- Biden wants to ban ripoff "financial advisors": Big gubmint wants to take away your freedom to starve to death in old age.
- Announcing The Lost Cause Tour: LA, Stratford, Concord, Simsbury, Toronto, New York and Chapel Hill!
- Hey look at this: Delights to delectate.
- This day in history: 2013, 2018, 2022
- Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming/recent appearances, current writing projects, current reading
Biden wants to ban ripoff "financial advisors" (permalink)
Once, American workers had "defined benefits pensions," where their employers promised to pay them a certain amount every year from their retirement to their death. Jimmy Carter swapped that out for 401(k)s, "market" pensions where you have to guess which stocks will be valuable or starve in your old age:
The initial 401(k) rollout had all kinds of pot-sweeteners that made them seem like a good deal, like heavy employer matching that doubled or even tripled the value of every dollar you put into the market for your retirement. But over the years, as Reaganomics took hold and workers' power ebbed away, all these goodies were clawed back. In the end, the market-based pension makes you the sucker at the poker table, flushing your savings into a rigged casino that is firmly tilted in favor of finance barons and other eminently guillotineable plutocrats.
Neoliberalism is many things, but most of all it is a cult of individualism. The fact that three generations of workers are nows facing down retirement without pensions that will provide them with secure housing and food – let alone money to see the odd movie, buy birthday gifts for their grandkids, or enjoy a meal out now and then – is framed as millions of individual failures, not a systemic one.
In other words, if you are facing food insecurity and homelessness after a lifetime of hard work, it's because you saved wrong. Perhaps you didn't save enough (through a 40-year run of wage stagnation and skyrocketing housing, health and education costs). Or perhaps you saved wrong, making the wrong bets on the stock market. If you can't afford to run your air conditioner during a heat dome, that's on you: you should have been better at stocks.
Apologists for this system will say that you don't have to be good at stocks – you just have to pay an Independent Financial Advisor to pick the stocks for you and you'll be fine. But IFAs don't work for free! What if you can't afford one?
Enter "predatory inclusion" – the practice of offering scammy, overpriced and substandard products to poor people and declaring it to be a good deed, because otherwise, those poor people would have to do without. The crypto bubble relied heavily on this: think of Spike Lee and others shilling for pump-and-dump scams as a way of "building Black wealth":
More recently, Intuit and other scammy tax-prep services have argued against the IRS's plan to offer free tax preparation as bad for Black and brown people, because it will deny them the chance to be deceived and ripped off with TurboTax:
Back in 2018, Trump won the predatory inclusion Olympics, when his Department of Labor let the Fifth Circuit abolish the "Fiduciary Rule" for Independent Financial Advisors:
What was the Fiduciary Rule? It said that your IFN had to put your interests ahead of their own. Like, if there were two different funds you could bet on, and one would pay your IFN a big commission, while the other would be a better bet for you, the IFN couldn't put your retirement savings into the fund that offered them a bribe.
When Trump killed the Fiduciary Rule, he proclaimed it a victory for poor people, especially Black and brown people. After all, if IFNs weren't allowed to accept bribes for giving you bad financial advice, then they would have to make up the difference by charging you for good advice. If you couldn't afford that advice, well, you'd have to make bad retirement investments on your own, without the benefit of their sleazy self-dealing.
The Biden Administration wants to change that. Biden's Acting Labor Secretary is Julie Su, and she's very good at her job. Last spring, she forced west coast dockworkers' bosses to cough up the contract they'd stalled on for a year, with 8-10% raises for every worker, owed retroactively:
Su has proposed a way to reinstate the Fiduciary Rule, as part of the Biden Administration's war on junk fees, estimating that this will increase retirees' net savings by 20%:
The new rule will force advisors who cheat their clients to pay restitution, and will require them to deliver all their advice in writing so that this cheating can be detected and punished.
The industry is furious, of course. They claim that "The Market (TM)" will solve this: if you get bad retirement savings advice and end up homeless and starving, then you will choose a different advisor in your next life, after you are reincarnated (I guess?).
