Economy/Economic Policy

Rough Week for 'Stox,' Riots and Even My Junk Mail

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The riots in England, the S and P downgrade and the volatility of financial markets made it a shocking week. What didn't help: The thought of Elizabeth Warren no longer in Washington fighting for the middle class.

(WOMENSENEWS)--The contents of my mailbox one day this week looked beaten.

The batch of envelopes--usually nesting at a neat upright slant--resisted my effort to remove them with one quick grab. Each bent-and-battered item was like an individual protest jumping out of forced crowding and confinement.

My first thought was about the person who delivered that mail. Having a hard day?


Take your pick of U.S. problems--unemployment, deficit super-committees, social service cuts, high prices for gasoline and food, health care cuts, overseas wars, volatile stock prices--and chances are someone around you is probably suffering the side effects. Maybe my postal person had a Verizon worker in the family who was now on strike. Or maybe a family member is in Afghanistan.

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When I got down to looking at that day's mail, I found the anger of each damaged-looking object somehow enter my own bloodstream.

One item was from Chase Bank, the credit card and U.S. retail banking face of the multinational JPMorgan Chase. I'd shut down my little checking account a few months ago and didn't want to hear any more from that particular financial juggernaut.

Despite the bank's far deeper pockets than my own, it had started dinging me with fees every time I went into checking overdraft. I was already paying a healthy interest rate on my credit line--wasn't that enough?

Elizabeth Warren, where are you? Oh right. Her Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is mainly focused on illuminating the tricks and traps of credit cards and mortgages. Not checking accounts.

And she'll have a hard time even doing that any more. Last week--instead of being named to run the new agency she has worked tirelessly to build--President Barack Obama sent her packing from Washington. It's seems like a real loss not to have Warren--a wise woman of the people--still in the capital.

Attacks on Social Programs

The second crumpled mail item I inspected was from AARP, another downer in a different way. The huge PAC for older Americans made me think about deficit-hawkers' attacks on Medicare and Social Security, both programs upon which women disproportionately depend. Hands off!

The third envelope was from my retirement fund, providing an update of where things stood. I didn't open it. This, after all, was the week when Standard and Poor's downgraded U.S. debt, the Federal Reserve projected long-term weakness in the U.S. economy and investors the world over worried about European countries' solvency. All that meant you had to keep up with your retirement fund second-to-second. Nothing that arrived by snail mail would mean anything.

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