On the News With Thom Hartmann: Credit Checks Are Discriminatory, and More

In today’s On the News segment: Using credit scores to deny people homes or work is simply wrong; Marco Rubio thinks that women don’t need a law mandating equal pay for equal work; Senate Democrats are outraged over the Justice Department’s weak settlement deal with a predatory for-profit college; and more.

See more news and opinion from Thom Hartmann at Truthout here.


Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News…

You need to know this. Every day, Americans are approved or denied for jobs, loans and apartment leases based on the information contained in their credit reports. While this is a problem that needs to be address in every community, it has had a particularly devastating effect on minority communities. According to Sarah Ludwig of The Guardian, credit reports “embed existing racial inequities in our credit system and economy.” She explained that decades of institutional racism like redlining and predatory lending have contributed to lower credit scores among minorities and they have perpetuated inequality, segregation and poverty. For example, banks systematically refused to make more loans in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods for decades, and that practice left communities of color without the home loans and investment needed to strengthen credit histories. Without those traditional loans, minority communities have been forced to turn to predatory lenders and check cashing stores for basic loans and financial services. Those high-interest loans are more likely to end up in default and appear as a negative mark on someone’s credit. All of these factors have essentially locked decades of racist policies into the credit history of minorities, and that history follows them in to every job interview or loan application. Despite mountains of evidence showing that credit histories have no demonstrated connection with a person’s character or job performance, many employers still perform a credit check on prospective employees. Various cities around the country have began banning this practice in initial employment screening, but, far too many people are still impacted by the over-use of credit checks. No one should be denied work because they were a victim of decades of racial injustice. Using credit scores to deny people homes or work is simply wrong, and it’s time to stand up to the credit bureaus who profit off of that practice.

Marco Rubio has a catch-22 for women who want equal pay. According to a recent article by Bryce Covert over at the ThinkProgress blog, Rubio says that “It’s already illegal to pay women less than men.” He explained that if you pay a woman less than a man, “you can be sued now.” However, he opposes the Paycheck Fairness Act because “all it really did is just help lawyers sue.” In other words, Rubio thinks that women don’t need a law mandating equal pay for equal work because they can sue, but he thinks that there are already too many lawsuits. The fact of the matter is that there were fewer than 1,000 pay discrimination claims brought to the EEOC last year, and only about a third of all cases were successful over the last decade. That doesn’t mean that pay discrimination isn’t happening, it means that most women don’t have the time or resources to bring a successful lawsuit. Legal action is not the answer to pay equity, but with Republicans like Marco Rubio blocking stronger regulations, the court system is the only weapon we have in the fight against pay discrimination.

Senate Democrats are outraged over the Justice Department’s weak settlement deal with a predatory for-profit college. Last month, the DOJ reached a $95 million settlement with the Education Management Corporation over that company’s misrepresentation of educational benefits, questionable recruitment tactics and misleading job-placement rates. But that agreement allows the company to pay the settlement down through the year 2022, it only provides about $1,300 in relief to impacted students, and it doesn’t even require the company or officials to admit wrong doing. In a letter to the Department of Education, Senators Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal and Dick Durbin say that the Justice Department deal doesn’t go far enough to help students or punish the guilty parties. They wrote, “We are profoundly dissatisfied with a settlement in which government recovered a miniscule fraction of stolen taxpayer funds, held no individuals accountable while failing to even obtain an admission of wrongdoing from EDMC, and now may not even provide relief to thousands of student who owe billions of dollars in student loans because they were recruited by EDMC.” Just like the banksters, the for-profit college crowd is getting off easy, but thankfully these Senators won’t give up without a fight.

The City Council of Desert Hot Springs, California has shown who they really represent – Walmart. Last week, Council members voted down a proposal to raise that city’s minimum wage because the retail giant threatened to pull out of plans to open a new store in that area. That proposal would have increased the minimum wage for workers at large retail stores to $10.20 an hour, and go up $1 an hour per year for the next two years. Unfortunately, Walmart’s illusive promise of a new store was enough to get council members to sell out that city’s workers. That company has been in discussions with the city over a proposed store for years, but they haven’t even submitted a required report on the new store’s potential impact. Just like they have in other cities, the mega-retailer used their size and power to keep wages depressed, and the Desert Hot Springs Council helped make it happen. Perhaps voters can let them know how they feel about that vote in the next election, and they can keep fighting until a living wage becomes reality in their California city.

And finally … Alexander City, Alabama, is taking a stand against modern-day debtors’ prisons. Last month, that city passed a new ordinance requiring the municipal court to look in to a person’s ability to pay a fine before they can be arrested for not paying a fee. That move came in the wake of a lawsuit against the city by the Southern Poverty Law Center after discovering that the local police department had been jailing anyone who didn’t pay a fine. That practice resulted in numerous people being jailed for petty offenses, simply because they couldn’t afford to pay. Similar lawsuits have been filed against cities in Louisiana, Missouri and other states, and various civil liberties groups are working to bring this practice to an end. No one should be imprisoned because they’re poor, and it’s great news that in at least one city, debtors’ prisons are once again against the law.