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Monday, March 25, 2019
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  • INDIANAPOLIS – I thought the name rang a bell. Judge Kavanaugh wrote the decision in PHH Corp. v. CFPB, declaring the structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) unconstitutional, a decision later reversed by the full D.C. Court of Appeals. Congress established the CFPB in the wake of the financial crisis to hold banks and other financial service providers accountable to American consumers, and it serves as both a rule-making body and enforcement agency.  Now that it has returned over $12 billion to student loan borrowers, homeowners, and credit card holders in its short lifetime, it has a number of enemies. Judge Kavanaugh appears to be among them. Following his nomination to the Supreme Court, I went back to read his decision. Kavanaugh is certainly no fan of the consumer watchdog agency, and his assertions about the agency should give us pause. Arguing that the CFPB’s power was “massive in scope,” Kavanaugh went on to argue that the director “possesses more unilateral authority – that is, authority to take action on one’s own, subject to no check – than…any other officer in any of the three branches of the U.S. Government, other than the President.” This is an ironic – and almost laughable – statement in the context of Kavanaugh’s exercise of judicial authority to overturn a CFPB enforcement action. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS –  It’s about time. 

    On July 11, the U.S. Senate Committee on Social Security, Pensions and Family Policy held a landmark hearing on paid family leave. This hearing was long overdue and extremely critical to working families’ health and economic security. The U.S. is one of the only developed countries that does not offer some form of paid leave for family caregiving or serious illness, and just 15% of working people in the U.S. have paid family leave through their employer. Here in Indiana, only 37% of working people have access to and can afford the unpaid leave provided under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.  This means that nearly one in four women in the United States return to their cubicles, factory floors, or storefronts within two weeks of giving birth. It means that seriously ill children are left alone in hospital beds while their parents feel compelled to remain at their desks or cash registers.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – We all want financial services that propel us toward our goals – a home, an education, a small business, a dignified retirement. But in today’s increasingly complex financial marketplaces, some companies exploit consumers, often denying their victims the opportunity to reach those goals, or even sending them backwards. Abuse and deception in financial marketplaces affects whole communities, not just individuals, and it should not take an advanced degree in finance to avoid the pitfalls, so it makes sense for consumers to have a watchdog. And they did, until recently. From 2011-2017, Hoosiers could depend on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Established in the wake of our still-recent financial collapse, the CFPB went after the banks, student loan servicers, debt collectors and others who took advantage of consumers. It recovered about $12 billion for consumers in principal reductions, cancelled debts or monetary compensation against unfair or deceptive lenders.
  • INDIANAPOLIS – In April, we learned that three Indiana localities have the dubious distinction of being in the top 20 U.S. cities with the highest eviction rates. The newly established Eviction Lab, spearheaded by “Evicted” author and researcher Matthew Desmond, tells us that Fort Wayne (13th), Indianapolis (14th) and South Bend (18th) see people pushed out of housing at higher rates than most cities. In Indianapolis, that equates to more than 30 households evicted per day. These statistics shine a spotlight on Indiana’s housing crisis and bust the myth of the Midwest’s affordability, at least for low-income families. Forty-two percent of renter households in Indiana are cost-burdened, defined as spending 30% or more of gross income on rent and utilities. Rent-burdened households are more likely to be evicted, have less to spend on other basic needs like food and medical care, and more frequently must rely on food assistance and other safety net programs. On the flip side, stable housing has a host of benefits, especially for children, who are less likely to be placed in foster care and switch schools less often.
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – On Sept. 14 last year, I eagerly awaited the release of the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data. All summer, I had been researching the gender wage gap and looked forward to putting the finishing touches on the Institute’s report, “Wages, Wealth, & Poverty: Where Hoosier Women Stand and Ways our State Can Close the Gaps.”  My initial calculations that day came as a shock. Even as the nation saw a small narrowing of the gender wage gap, Indiana’s gap widened two percentage points from 24 to 26%, an annual difference of $12,717 between the median full-time male and female workers.  Attention to Indiana’s pay gap and the many high-profile “me too” announcements occurring around the same time led me to think that the 2018 legislative session might bring some positive policy changes for working women. And sadly, it didn’t – but not for lack of good bills.  A substantial portion of the gender wage gap cannot be explained away by occupation, experience, or education. Researchers suggest this reflects pay discrimination, and other states have taken steps to provide women with the tools to challenge these disparities. Retiring Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, once again filed a bill to help remedy pay discrimination by strengthening Indiana’s weak equal pay law. 
  • INDIANAPOLIS  – Despite a new poll showing that nearly nine in 10 Hoosiers want payday loan reform, the General Assembly had been pushing forward with new a predatory loan product. When the Indiana Institute for Working Families set its 2018 legislative agenda, we focused on modest and achievable policy solutions that would right the ship for Hoosier families who are underwater financially: Make sure pregnant women in physically-demanding jobs can continue to work safely, because many lack sick days or family leave. Take small steps to fix problems with our nutrition assistance and TANF programs. Get more kids into prekindergarten classrooms and adults into educational programs that lead to higher-paying jobs. Many of the bills we hoped to see advance never received a hearing have died. And Instead, there’s momentum on a different “solution” for struggling working families: bigger, longer payday loans. Indiana is one of several states that crafted a payday loan law in the early 2000s. Payday lenders were given a limited exemption from our criminal loansharking law to make two-week loans under the premise that these loans would be expensive to make due to their short-term, one-time nature. However, research is now clear: these loans, which top out at 391% APR, are almost never a two-week, emergencies-only deal.

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  • Mayor Buttigieg surges to 3rd in Iowa with 11%
    “The biggest surprise in this poll is Mayor Pete, last week we saw him inching up in our national poll, and now he’s in double digits in Iowa, America is going to be asking who is ‘Mayor Pete’?”- Spencer Kimball, Director of the Emerson Poll, describing the an Iowa poll that had South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg surging to 11% and third place. Former vice president Joe Biden was at 25%, Sen. Bernie Sanders at 24%, while Sen. Kamala Harris is at 10% and Sen. Elizabeth Warren is at 9%. Perviously Buttigieg had not been above 1% in CNN and Fox national polls as well as polls in Wisconsin and Iowa. Buttigieg is shown here campaigning in Rock Hill, S.C., on Saturday where he told voters that “Democracy is on the ballot in 2020. We cannot continue to be regarded as a party that is only for the deepest blue communities. There is written nowhere that a state like South Carolina or Indiana or anywhere else has to be conservative forever.”
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  • Huston's advice to Trump is to dump Pence, add Haley to the ticket

    Vice President Mike Pence once headed the Indiana Policy Review think tank. On Friday night, members heard a former aide to President Nixon suggested President Trump should replace him on the 2020 ticket with former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley.

    "My political advice to the president would be that he replace Pence with Nikki Haley," said Indianapolis attorney Tom Huston. "I don't think Pence adds anything to the ticket. He's already said that Pence is going to be on the ticket. Now let me say, I don't like Nikki Haley. But I do think she would bring something to the ticket that would be valuable to him to win reelection." Huston headed the Young Americans for Freedom, a group of young conservatives, before joining the Nixon administration as a speechwriter, then became a special projects aide and forged the controversial "Huston Plan" designed to confront domestic terrorism during the Vietnam War era. Huston was the featured speaker about the state of modern American conservatism.

    President Trump publicly asked Pence to stay on the ticket right after the 2018 election, but media reports had him questioning Pence's loyalty and what he would bring to the reelection bid. Some believe Nikki Haley, the former United Nations Ambassador and South Carolina governor, could help Trump attract female voters. - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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