the path to financial security.   These sources of income and assets traceable to them would be exempt property.

Closing Loopholes that Benefit the Wealthy and Cracking Down on Big Corporations

While the current bankruptcy system imposes all sorts of obstacles for working families, it includes loopholes that benefit wealthy individuals filing for bankruptcy and failed to hold big companies accountable when they break the law. My plan closes these loopholes and imposes more accountability so that our system is more fair.

Loopholes benefiting wealthy individuals. In certain states like Delaware, wealthy individuals can file for bankruptcy and get debt relief while shielding their assets by placing them in trusts for their own benefit. This is known as the “Millionaire’s Loophole.” As part of the 2005 bankruptcy legislation, Congress pretended to close the Millionaire’s Loophole, while rejecting legislation that actually would have shut it down. My plan stitches up the Millionaire’s Loophole once and for all by ensuring that assets in self-settled trusts and revocable trusts are not exempt from creditors’ claims in bankruptcy. My plan also closes off the related “spendthrift clause” loophole that allows the beneficiaries of “dynasty trusts” to avoid paying their creditors (while maintaining such protection for bona fide qualified disability trusts).

I am also committed to giving bankruptcy courts more tools to address fraud. For example, under current law, a bankruptcy filer who lied and submitted fraudulent documents regarding one of his assets is entitled to an exemption even when it was shown that he lied. My plan closes this enormous loophole so that courts can deny an exemption in an asset that the filer has concealed or lied about.

My plan also strengthens the so-called “fraudulent transfer” law. Fraudulent transfer law allows creditors to claw back certain transfers the bankruptcy filer made with the intent to hinder, delay, or defraud creditors. For example, fraudulent transfer law would apply to a deadbeat ex-spouse who has transferred money into a trust to avoid paying alimony. The federal statute of limitations for actual fraudulent transfers is shorter than that of some states, so my plan extends the federal statute of limitations to match the longest state statute of limitations. Additionally, to discourage third parties from receiving these fraudulent transfers, my plan updates federal criminal law to add penalties for knowingly engaging in, aiding and abetting, or receiving an actual fraudulent transfer.

Accountability for creditors. My plan also cracks down on big companies that break the law or otherwise unfairly squeeze families in the bankruptcy process. For example, some companies will use the bankruptcy process to collect debts even as they have a track record of violating consumer financial protection laws. By disallowing debts of creditors that harm debtors by violating consumer financial laws, my plan strengthens the deterrent effect of our consumer protection laws and helps ensure better compliance of creditors and their agents, such as mortgage servicers and debt collectors. 

My plan also stops companies from collecting on debts that are no longer valid. In bankruptcy, many debt collectors attempt to collect on expired debts, whose statute of limitations has run, by filing claims to be paid and hoping that no one will notice that they no longer have the right to collect the debt. This practice is harmful to everyone involved, including other creditors with legally enforceable claims. The Supreme Court wrongly ruled that seeking to get paid on expired debts does not violate the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, so it’s up to Congress to fix the law now. That’s what my plan does, by making clear that collection of an expired debt is a violation of the law.

And my plan allows individuals to file to sue to deter creditors from seeking to collect on debts that were already discharged in an earlier bankruptcy. Too often, creditors, particularly companies that buy debts for pennies on the dollar, attempt to collect debts that have been discharged in an earlier bankruptcy. For decades this has been illegal, but the practice has persisted because the courts have limited remedies available to address this misconduct. As recommended by the American Bankruptcy Institute’s Commission on Consumer Bankruptcy, my plan gives bankruptcy filers the right to file a lawsuit and have the court order compensation for the harms caused by creditors who violate this law. My plan also gives courts the power to impose effective sanctions when they catch this abuse on their own.

Finally, consumer loans often contain provisions requiring the borrower to resolve any disputes outside of court, through arbitration. My plan ensures that creditors cannot continue their efforts to go after consumers during the bankruptcy process through mandatory arbitration as part of my larger fight against unfair forced arbitration clauses. Disputes between bankruptcy filers and creditors should be resolved openly and transparently as part of the bankruptcy process in court, not in forced arbitration proceedings behind closed doors.

