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Tuesday, July 17, 2018
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  • 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 calls for Trump to resign
    “Today, friends of mine are risking their lives to serve the U.S. Intelligence Community, as I once did. For the U.S. president to say they are no more credible than the hostile foreign dictator standing next to him is a national security disaster. He must resign.” - South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg, in a tweet following President Trump’s meeting with Russian President Putin. Buttigieg is preparing a 2020 presidential run for the Democratic nomination. He is a Navy veteran of Afghanistan and an intelligence officer.
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  • Trump defies Coats, disgraces himself and our nation

    President Trump disgraced himself and the U.S. when he stood next to Russian President Putin, signaling his belief in the strongman over his intelligence leaders such as Dan Coats, who just last Friday warned that Russian assaults of U.S. institutions were ongoing. 

    National Intelligence Director Coats, in a statement following the Helsinki news conference, said, “We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security.” President Trump referenced Coats’ warning, but insisted Putin was “extremely strong in his denial” and said, "I don't see any reason why it would be." What we don’t know is what Trump and Putin discussed when they met alone for two hours (except for translators).

    The biggest fear is that patriots like Coats might resign, leaving this president to his own unpredictable and destructive devices that were on full display throughout the week when he blasted NATO allies, embarrassed British Prime Minister Theresa May, and called the European Union a “foe.” This is a crisis of unprecedented proportions. 

    Hoosier Republicans, more than those across the nation, need to stand up and declare for the ideals long espoused by statesmen like Dan Coats and Richard Lugar, as U.S. Sen. Todd Young did this afternoon, when he said the U.S. “must deter additional aggression by Putin.” There is reluctance to do this because of Vice President Pence’s station in the Trump administration (Pence has lunch with Trump Tuesday at the White House), but we make the case that for that very reason, their voices must be heard and will carry extra weight.
    - Brian A. Howey, publisher

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