And of course, they're also claiming that forcing IFNs to stop cheating their clients will deny poor people access to expert (bad) advice. As the Financial Services Institute's Dale Brown says, this will have a "negative impact on Main Street Americans’ access to financial advice":
Here's that rule – read it for yourself, then submit a comment expressing your views on it. The government wants to hear from you, and administrative law requires them to act on the comments they receive:
Su is part of a wave of progressive, technically skilled regulators in the Biden administration that resulted from a horse-trading exercise called the Unity Task Force, which divvied up access to top appointments among the progressive wing and the finance wing of the Democratic Party. The progressive appointments are nothing short of incredible – the most competent and principled agency leaders America has seen in half a century:
But then there's the finance wing's appointments, like Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley, who ruled against Lina Khan's attempt to block the rotten Microsoft/Activision merger (don't worry, Khan's appealing):
Perhaps the worst, though, is Biden's Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, a private equity ghoul who did a stint for the notorious wreckers Bain Capital before founding her own firm. Raimondo has stuffed her department full of Goldman Sachs alums, and has sidelined labor and civil society groups as she sets out to administer everything from the CHIPS Act to regulating ChatGPT.
As Henry Burke writes for the Revolving Door Project and The American Prospect, Raimondo's history as a corporate raider, her deference to the finance sector, and she and her husband's conflicts of interest from their massive stakes in companies they're regulating all serve to undermine Biden's agenda:
When the administration inevitably complains that its popular economic programs aren’t breaking through the media coverage, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.
The Unity Task Force gave us generationally important policymakers, but ultimately, it's a classic "pizzaburger." If half your family wants pizza, and the other half wants burgers, and you serve them something halfway in between that makes none of them happy, you haven't made a wise compromise – you've just made an inedible mess:
Announcing The Lost Cause Tour (permalink)
There's just one week until my next novel, The Lost Cause, goes on sale, and I'm hitting the road with it! I hope you can make it out – tell your friends!
Los Angeles: I'll be at the Studio City branch of the LA Public Library on Monday, November 13 at 1830hPT; there'll be a reading, a talk, a surprise guest (!!) and a signing, with books on sale. Tell your friends! Come on down!
Stratford, Ontario: I'm onstage on November 16 at 19hET with Vass Bednar at the University of Waterloo Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business. I'll also be doing a talk for middle-schoolers at the Stratford Public Library on November 16 from 1330hET-1430hET.
Concord, NH: I'll be at Gibson's Bookstore on Saturday, November 18th at 13hET.
Simsbury, CT: I'm at the Simsbury Public Library on November 20 at 19h.
Toronto, ON: I'm at the Metro Reference Library on November 22, at 19hET, hosted by Vass Bednar.
Toronto, ON: I'm hosting Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, on November 27 at 19hET, at the Metro Reference Library.
New York City: I'm at the Strand Bookstore on November 29 at 19hET.
Chapel Hill, NC: I'm at Flyleaf Books on December 5, live with Sarah Taber, at 18hET.
If you don't see your city on this list, don't panic! I've got another tour coming in a couple of months, when The Bezzle, sequel to Red Team Blues, comes out in February:
Hey look at this (permalink)
- Labor Unions Are Industrial Policy https://www.thebignewsletter.com/p/labor-unions-are-industrial-policy (h/t Naked Capitalism)
The Epic v. Google trial may come down to simple v. complicated https://www.theverge.com/2023/11/7/23949849/epic-google-trial-day-one-recap-summary
Seeing like a Bank https://www.bitsaboutmoney.com/archive/seeing-like-a-bank/
This day in history (permalink)
#10yrsago Feds subject drug suspect to vaginal/anal probe, X-ray, CT Scan, without a warrant — find nothing https://www.thedailybeast.com/dog-orders-cavity-search-lawsuits-ensue
#10yrsago Business-logic of cooperating with the NSA has changed https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/11/a-fraying-of-the-public-private-surveillance-partnership/281289/
#10yrsago How much value did your account generate for Twitter? https://newsfeed.time.com/2013/11/07/interactive-this-is-how-much-money-twitter-owes-you/
#10yrsago Rob Ford’s exaggerated and imaginary savings to the taxpayers of Toronto https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/city-hall/deconstructing-mayor-rob-fords-fiscal-record/article_8c6e3bf3-bea5-54d8-8e2c-d28b5bfcf631.html