Read Senator Warren’s bankruptcy plan here

Elizabeth Warren Releases Plan to Rein in Big Tech, Giant Corporations

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a declared 2020 candidate for 2020 presidential nomination, came to Long Island City, where local activists rejected Amazon, to propose a plan to rein in big tech and other giant multi-national companies that use their economic power to stifle competition and intimidate government. Here is her proposal — Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Today’s big tech companies have too much power — too much power over our economy, our society, and our democracy. They’ve bulldozed competition, used our private information for profit, and tilted the playing field against everyone else. And in the process, they have hurt small businesses and stifled innovation. 

I want a government that makes sure everybody — even the biggest and most powerful companies in America — plays by the rules. And I want to make sure that the next generation of great American tech companies can flourish. To do that, we need to stop this generation of big tech companies from throwing around their political power to shape the rules in their favor and throwing around their economic power to snuff out or buy up every potential competitor

That’s why my Administration will make big, structural changes to the tech sector to promote more competition—including breaking up Amazon, Facebook, and Google.

How the New Tech Monopolies Hurt Small Businesses and Innovation

America’s big tech companies provide valuable products but also wield enormous power over our digital lives. Nearly half of all e-commerce goes through Amazon. More than 70% of all Internet traffic goes through sites owned or operated by Google or Facebook. 

As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies. 

America’s big tech companies have achieved their level of dominance in part based on two strategies: 

  • Using Mergers to Limit Competition. Facebook has purchased potential competitors Instagram and WhatsApp. Amazon has used its immense market power to force smaller competitors like Diapers.com to sell at a discounted rate. Google has snapped up the mapping company Waze and the ad company DoubleClick. Rather than blocking these transactions for their negative long-term effects on competition and innovation, government regulators have waved them through.
     
  • Using Proprietary Marketplaces to Limit Competition. Many big tech companies own a marketplace – where buyers and sellers transact – while also participating on the marketplace. This can create a conflict of interest that undermines competition. Amazon crushes small companies by copying the goods they sell on the Amazon Marketplace and then selling its own branded version. Google allegedly snuffed out a competing small search engine by demoting its content on its search algorithm, and it has favored its own restaurant ratings over those of Yelp. 

Weak antitrust enforcement has led to a dramatic reduction in competition and innovation in the tech sector. Venture capitalists are now hesitant to fund new startups to compete with these big tech companies because it’s so easy for the big companies to either snap up growing competitors or drive them out of business. The number of tech startups has slumped, there are fewer high-growth young firms typical of the tech industry, and first financing rounds for tech startups have declined 22% since 2012. 

With fewer competitors entering the market, the big tech companies do not have to compete as aggressively in key areas like protecting our privacy. And some of these companies have grown so powerful that they can bully cities and states into showering them with massive taxpayer handouts in exchange for doing business, and can act — in the words of Mark Zuckerberg — “more like a government than a traditional company.” 

We must ensure that today’s tech giants do not crowd out potential competitors, smother the next generation of great tech companies, and wield so much power that they can undermine our democracy. 

Restoring Competition in the Tech Sector

America has a long tradition of breaking up companies when they have become too big and dominant — even if they are generally providing good service at a reasonable price. 

A century ago, in the Gilded Age, waves of mergers led to the creation of some of the biggest companies in American history — from Standard Oil and JPMorgan to the railroads and AT&T. In response to the rise of these “trusts,” Republican and Democratic reformers pushed for antitrust laws to break up these conglomerations of power to ensure competition.

But where the value of the company came from its network, reformers recognized that ownership of a network and participating on the network caused a conflict of interest. Instead of nationalizing these industries — as other countries did — Americans in the Progressive Era decided to ensure that these networks would not abuse their power by charging higher prices, offering worse quality, reducing innovation, and favoring some over others. We required a structural separation between the network and other businesses, and also demanded that the network offer fair and non-discriminatory service. 

In this tradition, my administration would restore competition to the tech sector by taking two major steps:

First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform

Companies with an annual global revenue of $25 billion or more and that offer to the public an online marketplace, an exchange, or a platform for connecting third parties would be designated as “platform utilities.”

