Opinion | Congress to I.R.S.: Don’t Even Think of Helping Taxpayers – The New York Times

By The Editorial Board
The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

April 10, 2019, 311
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CreditCreditLuba Lukova
Congress has landed on one of those rare ideas that commands support from both Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately, it’s a bad one.

“On Tuesday, the House approved legislation misleadingly titled the Taxpayer First Act that includes a provision prohibiting the Internal Revenue Service from developing a free online system that most American households could use to file their taxes. The Senate is considering a similar piece of bipartisan legislation.

This makes no sense. Congress should be making it easier for Americans to file their taxes. Instead of barring the I.R.S. from making April a little less miserable, why isn’t Congress requiring the I.R.S. to create a free tax filing website?

Better yet, the United States could emulate the roughly three dozen countries, including Chile, Japan and Britain, where most taxpayers do not need to fill out tax returns. In some of those countries, the accuracy of tax withholding is sufficient to obviate the annual filing process. In others, the government sends out completed forms to most taxpayers. In Estonia, filing taxes can be done in less than three minutes.”

Opinion | A Citizens’ Guide to Regulating Big Tech – The New York Times

By Kartik Hosanagar
Mr. Hosanagar is a professor at The Wharton School of The University of Pennsylvania.

March 28, 2019
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CreditCreditSaul Gravy/Ikon Images, via Getty Images

“This election season, Americans are going to hear a lot about regulating big tech. Senator Elizabeth Warren has already kicked off that debate, and it would be the tone-deaf candidate who wasn’t alert to the increasing anxiety among the public over the power Silicon Valley giants wield. According to a 2018 survey by Pew Research Center, 57 percent of Democrats and 44 percent of Republicans feel that big tech companies should be regulated more than they are now.

A candidate who fails to address these issues in a meaningful way is not taking these concerns seriously. But how should we, as citizens, evaluate these proposals?

Any effort to regulate big tech will have to address two main issues. The first is consumer protection. When the private sector controls so much of our data, Americans should be able to know who has access to this data and how they use it. The second issue relates to “platform companies,” services that connect two or more sides of a transaction: Google Search connects people with websites, Amazon connects buyers with sellers, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android connect consumers with apps, and so on. The concern is that platforms can build services that compete with third-party services running on their platforms, and can easily give themselves an unfair advantage.

The more visible concern is consumer protection, particularly protections for privacy. Any regulation addressing consumer protection should, first, specify whether consumers have the right to access data that companies store about them and whether firms are allowed to share confidential data with a third party.”

Tracking Down Who’s Really Behind An Out-Of-State Travel Club – Angela Kennecke -Keloland Media Group

By: Angela Kennecke
Posted: Nov 06, 2017 10:03 PM CST

Updated: Nov 06, 2017 10:03 PM CST

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Video
sioux falls, sd – Did you get a travel expo postcard in the mail?

Sioux Falls residents recently received a postcard for the Southwest Getaways Expo.

Look familiar?

It’s almost identical to a postcard residents got this summer, only in that case the man selling travel clubs was arrested for not following South Dakota law.

This latest offer to buy into a travel club may say “Southwest Getaways,” but it has nothing to do with Southwest Airlines.

KELOLAND News investigates what happens if you go to the high-pressure sales presentation.

While the organizer of the last travel club to come to town, John Barze, is currently facing felony charges in South Dakota, this latest company says it isn’t associated with Barze.

Source: Tracking Down Who’s Really Behind An Out-Of-State Travel Club

David Lindsay: I just got a card promising 2 free airline tickets and 2 nights free in a 3 or 4 star Hotel, by Southwest Getaways Anniversary!

Facebook’s Data Sharing: 5 Takeaways From Our Investigation – The New York Times

By Nicholas Confessore, Michael LaForgia and Gabriel J.X. Dance
Dec. 18, 2018, 66c
“You are the product: That is the deal many Silicon Valley companies offer to consumers. The users get free search engines, social media accounts and smartphone apps, and the companies use the personal data they collect — your searches, “likes,” phone numbers and friends — to target and sell advertising.

But an investigation by The New York Times, based on hundreds of pages of internal Facebook documents and interviews with about 50 former employees of Facebook and its partners, reveals that the marketplace for that data is even bigger than many consumers suspected. And Facebook, which collects more information on more people than almost any other private corporation in history, is a central player.

Here are five takeaways from our investigation.”

Why Are Democrats Helping Trump Dismantle Dodd-Frank? – The New York Times

“This week, the Senate begins debate on the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, known as the Crapo bill for its primary sponsor, Mike Crapo, a Republican senator from Idaho. The bill would roll back or eliminate parts of the Dodd-Frank Act.

The Crapo bill is unusual in today’s hyperpartisan environment: It has over 10 Democratic co-sponsors, many from swing or red states and up for re-election this year — like Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Jon Tester of Montana and Claire McCaskill of Missouri — making its passage possible.

Why would some Democrats provide support for a rollback of Dodd-Frank? Proponents argue that this bill provides much needed relief for community banks and credit unions, which, these proponents claim, face enormous difficulties. They also say that it doesn’t endanger financial reforms aimed against the largest and most dangerous players.

But that view is mistaken: This bill goes far beyond the health of community banks and credit unions. It removes protections for 25 of the top 38 banks; weakens regulations on the biggest players and encourages them to manipulate regulations for their benefit; and saps consumer protections.”

