Our goals for this week are 1) Deliver the essay below to every single member of Congress via every possible communications channel and to follow-up with telephone calls to compel them to actually read it and 2) Get our membership to uncover and attend any upcoming town hall meetings their representatives have scheduled and push for passage of HR3149. We’ve got to get more active in our efforts to expose our individual members of Congress and hold them accountable!
Our approach for this week breaks from our norm in two ways: The message (essay) is not our typical one page pitch and secondly we ask that you forward the essay in its entirety, uncut and unedited. (We’re pitching the essay/article for publication, but that’s a long-shot and we need the message delivered now!) Rather than see this request as a deviation from our norm to speak separately with thousands of different perspectives, we hope that you’ll view it as an effort to deliver “the big picture” perspective to members of Congress. (We don't expect anyone to agree with every thing in the essay 100% . . . that's just NOT realistic.)
In general they either don’t get it, or they simply don’t care in the least about the national employment crisis being created by the practice of employment credit checks. Many continue to play the Washington game of saying they never heard of HR3149 even though we all know better. So this is an effort to end that charade via all communications channels as well as attending all town hall meetings. So let’s get started . . .
Contacting Your Members of Congress
1) Find Your 9 Digit Zip Code Before you begin, you’ll need your full 9 digit zip code. Simply go to the link below and plug in your address and it will provide your full 9 digit zip.
2) Contact YOUR member(s) the House of Representatives
Simply click on the link above and follow the steps, select your state, enter your full 9 digit zip code, click “contact my representative,” answer the security question, plug in your personal information, paste in the essay you will find below, and hit “send message.” Then get the mailing address of ALL their offices, the telephone numbers of ALL their offices and the FAX number of ALL of their offices. Convert the essay below into a document via your word processor and mail it to every office and FAX to every office. (If the conversion to a document is too challenging for you, send an e-mail to email@example.com and type "Send Essay" in the subject line and we'll send you the essay in a MS Word doc.) Then use the telephone numbers to A) confirm receipt of the essay and B) demand acknowledgement via a letter that the essay was read and a response.
IMPORTANT: While on their site, DO NOT forget to seach for upcoming town hall meetings and if nothing is showing ask about the dates and locations when you make your phone calls.
3) Contact YOUR Senator(s)
Simply click on the link above, choose your state, choose your senator(s), go to their website(s) and navigate their website looking for “contact info.” then follow their steps, copy and paste in the essay below and hit “send.” Then get the mailing address of ALL their offices, the telephone numbers of ALL their offices and the FAX number of ALL of their offices. Convert the essay below into a document via your word processor and mail it to every office and FAX to every office. (If the conversion to a document is too challenging for you, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and type "Send Essay" in the subject line and we'll send you the essay in a MS Word doc.) Then use the telephone numbers to A) confirm receipt of the essay and B) demand acknowledgement via a letter that the essay was read and a response.
IMPORTANT: While on their site, DO NOT forget to seach for upcoming town hall meetings and if nothing is showing ask about the dates and locations when you make your phone calls.
Employment Credit Checks Equal Class Genocide
Right now, more than 60 percent of all employers and more than 80 percent of all white collar jobs require a credit report in exchange for the right to work in America.
Most Americans acknowledge that the free enterprise system is far from perfect. However, there was a time when we were all in this together. Our economic system worked; it wasn’t perfect, but it worked. There were always going to be rich people and poor people within the system, but if a person was willing to work, there was a job for him or her somewhere. In that America, everyone had the right to work and if you were willing to work you could expect a job. Even trickle-down economics seemed to be effective for some time, because, as Americans, even the elite knew they owed something to their nation and to their fellow citizens.
Then something drastically changed. Under the guise of supporting the emerging global economy and based on theories of economic efficiency, the concept of free trade was introduced—and the fall of our American middle class began. The essential change was not the introduction of a world economy, but something more basic—a paradigm shift within the human heart: greed now trumped patriotism. Fellow Americans became mere profit centers, rather than humans. The concept of free trade was sold to the people and to voters as good for America because we would all be able to work in the “service sector” while the rest of the world’s citizens would become our manufacturing serfs.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. The American elite wanted cheaper labor and the political class indebted to them for campaign contributions gladly provided their creditors the "free" trade agreements they demanded and which have proliferated ever since NAFTA (which was pushed for and signed by a Clinton). Year after year, decade after decade, jobs went offshore and the middle class became smaller and smaller. The rich got richer and the poor got poorer. It happened so slowly that most Americans barely even noticed. Corporate greed was rewarded, stockholders – receiving an ever larger share of the corporate revenue pie - were happy, and so was the political class. The middle class, however, was squeezed tighter and tighter losing buying power each year—but the shift was so small and so incremental – and the source of the problem so obfuscated - that they didn’t perceive it or complain via the voting booth.