These companies would be prohibited from owning both the platform utility and any participants on that platform. Platform utilities would be required to meet a standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users. Platform utilities would not be allowed to transfer or share data with third parties.

For smaller companies (those with annual global revenue of between $90 million and $25 billion), their platform utilities would be required to meet the same standard of fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory dealing with users, but would not be required to structurally separate from any participant on the platform.

To enforce these new requirements, federal regulators, State Attorneys General, or injured private parties would have the right to sue a platform utility to enjoin any conduct that violates these requirements, to disgorge any ill-gotten gains, and to be paid for losses and damages. A company found to violate these requirements would also have to pay a fine of 5 percent of annual revenue.

Amazon Marketplace, Google’s ad exchange, and Google Search would be platform utilities under this law. Therefore, Amazon Marketplace and Basics, and Google’s ad exchange and businesses on the exchange would be split apart. Google Search would have to be spun off as well. 

Second, my administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers. 

Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that reduce competition. I will appoint regulators who are committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including: 

  • Amazon: Whole Foods; Zappos
     
  • Facebook: WhatsApp; Instagram
     
  • Google: Waze; Nest; DoubleClick
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic candidate for president at rally in Long Island City, NY © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market — which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy.   

Protecting the Future of the Internet

So what would the Internet look like after all these reforms?

Here’s what won’t change: You’ll still be able to go on Google and search like you do today. You’ll still be able to go on Amazon and find 30 different coffee machines that you can get delivered to your house in two days. You’ll still be able to go on Facebook and see how your old friend from school is doing.

Here’s what will change: Small businesses would have a fair shot to sell their products on Amazon without the fear of Amazon pushing them out of business. Google couldn’t smother competitors by demoting their products on Google Search. Facebook would face real pressure from Instagram and WhatsApp to improve the user experience and protect our privacy. Tech entrepreneurs would have a fighting chance to compete against the tech giants. 

Of course, my proposals today won’t solve every problem we have with our big tech companies.

We must give people more control over how their personal information is collected, shared, and sold—and do it in a way that doesn’t lock in massive competitive advantages for the companies that already have a ton of our data.

We must help America’s content creators—from local newspapers and national magazines to comedians and musicians — keep more of the value their content generates, rather than seeing it scooped up by companies like Google and Facebook.

And we must ensure that Russia — or any other foreign power — can’t use Facebook or any other form of social media to influence our elections.

Those are each tough problems, but the benefit of taking these steps to promote competition is that it allows us to make some progress on each of these important issues too. More competition means more options for consumers and content creators, and more pressure on companies like Facebook to address the glaring problems with their businesses.

Healthy competition can solve a lot of problems. The steps I’m proposing today will allow existing big tech companies to keep offering customer-friendly services, while promoting competition, stimulating innovation in the tech sector, and ensuring that America continues to lead the world in producing cutting-edge tech companies. It’s how we protect the future of the Internet.

See: Warren Brings 2020 Campaign to Long Island City to Call for Breaking Up Big Tech, Corporate Giants

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump, Republicans’ Dickens Vision of America: Where Money is Entitlement, ‘Please Sir, I’d Like Some More’

Long Islanders protesting for the 99% against foreclosures by banks too big to fail, bailed out by taxpayers. The Republican tax scam, combined with Trump deregulation and obliteration of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, sets up an even greater Recession and foreclosures. Seniors on Long Island, facing the inability to deduct state and local taxes and the likelihood of Republican cuts to Social Security and Medicare, will be forced out of their homes. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

by Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

This is supposedly the season of “giving,” of “good will to all mankind.” Not with Donald Trump in the White House.

Trump is so giddy to take credit for displacing “Happy Holidays” with “Merry Christmas.” That’s all he cares about. But just as Trump, who makes money off of hotels but has no concept of “hospitality” and is more like the craven Snidely Whiplash than Barron Hilton, he has no clue and no care what “Christmas” means.

