Tagged: Congress

Mass shootings are the fastest growing sport of cowards in America

The cowards I refer to are not the shooters. The cowards are the politicians living in such fear of the NRA they are unwilling to respond to the majority cry for background checks, sensible regulation of access to guns in the United States.

Never forget!

Barack Obama put words to the desperation of millions of Americans – and the despair of the rest of the world – after another mass shooting at a school in Oregon on Thursday, the latest of nearly 1,000 since his reelection in 2012.

“Somehow,” the president said, “this has become routine.

“The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it,” Obama trailed off, at once frustrated and spirited at the White House. “We’ve become numb to this … We talked about this after Columbine and Blacksburg; after Tucson, after Newtown; after Aurora, after Charleston.”

The words mark a long list of tragedy. Since Obama’s reelection to a second term in November 2012 – which itself was followed by the shooting of 26 people including 20 children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, just a few weeks later – there had been 993 mass shooting events in the United States . Thursday’s attack, at Umpqua community college in the town of Roseburg, was No 994. Almost 300 of them have occurred in 2015.

That’s almost one every day

The numbers go deeper than the statements, as the president said…

…The number of firearm homicides in 2013, the last year for which the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has statistics, was 11,208. The year before Sandy Hook, it was 107 fewer than that.

That’s just intentional homicides. Firearms are the cause of death for more than 33,000 people in America every year, according to the CDC; a number that includes both accidental discharge, murder and suicides, which are on the increase, especially in states with lax gun-control laws, according to the New England Journal of Medicine.

That means guns kill more people in America every six hours than terrorist attacks did in the entire year of 2014.

On top of that, in 2010 more than 73,000 Americans were treated in hospitals for firearm-related injuries, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Eloquence means nothing. Republicans revel in the wash of bloodshed. Every murder, every child killed by accident, every drive-by shooting means the stupid vote stays solid for Republicans. They know Congress hasn’t the courage to act, to lead.

Eloquence means nothing to Blue Dog Democrats invested more in cowardice than courage. They fear the stupid vote will be rounded up against their potential corral of sensible voters. They fear that even more than losing their share of blood money doled out to every politician who says “how high?” whenever the NRA says, “JUMP”.

Anyone expect Congress to pay attention to folks who don’t vote?

…Americans who vote are different from those who don’t. Voters are older, richer, and whiter than nonvoters, in part because Americans lack a constitutional right to vote and the various restrictions on voting tend to disproportionately impact the less privileged. In 2014, turnout among those ages 18 to 24 with family incomes below $30,000 was 13 percent. Turnout among those older than 65 and making more than $150,000 was 73 percent. The result is policy that is biased in favor of the affluent. As I argue in a new report, “Why Voting Matters,” higher turnout would transform American politics by giving poor, young, and nonwhite citizens more sway…

But would boosting turnout actually change policy? We have reason to think so. Research suggests that voters are indeed better represented than nonvoters, but the historical and international record lend support to the thesis as well…

The expansion of the franchise to women is…instructive. As women gained access to the franchise within the United States, state government spending increased dramatically… Indeed, the enfranchisement of women boosted spending on public health so significantly that it saved an estimated 20,000 children each year.

Later, the civil rights movement mobilized the Southern black electorate, which led to more liberal voting patterns among Southern Democrats and a boost in government spending going to black communities. The elimination of poll taxes and the subsequent mobilization of poor voters also lead to an increase in welfare spending.

There are many reasons the United States doesn’t have an expansive welfare state, like nearly every other high-income country. However, one important part is low voter turnout…There is a dramatic divergence between the United States and other countries in terms of both voter turnout and government spending…

But deep differences in turnout based on income, age, and race only serve to further reduce the poor’s say. In the status quo, politicians don’t have incentives to listen to ordinary Americans, because it won’t cost them anything. That won’t change until turnout among nonwhite and poor voters increases. There are a number of ways that government can encourage voting: by fixing the Voting Rights Act, by enacting automatic voter registration, by repealing voter ID laws. All would give the poor more voice, and give policies they support a better chance of passage.

Of course, the changes advocated by McElwee don’t stand much chance of enactment without replacing most of the conservative Republicans and Democrats in Congress. Who needs to be convinced of the usefulness of that?

Liar loans redux — They’re back!

The pitch arrived with an iconic image of the American Dream: a neat house with a white picket fence.