The greed of the American elite and political class delivered some middle-class downsides that showed up in lack of savings, bigger debt loads and personal credit reports that slid downward incrementally each year. By 2007, half of the African-American population and 34 percent of Hispanics had bad credit, while only 27 percent of Caucasians had slipped into the doghouse. Thanks to the power of social stigma, no one was going to raise a hand and say “I have bad credit.” Instead, they just paid cash and suffered along as an invisible mass while their debt load grew via penalties and ever-escalating interest rates; as long as they kept their right to work, there would still be hope of getting out of the financial mess someday.
As this squeeze of the middle class transpired, the big three credit bureaus—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax—were feeling a financial squeeze of their own due to loss of revenue following the passage of the Fair Credit Reform Act (FCRA). The system that had been created for the just and valid purpose of lending money and extending credit didn't allow them to make the returns they craved. They needed a new revenue stream to replace what had just been lost via FCRA, and so they concocted one: Employment Credit Reports. They had already started selling Americans’ personal credit reports to determine insurance rates and no one noticed or complained, so why not expand the idea into the employment arena?
While America’s manufacturing jobs have now been out-sourced to people enjoying no labor protections and paid as little as a dollar a day, the US arguably remains the best in the world at one thing: advertising and marketing. We’re so good at it that people once bought pet rocks and Cabbage Patch dolls; fat balding guys actually believe that purchasing sports cars will make them sexy, and an iPad is suddenly an essential life tool for people who already have laptop computers. If the perception could be created that people with bad credit are irresponsible and prone to commit fraud and steal, employers would fear hiring them and would buy their personal credit reports as a means to weed them out.
To validate the idea, studies indicating “the two most common red flags for employees who commit workplace fraud are living beyond their means and having difficulty meeting financial obligations” were used. What was conveniently left out of the marketing materials is that such a description encompasses more than 86 percent of all Americans. During sworn testimony in January 2010 in the Oregon hearings where employment credit checks are now illegal, TransUnion testified under oath that they do not have any statistical evidence to suggest that a bad credit rating is an indicator of poor job performance or of likelihood that an employee will commit crime. Pure marketing spin was deployed to create the completely false idea that people with bad credit commit fraud and steal. Nonetheless, the message and spin was rolled out anyway because employment credit checks were a revenue generator for the credit bureaus.
With the messaging frame constructed, a multimillion-dollar marketing and advertising machine went into high gear. The buy-in from employers started slowly, but, over time, the idea caught on. What began as a colossal leap in logic before the campaign is an unquestioned belief today. Forget reality—perception is reality. What was once a valid tool for lending and evaluating credit worthiness has now become the predominate means to evaluate character, work ethic, responsibility, talent, drive, ambition, and, above all else, whether an applicant will steal from an employer. Just one small problem remained: requiring a credit report for the right to work is a violation of Americans’ privacy and constitutional rights. The solution? Force all applicants to sign away those rights when they apply for work. They have to work, so, therefore, they have to sign their rights away. No credit report equals no food. Civil liberties problem? Solved.
While the rise in the use of credit reports as an employment tool accelerated each year, American CEO’s such as Bernie Ebbers, Kenneth Lay, Ken Lewis, Richard Fuld, and Bernie Madoff were pulling the biggest corporate heists in the history of capitalism. Employees may steal, but American CEO’s steal billions and several of them are still walking the streets, free from prosecution. Their credit is perfect. Do they live beyond their means? Do they have trouble paying their bills? Were any of these guys considered a risk to commit fraud and theft? Would a credit check have uncovered greed?
It wasn’t enough that the political class and the American elite shipped good US jobs to workers in countries whose economies are less regulated that ours and now profit wildly from their unregulated manufacturing drones. Having hollowed out the industrial core of the country, the financialization of the economy proceeded to siphon off more money to corrupt elites via risky loans and predatory lending—all condoned and encouraged by Congress. Wall Street and the banks pushed the limits of greed to the breaking point. When casino capitalism exploded into a meltdown, Congress stepped in to bail out their Wall Street friends with taxpayers’ money.
First we were sold “trickle-down economics”; then we were sold free trade; most recently, we were sold the idea that if we didn’t bail out Wall Street, our entire economy would fail. The results of these policies: the rich have become richer; the poor have become poorer; the political class has become even more corrupt; and members of the middle class are losing their homes and moving out into the streets. More than 8.5 million American humans lost jobs because of Wall Street’s greed. More than 15 million are “officially” unemployed with many estimating the number to be twice that figure and over 25 million are under-employed. Have even one million of the lost jobs been replaced? No! Nonetheless, Congress has already cut off unemployment benefits to millions of the unemployed and continues to trim the number of Americans receiving unemployment benefits by 250,000 per week because of their sudden concern over the deficit and getting reelected – even though there are six unemployed applicants for ever single job that exists.