Indeed, this Christmas, 9 million children and pregnant women are losing access to health care and the ability to live a good life or realize their full potential. 13 million Americans don’t know if they will be able to afford or access health care.  800,000 Dreamers don’t know whether they will be thrown out of jobs, housing, and the nation, exiled to a country that is completely foreign to them. Seniors and retirees don’t know if they will be able to continue to afford living in their homes and whether their Medicare and Social Security benefits will be cut.

The Tax Scam rammed through by Republicans is just the beginning: they are giddy about how adding $1.5 trillion to the national debt, the same amount (coincidentally) that it redistributes from working people to the already obscenely rich and richest corporations sitting on $2 trillion in cash they refuse to use to raise wages will “justify” slashing the social safety net, cutting Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid – you know the so-called “entitlements” that working people have paid into their entire working lives.

Trump made it clear, in his ignorant, short-hand way, what will come next, in his speech in St. Louis:

“Then we will have done tax cuts, the biggest in history…I know people, they work three jobs and they live next to somebody who doesn’t work at all. And the person who’s not working at all and has no intention of working at all is making more money and doing better than the person that’s working his and her ass off. And it’s not going to happen. Not going to happen. (Applause.) So we’re going to go into welfare reform.”

You only have to look at what is happening in every quarter of civic life which is shifting the balance to the wealthiest while cutting off upward mobility for anyone else. The Trump FCC’s plan to overturn net neutrality is exactly that: it cements the control that the internet oligopoly wields not only to keep out upstart competitors but control what information or culture gets wide viewing. What Pai wants is for money to rule both content and access (that’s what “free market” means). Don’t have money to keep an internet subscription so you can access news, information or jobs? Tough luck. But the FCC intends to couple this with more government surveillance of what goes up over the Internet – quite literally the worst of both worlds.

It is apparent also in how Trump is pawning off national monuments to commercial exploitation – Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, the Arctic Refuge and the Atlantic Marine Sanctuary – basically stealing what is our collective heritage and birthright to give to commercial interests. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who has no compunction to waste taxpayer money for his own use, is even raising admission fees to the national parks, further putting what is owned by all Americans off limits for those who can’t pay the freight.

Money is the new “entitlement.” It determines who can afford to weigh the scales of justice in their favor, and, thanks to Citizens United, who runs for election and wins, and therefore what policy gets written and enacted, and even who has access to the voting booth. Billionaire venture capitalist Tom Perkins actually said that out loud: “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?” Indeed.

This mentality is actually seeping down even into the disasters that have become all too common and catastrophic because of climate change: Freakonomics did a segment that a free market rather than anti-gouging laws should come into play after a disaster. A shopkeeper should be able to sell a bottle of water for $1000 to the father with a child dying of thirst if he wants to, because at $2 a bottle, someone will hoard. (The absurdity is that purchases are rationed for the rich and the poor.)

Another segment suggested that people should be able to pay their way (a premium) to jump a line – that’s okay for a themepark, but they are suggesting the same for access to life-saving organ donation.

Trump is the first president to dare do what the Republicans have been salivating over since the New Deal but dared not do. It’s not that the Republicans haven’t had their sights set on reversing every progressive policy since the 1860s. (Alabama Senate candidate, the defrocked judge Roy Moore, said that every Amendment after the 10th, the state’s rights one, should be abolished, including the 13th amendment ending slavery, 14th amendment giving due process, the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. Meanwhile, the Republicans are about to cancel the 10th amendment’s State’s Rights provision in order to require New York State to accept Conceal Carry Reciprocity and overturn its own gun safety laws.)

You actually have Senator Chuck Grassley defending abolishing the estate tax which affects only a tiny fraction of the wealthiest families and was intended since the founding to prevent an institutionalized aristocracy, argue that the previous tax code favors poor and working-class Americans who were “just spending every darn penny they have, whether it’s on booze or women or movies.”

Utah’s Orrin Hatch, justifying shifting $1.5 trillion in tax breaks to the wealthy and corporations and slashing the social safety net, declared, “I have a rough time wanting to spend billions and billions and trillions of dollars to help people who won’t help themselves, won’t lift a finger, and expect the federal government to do everything.”

Merry Christmas? Bah humbug.

