Now Age Minute: Mean Mr. Mustard

mustard

The corrupt cock of capitalism erected itself in the hands of Senator Chuck Schumer with his recent announcement of new jobs in upstate New York, via a private debt-collection firm handling delinquent accounts for the I.R.S., a move pushed by the senator. According to Wyoming County Free Press,

Sen. Chuck Schumer rallied with employees and company executives of Pioneer Credit and local officials Thursday to officially celebrate the company’s win of an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) contract. The winners of the contract were initially announced in September.

“The good news is, because of this contract and the health of this company, not only are your jobs secure, but I think we can announce today that there will be 100 new jobs in Wyoming County,” Schumer said.

Pioneer Credit Recovery Inc., a subsidiary of Navient Corporation, provides collection services on defaulted debt. Headquartered in New York, the company employs more than 1,000 people and boasts it is the “largest private sector employer in Wyoming County,” according to its website. The company has locations in Arcade and Perry, and in Monroe and Chemung counties.

Schumer was instrumental in Congress passing a bill that allows the IRS to garner help in collecting billions of dollars in unpaid taxes. Pioneer is one of four companies selected to provide the service.

There’s just so much that’s psychotic about this story. Not only are Schumer and his neoliberal congressional cohorts turning public services over to private firms, we’re talking about rules of debt-collection that allow for-profit firms to call taxpayers to shake them down, whereby the I.R.S. was limited to mail communications. If that’s not enough, the company awarded the contract, Pioneer Credit Recovery Inc., has a history of debt-collection shenanigans. According to the NY Times,

…one of the four companies that the I.R.S. has hired, Pioneer Credit Recovery, a subsidiary of Navient, was effectively fired two years ago by the Education Department from its contract to collect delinquent debt for misleading borrowers about their loans at what the department called “unacceptably high rates.”

Even I.R.S. taxpayer advocate Nina Olson thinks this is a bad idea. Again, from the Times,

Outsourcing the collection of federal tax debt is “a bad idea,” she wrote in a letter to Congress. “It disproportionately impacts low-income and other vulnerable taxpayers, and despite two attempts at making it work, the program has lost money both times, undermining the sole rationale for its existence.”

In years past, Ms. Olson said, the outside collectors employed by the government used psychological tricks that may have coerced some debtors into payments they could not afford.

And there’s more, in January, Navient was hit with two lawsuits pertaining to its student loan collection practices, according to The Daily News Online.

One was filed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau against Navient, of which Pioneer is a subsidiary. Another was filed by the Attorney General of Illinois Lisa Madigan.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the CFPB wrote it is “suing the nation’s largest servicer of both federal and private student loans for systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment.”…

Madigan released a statement of her own on Wednesday as well.

“My investigation found Sallie Mae put student borrowers into expensive subprime loans that it knew were going to fail,” Madigan stated. “Navient’s actions have led to student borrowers needlessly carrying billions of dollars in debt and the company must be held accountable.”

Apparently, “unacceptably high rates” and condemning student borrowers to debt prison are just fine for Wall Street Chuck. Naturally, Navient has been a consistent donor to Schumer’s campaigns. The copulation of government and capitalism in action. Do you feel screwed yet?

While Schumer delivered this news with his trademark, maitre d smile, there’s nothing friendly about the effects of neoliberal (market-driven) capitalism on a population. The effects of programs like the one Schumer has delivered as jobs to employment-starved upstate New York will result in neighbor calling neighbor to shake them down for cash they don’t have.  And the entertainment industry is doing a bang-up job acculturating us to the meanness.

Nasty realities
Somehow surviving without television, I need to dig deeper to learn about elements of society that are instantly evident to most citizens of this exceptionally morose society. And that dig leads directly to the emotionally-retrograde universe of reality television. One need not participate in collective viewership of these programs – from Keeping Up with the Kardashians to Jersey Shore to Real Housewives – to understand the attraction of mean, nasty and competitive behavior. According to a report from NPR,

That unfriendly behavior is good for TV ratings, but it might be bad news for you, the viewer. A new study led by Bryan Gibson, a psychologist at Central Michigan University, finds watching reality shows with lots of what’s called relational aggression — bullying, exclusion and manipulation — can make people more aggressive in their real lives.

And beyond the pettiness of personality-oriented reality shows, a coldness emerges from competitive-genre programs pitting contestants – from chefs to survivalists – against one another where the only desirable outcome is winning. First place is all that matters. Second place in the reality world is also know as first loser, often with a humiliating dose of shame, where tears are valued programming content.

Here’s a show I found where the winning is tied to losing… weight.

 

Congratulations of that sort of thing feels normal to you, but it makes me want to brew hemlock.

Mean Mister Mustard
Dismissed as “a bit of crap I wrote in India,” John Lennon’s inspiration for Mean Mister Mustard was “a newspaper story about a miser who concealed his cash wherever he could in order to prevent people from forcing him to spend it.” It’s a characteristic of capitalism, in general, and of the mustard-topped meanie in the White House. In fact, the meanness that we’ve been acculturated to in the media softens us to the coldness of the unbridled capitalism that’s ripping humanity to pieces. Whether the outward meanness of Trump, or the deceptive smirk of Schumer, these characters have more in common than they or their press propagandists care to let on. Begs the question of whether capitalism and kindness are compatible. What do you say?

Mean Mister Mustard sleeps in the park
Shaves in the dark trying to save paper
Sleeps in a hole in the road
Saving up to buy some clothes
Keeps a ten-bob note up his nose
Such a mean old man
–John Lennon

By | 2017-04-24T20:11:53+00:00 April 24th, 2017|Categories: Columns, Now Age Minute|Tags: , , , , |

About the Author:

Craig Gordon
Craig Gordon comments on the perverse state of American society, and is the publisher of this website.

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