Consumer Bureau Loses Fight to Allow More Class-Action Suits – The New York Times

“Senate Republicans voted on Tuesday to strike down a sweeping new rule that would have allowed millions of Americans to band together in class-action lawsuits against financial institutions.The overturning of the rule, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking a 50-to-50 tie, will further loosen regulation of Wall Street as the Trump administration and Republicans move to roll back Obama-era policies enacted in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis. By defeating the rule, Republicans are dismantling a major effort of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the watchdog created by Congress in the aftermath of the mortgage mess.

The rule, five years in the making, would have dealt a serious blow to financial firms, potentially exposing them to a flood of costly lawsuits over questionable business practices.For decades, credit card companies and banks have inserted arbitration clauses into the fine print of financial contracts to circumvent the courts and bar people from pooling their resources in class-action lawsuits. By forcing people into private arbitration, the clauses effectively take away one of the few tools that individuals have to fight predatory and deceptive business practices. Arbitration clauses have derailed claims of financial gouging, discrimination in car sales and unfair fees.

The new rule written by the consumer bureau, which was set to take effect in 2019, would have restored the right of individuals to sue in court. It was part of a spate of actions by the bureau, which has cracked down on debt collectors, the student loan industry and payday lenders.”

David Lindsay Jr.:

This is a sad day for the American consumer.
Breathe the air while it is still clean,
and take the longer view for solace.
When the pendulum swings too far to the right,
guess where it swings next.

Republicans Want to Sideline This Regulator. But It May Be Too Popular. – The New York Times

“Mr. Cordray says the criticism is a badge of honor. He believes the bureau’s work will have lasting ramifications.The bureau has curtailed abusive debt collection practices, reformed mortgage lending, publicized and investigated hundreds of thousands of complaints from aggrieved customers of financial institutions, and extracted nearly $12 billion for 29 million consumers in refunds and canceled debts.

This week, it began mailing out refund checks totaling $115 million to 60,000 people who had paid illegal fees to Morgan Drexen, a debt settlement company that collapsed two years ago.The agency has also rolled out the arbitration rule, and it has been putting the finishing touches on a rule that could reshape the multibillion-dollar payday lending industry.”

Making Sure Your Help Gets to Hurricane Harvey’s Victims – (Issues at the Red Cross) – NYT

“A 2015 investigation by ProPublica and NPR documented the Red Cross’s glaring failure to account for how it spent the $488 million it raised in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake in 2010, including such basics as how many people were assisted and how much money was spent on overhead.”

The comments are helpful. There are endorsements for the Salvation Army, The Houston Food Bank, and religious relief organizations like the Episcopal Fund for Relief.

There is an endorsement for the United Way, and another comment criticizing it. Everyone agrees that we have to spend time at Charity Navigator or Charity Watch.

The Best Consumer Self-Advocacy Tool You’ve Never Used – The New York Times

“Even semiprofessional consumers like me run into our share of problems. These are particularly irksome, since we should probably know better than to find ourselves on the wrong end of a busted product or poorly delivered service.So this week, I’m pleased to share with you the single best tool I’ve ever found for getting my money back or my money’s worth. In fact, it has never failed me.

It’s called the Executive Email Carpet Bomb (E.E.C.B. for short) — a well-written message to the right group of corporate executives, whose email addresses are often pretty easy to figure out. A group of renegades at a blog called Consumerist first published the concept 10 years ago this month.”

The ‘Fix’ for Net Neutrality That Consumers Don’t Need – by Tim Wu – NYT

“In analyzing the attack on net neutrality, one looks in vain for the problem that needs to be fixed. Net neutrality refers to rules intended to ensure that broadband providers cannot block content or provide faster delivery to companies that pay more. The policy was put in place in the George W. Bush administration, where it enjoyed bipartisan support. In the years since, it has sheltered bloggers, nonprofit organizations like Wikipedia, smaller tech companies, TV and music streamers, and entrepreneurs from being throttled by providers like AT&T and Verizon that own the “pipes.” ”

Rule of thumb. If At&t and Comcast are for it, I’m against it. These jerks think customers are fleecing opportunities.

I recommend a video on youtube by John Oliver last year on this subject.

Here is a comment that I found helpful:

Jerry Xu

UK 1 day ago

Net neutrality is what encourages technological innovation and competition on the open internet.A s the article states, it means that the speed of internet that you pay for is the speed you get for all websites, all the time. How would anyone be opposed to that? Unfortunately, ISPs (internet service providers) such as your Verizons and your at&ts want to be able to get more money out of you and other online websites & companies by charging for the “fast lane” equivalent of internet connections, slowing down & throttling the connections of those who don’t pony up the money. The problem is that this so called “fast lane” of internet connections runs at literally the same speed as internet connections under the Net Neutrality laws. It’s not paying to run faster, it’s paying so you don’t get slowed down.

The point is, should Net Neutrality laws be abolished, ISPs like Comcast & Time Warner will be able to charge more monthly for internet services. So not only will consumer’s be charged the monthly/yearly fee for their internet, but they may be charged more for using certain online services like YouTube and Twitter. This is the internet equivalent of your electric company charging you extra for using it to power your desk fan. The company doesn’t have the right to charge you for what you use it for, only for the service itself. Furthermore, these ISPs most likely own TV & cable services & can dictate what competes & what doesn’t. Killing net neutrality kills the open internet.