“And so how do we as Christians respond, who serve a God whose prophets call for welcoming immigrants (Deuteronomy, Leviticus), caring for the orphans and widows (Jeremiah, Ezekiel), establishing fair housing (Isaiah), seeking justice (Micah 6), and providing health care (Isaiah),” a twitter conversation between MSNBC’s Joy Reid and Susan Gilbert Zencka wrote.

“What you’re witnessing tonight in the United States Senate is the weaponization of pure, unmitigated greed,” Joy Reid wrote after the Senate’s adoption of its tax plan. “Lobbyists are writing the bill in pen at the last minute. And Republicans are no longer even pretending to care about anyone but the super rich,“ wrote Joy Reid.

The America that Trump and the Republicans envision is not one of an American Dream where anyone who has the ability and works hard enough can rise up, but one in which communities must beg billionaires for funding for a public school, a library, a hospital, and be very grateful for their charity.

Tell me how this is not a modern, nonfiction version of Dickens’ “Oliver Twist.”

“Please sir, I’d like some more.”

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

VP Pence Tells Club for Growth: ‘This is Our Moment’

Vice President Mike Pence at the opulent Breakers Hotel, Palm Beach, tells the Club for Growth: “This is our moment.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Except for the cuts to the State Department which has some Republicans howling, the rest of Trump’s “America First” anti-American budget are the things the Conservatives have been fantasizing about but never had the guts to do because of the ramifications. Now they have someone who is putting himself out there who doesn’t bother considering the impacts on ordinary people. 

This is as much Ryan’s budget  as Trump’s, which likely will also enact massive tax cuts, paid for by slashing benefits to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, further  exacerbating the inequality in wealth, political power and justice  in this country that strains the limits to what this Democracy can sustain. 

“This is our moment,” Vice President Mike Pence gleefully told the Club for Growth at the posh Breakers Hotel, Palm Beach. 

Here are highlights from his speech–Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

For the first time in a decade, thanks to your hard work, we have a pro-growth House, we have a pro-growth Senate, and we have a pro-growth President of the United States of America.  (Applause.)  And President Donald Trump I believe has laid out an agenda that is renewing the American spirit in ways that we haven’t seen since the days of Ronald Reagan.

This is our moment.  This is the time. And my friends, this is our chance to prove that our answers are still the right answers for America.  (Applause.)

More freedom.  Lower taxes.  Less regulation and smaller government.  History will attest that when America builds on this foundation, we reach heights that once seemed unreachable.

And that is the foundation of this administration.  President Trump’s vision is to unleash growth in America like never before, and the good news is:  It’s already happening.

On Day One, President Trump went straight to work rolling back the reams of red tape.  He instructed every bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. to find two regulations to get rid of before imposing any new red tape on the American people and on American free enterprise.  (Applause.)

He’s already taken action to put the Keystone and Dakota pipelines on the path to approval, creating tens of thousands of American jobs and protecting our American energy future.  (Applause.)

And just this past Monday, President Trump set into motion a plan to reorganize the executive branch — and that includes identifying and eliminating federal agencies that, frankly, we just plain don’t need anymore.

It’s leadership like that — you can applaud that if you like.  (Applause.)   It’s leadership like this that’s getting government out of the way of the American people and of American job creators. 

Businesses are already reacting to President Trump’s vision and his renewed optimism and investment.  And they’re investing in America in ways that are lifting and creating jobs.

Last month alone the economy added 235,000 jobs.  Construction and manufacturing are booming once again.  Business leaders and American consumers haven’t been this confident in years — and by some measures, in more than a decade.

Folks, the era of slow growth is over; a new era of American growth has begun.  (Applause.)

You know and I know that economic growth begins with fiscal responsibility.  I see my friend Senator Pat Toomey over there.  We fought together in the House, shoulder to shoulder for fiscal restraint.  And I know how enthusiastic he and the other great conservatives like Senator Mike Lee and others in the room are that just two days ago, President Donald Trump released the most conservative budget since Ronald Reagan sat in the Oval Office.  (Applause.)

