Southern Style: The Belle

Welcome back to the south, friends, where our chicken is fried and biscuits come with gravy.  Y’all pull up a rocker and grab a glass of tea.  Why don’t we chat a spell about Southern Belles?belle1

Tell me, do you think of Scarlett O’Hara?  A delicate young lady with a feminine southern drawl?  Bless your little heart,  we probably all do. We imagine hoop skirts, wide-rimmed hats, and parasol umbrellas.

More than that, we envision a flirtatious, yet chaste, beauty, who has been taught that hospitality can win the day – and the man.  Even though, the man she will always love best is Daddy. (wink)  Mama has taught her that a wide front porch is the ideal setting for entertaining guests, and manners – ladies never sweat or cuss, thank you very much! – are of utmost importance.

As time passed, things changed.  Fiddle-dee-dee!!  Hoop skirts were replaced with feminine skirts.  Wide hats replaced with regular salon visits.  Women began to venture outside their homes to work.  In short, Scarlett O’Hara was replaced by Julia Sugarbaker and friends.

These changes, or advancements, came about by both force and choice.  Many women had to seek employment in order to care for their families.    Many more chose to seek a life outside of the traditional roles laid before them.

Gone with the wind.. are the days where a smart girl lets a man take credit for doing exactly what she wants him to do.

Todays Belle prefers to take credit for doing exactly what she wants to do.  Todays Belle is often the sole provider for her family.  She is educated.  She is industrious.  She is determined and persistent.  She knows her own mind.  And she is speaking it.  Loudly and clearly.

Let’s meet a few, shall we?

belle2If you haven’t already, meet Wendy Davis.  Mrs. Davis is a Harvard educated lawyer and Democrat from Forth Worth, Texas.

I’m rising on the floor today to humbly give voice to thousands of Texans who have been ignored. These voices have been silenced by a governor who made blind partisanship and personal political ambition the official business of our great state.

With those opening words, she solidified her place on the national stage.  She became a hero for women when she donned her pink tennis shoes and staged an 11- hour filibuster against an abortion bill she labeled “draconian”.  The bill would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks and closed all but five abortion clinics in the state.

Hats off to this Belle for showing them what a filibuster really is…No food, drink, sitting, leaning, or breaks of any kind.  Yes, friends, an honest to God filibuster!  We have become accustomed to the “threat” of filibuster by our do-nothing Congress.  Because a do-nothing Congress can’t be expected to actually do anything, right?  And while her friends from across the aisle think she owes them something, the rest of us think she has a bright future ahead of her.

Wendy Davis isn’t the only Belle of the ball.  I’m not sure how many of you know of Alison Grimes.  This attorney and Democrat currently holds belle3the position of Secretary of State of Kentucky.  She is also seeking to replace Mitch McConnell in the United States Senate.  With her sweet smile and gentle voice, she has laid down the gauntlet:

Now this part’s for you Senator. Your campaign wants to play silly games about where I am and where I stand.  Well I’m right here in Kentucky, Senator, where I’ll be holding you accountable for voting to double Medicare premiums on Kentucky seniors, including our retired coal miners, for being against requiring the Department of Defense to buy equipment that’s made in America first, for failing to stand up for women when you voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and the Violence Against Women Act, and for opposing raising the minimum wage over and over again while you became a multimillionaire in public office.

Well, I do declare…these ladies aren’t sitting on their porches gossiping about the town cad, are they?  A younger generation of southern women are eager to help change the tone in government and further our nation’s progress.  Take a peek at this:

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Southern Belles are raising hell…

along with millions of other women, all over the country.  The largest and most reliable voting block in the country has something to say.

Are you listening?

Kirsten Gillibrand is tackling sexual assault in the military.   Elizabeth Warren is sick of banks being catered to, while students pay the price.  Not one to abandon veterans, is Tammy Duckworth.  Interior Secretary, Sally Jewell, doesn’t want climate change deniers in her department.

It is past time for women to take their rightful place, side by side with men, in the rooms where the fates of peoples, where their children’s and grandchildren’s fates, are decided.  – Hillary Clinton

Women, the Belles included, are no longer content to be seen as pretty shells with a uterus.  So, you should be listening.

Banking Reform and St. Elmo’s Fire

There’s a scene from St. Elmo’s Fire where Billy (a long-haired, earring-wearing, drug-dealing Rob Lowe) looks up at a friend dangling from a balcony and says calmly, “Looks pretty out of hand.”

It reminds me of the U.S. banking industry today.

Six years after playing a pivotal role in causing the worst recession the U.S. has had since the Great Depression, our banking system continues to leave us all dangling. Yes, Congress passed the milquetoast Dodd-Frank Act in 2009 as a pro-forma hat-tilt towards reform, but that entire set of regulations was more a symbolic measure aimed at ensuring re-election rather than real reform.

As Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher pointed out Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, things are still out of hand. The largest U.S. banks are “practitioners of crony capitalism,” need to be broken up so they’re no longer too big to fail, and still threaten financial stability.

The problem isn’t just their size. U.S. banks remain too weakly regulated, and have too many incentives to act against the best interests of consumers and the country as a whole, and it’s past time we changed that.

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Fixing the U.S. banking industry, making it safe for the future, and protecting consumers isn’t difficult or complicated, and it needn’t cost us a lot in terms of efficiency. It just requires some common-sense regulation, and a modicum of political backbone.

Here’s how:

1. Re-instate Glass-Steagall in all its force and glory. We don’t want banks taking excessive risks with federally-insured deposits. Separate consumer banking from commercial banking with a depleted-uranium wall.

2.  Tie all bonuses to bank stock performance and require employees to hold for at least five years before cashing. This will prevent bank employees from using high-risk get-rich-quick schemes and then bailing when things go sour. Bonuses will still encourage good performance, but requiring employees to hold onto them will eliminate incentives to cheat. Any fraud or deception could be detected within five years.

3. Impose a progressive tax on bank scale. Tax bank assets at an increasing rate as they exceed in a way that won’t cost “smaller” banks anything, but would cost megabanks’ $5 or 10 billion a year. This will force the megabanks to downsize in the most efficient ways possible, eliminating “too big to fail” and increasing competition. The government will never have to bail out banks again, banks will be forced to take responsibility for their own risks, the playing field will be leveled, and consumers will benefit from real competition.

4. Strengthen consumer banking regulation. End the deceptive come-on tactics banks use to dupe consumers into getting in over their heads with high-rate debt. Require disclosure statements to be in 14-point Times New Roman, limited to one letter-sized page. Ban “low introductory rates”. Forbid “pre-approved subject to approval”. Set hard-and-fast limits on late fees and other devices banks use to steal from unwary consumers.

I got a personal letter from a bank the other day, informing me that I’m “pre-approved for a home equity line of credit”. Really? That’s odd, given that I don’t own a home.

5. Jail any bank officer who violates banking laws in letter or in spirit.

It’s time we demand our legislators stand up to Big Finance and enact laws to protect us from the big money power that banks wield.

Otherwise, you’re not gonna believe how out of hand it’s gonna be.