Largely because of Wall Street’s Congress-enabled greed, upward of 100 million Americans now have bad credit and can’t pass an employment credit check. That number constitutes almost half of the entire U.S. workforce. If a worker is fortunate enough to have a dead-end job, he or she has no chance of changing jobs. Far worse than that scenario, however, are the 15-plus million Americans with no employment at all. Does anyone think these people have good credit? Many have already lost unemployment benefits, and very soon all unemployment benefits will be dead. (By the way, unemployment benefits don’t lead to a good credit rating unless you live in a cave.)
The simple solution to at least allow for equality in workplace competition has been sitting stalled in the House of Representatives for a year now. HR3149: The Equal Employment for All Act, which would make employment credit checks illegal for most positions. Similar legislation is already law in Hawaii, Washington State, and Oregon, but that’s not doing anything for Americans in the other 47 states. Those deficit hawks who want to cut all unemployment benefits should love the idea, because the bill provides employment and doesn’t add a penny to the federal deficit. In general, though, the same members of Congress opposed to paying out unemployment benefits are the very same people opposed to HR3149—but they’re not the sole opposition by any means.
It’s illogical that members of Congress would not only cut off unemployment benefits when we’re still more than seven million jobs in the hole, but would also, by stalling HR 3149, make it almost impossible for Americans to get jobs in the first place. (You don’t even get a job at McDonald’s with bad credit because employees have access to cash.)
The huge numbers of Americans with bad credit also have no money, no means, and no organization to fight for them. To date, the stigma of bad credit has kept these downtrodden citizens suffering in silence. They are implicitly identified as the dregs of society who don’t deserve the right to work or to hold a job. Irresponsible for having lived beyond their means, they are rightfully locked out of the workplace by their own behavior. (It has to be true because it says so in the credit bureau marketing materials.) In the event that some Americans have to be socially killed off, those with bad credit should be the first to go. Survival of the most financially fit. What better way to judge the worth of a human life than by a credit report?
Marketing logic and profit motive aside, the choice to mark these Americans for extermination doesn’t quite add up. Many had huge medical bills they couldn’t afford, and millions of others were just victims of offshore outsourcing, or of the economic crash precipitated by Wall Street’s greed. Why would our “public servants” in Washington single out these people for extermination?
The answer to that riddle is most probably the millions of dollars in PAC money from the big three credit bureaus, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and at least 19 other business lobbying groups. The votes in Congress have been bought and paid for to ensure that HR3149 never makes it out of the House Committee on Financial Services. Both parties feed at this trough: more than 38 percent of the members on the House Committee on Financial Services have taken PAC money directly from the big three credit bureaus. The Chair of the Committee, Democrat Barney Frank, took more than $25,000 and eight other Democrats are feeding from the same trough as well. Those dollars, however, pale in comparison to what the U.S. Chamber of Commerce doles out each year. It’s the biggest and strongest lobby in Washington by far, and along with 19 other business lobbying groups, they’re daring any member of Congress to move the bill forward. Meanwhile, billionaire TransUnion Chair Penny Pritzker sits on our president’s Economic Recovery Board because she raised millions for his election campaign. That represents “change we can believe in.” The corporate lobby owns Washington and nothing has changed.
Why is none of this being reported in the news, and why hasn’t anyone ever heard of HR3149? The answer to that question is corporate ownership of the media and the news. Corporations are running those employment credit reports on Americans. The media does, however, report the story every single day, from all across America, in the form of coverage of suicides, drug overdoses, crime waves, domestic violence, rising prison populations, bankruptcies, foreclosures, tent cities, poverty, starving children, soup kitchens, etcetera—but they conveniently ignore any link between those tragedies and employment credit checks.
In one manner or another, employment credit checks are killing off Americans one by one. It is class genocide perpetuated by corporations, the American elite, and the political class upon half of American workers who don't have "clean" credit reports. Working people send their children off to die in war while children of the American elite and political class attend Harvard, yet now Americans' very right to work is imperiled because their credit reports have been savaged through the implementation of economic policies over which they had no control. There will always be inequalities within every economic system, but when the basic right to work has been stripped away and Americans are experiencing social and physical death through the use of employment credit checks something has to be done. Haven’t the American elite and the political class done enough damage to the American middle class already. The least Congress can do is to restore basic right to work via passage of HR3149: The Equal Employment for All Act.