Our vision is simple.  We want a government that will keep Americans safe and that leaves us free to do what the American people do best.  That’s why our budget first and foremost gives our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard the resources they need to complete their mission, protect our families, and come home safe to theirs.  We’re rebuilding the American military under this Trump budget.  (Applause.)

But also at the President’s direction, our budget offsets $54 billion in military spending with government spending cuts –a 31 percent cut at the E.P.A.  (Applause.)  Double-digit reductions in no fewer than 10 federal departments.  (Applause.)

And, folks, The Washington Post actually ran a headline this week saying, they quote, “historic contraction of the federal workforce.”  (Laughter.)  They meant it as a warning, we took it as a compliment.  (Applause.)

We’re going to end the waste, the fraud, the abuse in D.C and make sure that the American taxpayer gets the best bang for their buck.  I got to tell you this businessman who has become President of the United States believes in sharpened pencils.  And he’s been sharpening his pencils ever since the morning after Election Day.

But beyond the budget, we’re going to keep slashing all the job-killing regulations and rein in unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.  I want to commend the members of Congress for sending those congressional review act bills.  We’re going to keep rolling back regulation every chance we get so that this economy can’t be crippled by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. sitting behind the comfort of their metal desks.  (Applause.)

We’ve heard from businesses large and small, all across America that red tape is strangling their ability to create jobs, and to grow and thrive.  That’s why we’re working to get government off their back.

We’re going to keep working with the Congress to repeal the last-minute mandates rushed through by the last administration.  And, frankly, we’re taking a hard look at every regulation on the books — including, as President Trump said on Wednesday, the CAFE rule that is holding back the American automotive industry will now no longer stand in the way of economic prosperity and growth.  (Applause.)

We’re making sure federal agencies fast-track projects and permits and don’t slow-walk them.  And we’re going to roll back Dodd-Frank so that American businesses have access to the best financial system in the world.  (Applause.)

And with this Cabinet — and how about this Cabinet? (Applause.)   With this Cabinet, President Trump has picked men and women who know that bureaucrats don’t create jobs, businesses do.

The bottom line is that our agenda of more freedom and less regulation is going to usher in growth and opportunity and prosperity in this country like never before.  And it’s the vision that the Club for Growth has been about advancing since the very beginning of this organization.

If you still have any doubt, there’s also something else I want you to know.  We’re going to have the biggest tax reform and reduction in a generation in America before this year is out.  (Applause.)

Under President Trump’s leadership, we’re going to cut taxes across the board for working families, small businesses, and family farms.  It’s going to be pro-growth, pro-savings, and pro-hardworking Americans keeping more of their hard-earned dollar.

We’re going to simplify the tax code working with members of the House and Senate who are gathered here, and we’re going to have lower rates across the board.

We’re going to make American businesses competitive again by slashing one of the highest corporate rates in the developed world and letting American companies bring the money back from overseas so they can invest in American and create American jobs with a lower business rate.  (Applause.)

And not only that, and I promise to you working with members of Congress, we’re going to repeal hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes when we repeal and replace Obamacare.  (Applause.)

My friends, the Obamacare nightmare is about to end.  Now, I don’t have to remind people here at the Club for Growth why this failed law has to go.  You all have seen the headlines, and you know the facts.  You’ve lived them in many places all over the country — skyrocketing premiums, unaffordable deductibles, mandates, higher taxes.  The truth is the American people can’t afford Obamacare, and it’s time we no longer ask them to put up with it.  (Applause.)

In his joint address to Congress two weeks ago, the President outlined his plan to repeal and replace Obamacare once and for all.  And we’re working with members of Congress to advance that plan.

Make no mistake about it:  Our plan is pro-growth and pro-freedom.  It ends Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates by eliminating their penalties by the time the whole plan is unfurled.  It repeals the taxes I just mentioned right out of the gate.  It expands health savings accounts.  It enacts the biggest reform in Medicaid since the creation of that program in 1965.

These are the kind of solutions that conservatives like us have been talking about for years. And they’re now within our reach.  And let me be blunt:  We need your help to get this plan passed.  The House is set to vote next week on the beginning of this process.  It’s called the American Health Care Act, and it is a crucial step towards fulfilling our promise to repeal and replace Obamacare with something that actually works.