But behind that picture of a $2.95 million home in Manhattan Beach, California, were hints of something darker: liar loans, those toxic mortgages of the subprime era.

Years after the great American housing bust, mortgages akin to the so-called liar loans — which were made without verifying people’s finances — are creeping back into the market. And, like last time, they’re spreading risks far and wide via Wall Street.

Today’s versions bear only passing resemblance to the ones that proliferated in the mid-2000s, and they’re by no means as widespread. Still, they reflect how the business is starting to join in the frenzy that’s been creating booms in everything from subprime car loans to junk-rated company bonds.

The Manhattan Beach story — how the mortgage on that house was made and subsequently packaged into securities with top-flight credit ratings — recalls a time when borrowers, lenders and investors all misjudged the potential danger…

…Federal regulations put in place following the crash effectively outlawed liar loans. Under so-called ability-to-pay requirements, lenders must take specific steps to ensure homebuyers actually can afford the mortgages. If they don’t, homeowners can sue and potentially win damages that can dwarf the value of the homes.

But in a throwback to subprime times, Velocity and other specialty lenders routinely offer certain mortgages with limited reviews, if any, of borrowers’ finances. That’s because the rules exempt mortgages made for “business purposes.” The setup lets borrowers avoid typical paperwork, in return for paying higher mortgage rates…

Chris Farrar, Velocity’s chief executive officer, says his company takes steps to ensure customers really are buying homes for business purposes…“Our goal is to never make a consumer loan,” Farrar said. Velocity’s lawyers have advised the company, previously known as Velocity Commercial Capital, that its processes would put it on solid ground even if it somehow failed to weed out inaccurate applications, he said…

Representatives for Nomura and Citigroup declined to comment…

It’s difficult to say how far the problems might go, but industry experts agree that mortgage lending is nowhere near as sloppy as it was during the last go-round, which created a bust that produced about 6 million foreclosures…

To Jeffrey Naimon, a partner at BuckleySandler, the real danger would be if unscrupulous mortgage brokers once again encouraged homebuyers to get in over their heads.

RTFA. We witnessed the same hustle last time – just before the tsunami of the Great Recession swamped millions of Americans in debt and unemployment. No one seriously at the top did time. No one suffered much more than a golden parachute to another Wall Street job.

Hear anyone in our fiscally-responsible, Republican-controlled Congress letting out a peep this time?

Going for a record: 204 mass shootings in 204 days — in 2015, so far

Never Forget

…The headlines all start to sound the same after awhile. Seven people shot inside Louisville nightclub. Four men shot in Suffolk early Sunday morning. Two dead, two hospitalized in Brice Street shooting.

The shootings happen so often, the circumstances become so familiar, that we tune them out. One dead, five injured in west Columbus shooting. Four shot in grocery store ambush. One dead, four injured in Stockton shooting.

Every now and then a particularly heinous crime makes us pause and reflect. Nine dead in shooting at black church in Charleston. Four marines, one sailor killed in attacks on Chattanooga military facilities. Gunman opens fire on Louisiana movie theater.

The Mass Shooting Tracker, a crowd-sourced project of the anti-gun folks at the Guns Are Cool subreddit, lists 203 mass shooting events so far in 2015. Add in the shooting at a Louisiana movie theater last night and you get 204. Incidentally, yesterday was the 204th day of the year…

The Mass Shooting Tracker is different from other shooting databases in that it uses a broader definition of mass shooting. “The old FBI definition of Mass Murder (not even the most recent one) is four or more people murdered in one event,” the site’s creators explain. “It is only logical that a Mass Shooting is four or more people shot in one event.”…

These shootings have become so common that they typically don’t even make national news. Do you remember the four people shot in Cincinnati earlier this month? How about the seven in Cleveland, or the nine in Fort Wayne? Unless you live in these areas, you probably didn’t even hear about them…

Will anything change? Probably not. The Charleston shooting did produce a fruitful national conversation — not on guns, but on the symbolism of the Confederate flag, which the shooter adopted as a banner of his racist beliefs. It took 150 years and a national tragedy for the country to reach something like a consensus on the meaning of a battle flag.

“Those who live in America, or visit it, might do best to regard [mass shootings] the way one regards air pollution in China: an endemic local health hazard which, for deep-rooted cultural, social, economic and political reasons, the country is incapable of addressing,” The Economist wrote in response to the Charleston massacre. “This may, however, be a bit unfair. China seems to be making progress on pollution.”