#5yrsago Europe’s collision course with copyright censorship: where we stand today https://doctorow.medium.com/europes-copyright-rules-will-stifle-free-expression-8633e91f5284
#5yrsago Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can’t afford to rent a DC apartment https://www.cnbc.com/2018/11/08/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-cant-afford-to-rent-an-apartment-in-dc.html
#5yrsago Bruce Sterling on architecture, design, science fiction, futurism and involuntary parks https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0__x5SG8WY
#1yrago Delegating trust is really, really, really hard (infosec edition) https://pluralistic.net/2022/11/09/infosec-blackpill/#on-trusting-trust
Today's top sources:
- A Little Brother short story about DIY insulin PLANNING
Picks and Shovels, a Martin Hench noir thriller about the heroic era of the PC. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS JAN 2025
The Bezzle, a Martin Hench noir thriller novel about the prison-tech industry. FORTHCOMING TOR BOOKS FEB 2024
Vigilant, Little Brother short story about remote invigilation. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM
Moral Hazard, a short story for MIT Tech Review's 12 Tomorrows. FIRST DRAFT COMPLETE, ACCEPTED FOR PUBLICATION
Spill, a Little Brother short story about pipeline protests. FORTHCOMING ON TOR.COM
Latest podcast: The Canadian Miracle, Part 2 (https://craphound.com/news/2023/11/05/the-canadian-miracle-part-2/
- The New Luddites Seizing the Means of Computation, with Brian Merchant (Hallway Track), Nov 9
Studio City Branch Library, Nov 13, 1830hPT (LA)
CBC IDEAS, Nov 16 (Stratford, ON)
Inspiring the Next Generation, Nov 16 (Stratford, ON)
Gibson's Bookstore, Nov 18 (Concord, NH)
Lost Cause at Simsbury Public Library, Nov 20 (Simsbury, CT)
Generation of Lost Causes, Nov 22 (Toronto)
Who Is Watching Big Tech? Nov 27 (Toronto)`
The Lost Cause at The Strand (NYC), Nov 29
The Lost Cause at Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill), Dec 7
An Audacious Plan to Halt the Internet’s Enshittification and Throw It Into Reverse (Hackaday Supercon)
The Material Power That Rules Computation (This Machine Kills)
- "The Internet Con": A nonfiction book about interoperability and Big Tech (Verso) September 2023 (http://seizethemeansofcomputation.org). Signed copies at Book Soup (https://www.booksoup.com/book/9781804291245).
"Red Team Blues": "A grabby, compulsive thriller that will leave you knowing more about how the world works than you did before." Tor Books http://redteamblues.com. Signed copies at Dark Delicacies (US): and Forbidden Planet (UK): https://forbiddenplanet.com/385004-red-team-blues-signed-edition-hardcover/.
"Chokepoint Capitalism: How to Beat Big Tech, Tame Big Content, and Get Artists Paid, with Rebecca Giblin", on how to unrig the markets for creative labor, Beacon Press/Scribe 2022 https://chokepointcapitalism.com
"Attack Surface": The third Little Brother novel, a standalone technothriller for adults. The Washington Post called it "a political cyberthriller, vigorous, bold and savvy about the limits of revolution and resistance." Order signed, personalized copies from Dark Delicacies https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1840/Available_Now%3A_Attack_Surface.html
"How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a solution. https://onezero.medium.com/how-to-destroy-surveillance-capitalism-8135e6744d59?sk=f6cd10e54e20a07d4c6d0f3ac011af6b) (signed copies: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2024/Available_Now%3A__How_to_Destroy_Surveillance_Capitalism.html)
"Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new introduction by Edward Snowden: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p1750/July%3A__Little_Brother_%26_Homeland.html
"Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime, gender, and kicking ass. Order here: https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed copy here: https://www.darkdel.com/store/p2682/Corey_Doctorow%3A_Poesy_the_Monster_Slayer_HB.html#/.
- The Lost Cause: a post-Green New Deal eco-topian novel about truth and reconciliation with white nationalist militias, Tor Books, November 2023
The Bezzle: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about prison-tech and other grifts, Tor Books, February 2024
Picks and Shovels: a sequel to "Red Team Blues," about the heroic era of the PC, Tor Books, February 2025
Unauthorized Bread: a graphic novel adapted from my novella about refugees, toasters and DRM, FirstSecond, 2025
This work – excluding any serialized fiction – is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. That means you can use it any way you like, including commercially, provided that you attribute it to me, Cory Doctorow, and include a link to pluralistic.net.
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"When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla" -Joey "Accordion Guy" DeVilla