Now I know that there have been concerns expressed with the bill as it currently stands.  And just know that the President and I are and our entire administration are listening.   We’re working with members of Congress to improve the bill and to make this bill even better than it already is..

 

And we’re working with every single [Republican] member of Congress — the Republican Study Committee, the Freedom Caucus, the Senate Steering Committee, and all the lawmakers here tonight, just to name a few.   Thanks to their input, we’ve actually added a number of great amendments just in the last 24 hours.

Beginning with, we’re going to stop more states from expanding Medicaid by ceasing the expansion for states that did not expand Medicaid under Obamacare immediately.  (Applause.)

Because of the voices of conservatives in Congress, we’re going to be amending the Ho bill to give states the option for a Medicaid in a block grant in its entirety so states can reform Medicaid in the way that they see fit.  (Applause.)

And thanks to the leadership and the collaboration of many of the great conservatives in this room, we’re going to have an amendment to allow states to include a work requirement for able-bodied adults on Medicaid so we can ensure the program is there for people who actually need it. [So if you’ve lost your job, were laid off, your company goes bankrupt, you are doomed.] (Applause.)

Folks, I meant it when I said we’re listening.  And the President is going to continue to engage members of Congress in ways that we can improve this legislation.  We had a meeting just yesterday in the Oval Office, and I was pleased that the leadership of the Republican Study Committee endorsed the bill that’s moving through the House, and we’re grateful for their support.

And while we’re having a vigorous debate, the good news is that Republicans are in complete agreement, and we have complete consensus that Obamacare must go.  (Applause.)

Donald Trump and Mike Pence are only courting right-wing conservatives on policies that impact all Americans’ lives © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

We’ll continue to advance the President’s agenda, and how we work that out is going to be the result of the legislative process and administrative action.  But President Trump’s vision is very simple:  a national health-care marketplace and state-based Medicaid reform; allowing the American people to purchase health insurance across state lines the way you buy life insurance, the way you buy car insurance, and allowing states the freedom and flexibility to redesign Medicaid around the unique needs of their own people is a pathway toward a more prosperous future and better healthcare for the American people.  (Applause.)

And it’s important to remember that our healthcare plan doesn’t begin and end with the bill that’s moving through the Congress today.  I wanted to make it clear to all of you this is only one part of the President’s three-part strategy.  The other two tracks are just as important in restoring free-market principles to American health care.

At this very moment, our administration is evaluating every possible administrative action to get government out of the way and allow for state-based innovation and reform.

The name of the game is to seize the opportunity to change the regulations, and we’ve got a great team with Dr. Tom Price and Seema Verma heading up HHS and the Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services to do it.

Just this past week, they both sent a letter to every single one of America’s governors saying, “a new era for federal and state Medicaid partnership” has begun — and so it has.  (Applause.) 

Under Dr. Tom Price’s leadership with Seema Verma at his side running Medicaid, we’re going to give our states the freedom and flexibility they need with Medicaid to implement the kind of reforms that will do the most good for the most vulnerable — state-based solutions, not one-size-fits-all federal solutions.  And remember that truthfully it is about improving Medicaide[sic]….

 

And we’re going to continue to partner with the Congress to pass other important healthcare reforms, including we’re going to pass medical malpractice reform at last.  (Applause.)  We’re going to allow businesses around America to participate in association health plans, and as I mentioned before, we’re going to give Americans the freedom to buy health insurance across state lines — an idea whose time has come.

Not before too long I expect we’re going to see that little lizard and Flo on television selling health insurance just the way they sell car insurance and sell life insurance.  (Laughter and applause.) 

Our three-part strategy, once enacted, we truly believe will create a dynamic national health-insurance marketplace, which is the key to making affordable, high-quality coverage accessible for every American.

Now we can’t lose sight of what’s at stake in the coming weeks. This is a momentous time.  We literally have an opportunity to begin to accomplish what everyone in this room has fought so hard to achieve for so long.  And President Trump and I look forward to continuing to work with all of you — the men and women in public life who are here, and those of you who are patrons and supporters that are present.

And know this:  When we repeal and replace Obamacare, we will also make room for even more tax relief for working families, small businesses, and family farms when we take up tax reform this spring.  (Applause.)

But health care isn’t the only place where we need your partnership.  The same goes for the rest of our pro-growth, pro-freedom agenda. 

Quite frankly, we’re counting on you.  And we know you’ll be there.  You’ve already demonstrated — many of you for many years here at Club for Growth — your dedication to the principles that we all share.  

I look around this room and I see true patriots — men and women who love this country and have been willing to devote your time and your talent and your treasure to the country’s future without any regard to whether you’d ever be acknowledged or ever get credit for it.  Those great candidates that you’ve supported over the years, and that now people the hallways of the House and the Senate serving the American people.  The debt this country owes to the men and women in this organization and throughout the conservative movement can only be repaid by keeping faith with the ideals and the principles that you have sought to advance….

 

The reason that we’re here with a pro-growth President and a pro-growth Congress on the cusp of repealing the failed policies of Obamacare is because, on the cusp of transformational tax reform, on the cusp of a whole range of reforms that will enliven this country’s economy and open doors of opportunities for millions of Americans is that year after year, all of you in this room and conservatives around America never gave up.  And I’m just here to say thanks, and to tell you to press on.

My friends, this is our moment.  Now is the time.  This is our rendezvous with destiny.  And I know we’ll meet the challenge.  It will come together.  We’ll give all of our energy, our enthusiasm, our courage, and our conviction, our passion, and our prayers.  And in that, I’m confident — I’m confident we’ll make the most of the opportunity before us.  And under President Trump’s leadership, I know we’ll get this economy moving again.  Under his leadership, I know we’ll restore opportunity and prosperity for all our people.  We’ll make the best healthcare system in the world even better with free-market principles, more jobs, higher incomes, better healthcare in a safer and more prosperous America.

In a word, my friends, with your help, and with God’s help, we’ll make America great again.  

Thank you very much.  Thanks for having me back and God bless you and God bless the United State of America.   (Applause.)

OMB: Obama Administration Would Veto ‘Retail Investor Protection Act’

The Office of Management and Budget has issued a Statement of Administration Policy regarding HR 1090, the “Retail Investor Protection Act” sponsored by Rep. Wagner (R-MO) and 34 co-sponsors, because as is typical of such bills that have come from the Republican Majority, their title is the very opposite of their actual intent:

The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 1090 because the bill would derail an important Department of Labor rulemaking critical to protecting Americans’ hard-earned savings and preserving their retirement security.

H.R. 1090 prohibits Labor from issuing a rule to protect investors until the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) acts.  It also impinges on the SEC’s ability to move forward with its own rulemaking by requiring the SEC to take the misguided step of providing definitive findings before promulgating a rule.

Further, the bill ignores the fact that significant study has already been conducted by both agencies and that Labor has had extensive engagement with the public, industry, and numerous stakeholders in its rulemaking process.  This includes more than 140 days of public comment period, four days of public hearings, and approximately 100 meetings with stakeholders after the proposal was published in April.  Moreover, Labor and the SEC are already working closely to ensure the smooth operation of the proposed safeguards, and this legislation would hamper effective coordination between the two agencies.

Under existing, outdated rules, savers cannot count on receiving the unbiased advice that they need and expect.  This bill would effectively block action to protect working and middle-class families from the harmful conflicts of interest that lead to biased advice.  The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that these conflicts cost savers $17 billion every year.

The Administration is committed to ensuring that American workers and retirees are able to receive advice about how to invest their money in safe, secure, and transparent financial products that are free from harmful conflicts of interest.  Labor’s ongoing rulemaking is designed to protect the retirement savings of millions of workers and retirees by ensuring that paid advisors and other entities do not place their own financial interests over those of their customers.  This legislation puts a roadblock in the way of preventing such harmful conflicts, which hurts businesses, consumers, and retirees and their families.

If the President were presented with H.R. 1090, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

(www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/legislative/sap/114/saphr1090r_20151026.pdf)