Minimum Wage and Maximum Earnings--Opposite Sides of the Same Coin

About ten years ago I attended a spring time regulatory conference for the National Association of Mortgage Brokers.  During these conferences, which were held in Washington DC and which always concluded with a grassroots lobby day on Capitol Hill, we heard various invited speakers.  During this particular conference, one of the speakers who had been invited to meet with our group was a consumer advocate attorney who decried the fact that some borrowers paid higher interest rates for credit than did others.

The attorney began by lecturing us softly, "Wouldn't it be great if everyone could have a 7% interest rate?"  At the time that this conference took place, the optimal rates for borrowers with good credit were probably between 5.8 and 6.5% so the consumer advocate assumed that she had padded the prime market interest rates enough to make them attainable to all.

Immediately, some of the men in our group stood up and took turns at the microphone which had been provided to facilitate audience interaction so that they could explain why it was not possible for everyone to have a 7% interest rate.  Interest rates are based on both credit history (demonstrated history of paying one's bills) and credit depth (length of time accounts have been opened, number of accounts, type of accounts, etc.) as well as ability to prove income, employment, consistency of employment, length of employment, debt ratios and other factors which make loans more or less risky.  Riskier loans have higher interest rates and less risky loans have lower interest rates.  (At the time this conference was held there were a lot of loan products on the market, including stated income and no income loans).

After listening to reasons that her proposal was ridiculous and unworkable, the attorney responded, "Okay, okay.  What if it were a 15% interest rate?  It doesn't matter what the interest rate is, so long as it is the same for everyone." 

The consumer advocate attorney was blissfully unaware that inherent in the "unfairness" of higher rates for some borrowers and lower rates for others is a system of built in rewards for desired behavior.  If her suggestion were to be implemented and everyone got the same rate regardless of their credit profile or work history or savings history, responsible borrowers would no longer see any benefit to carefully managing their finances and irresponsible consumers would have no incentive to improve their credit rating, or to try to hang on that job longer in order to get a better work history, or to save some money for a rainy day.  If everyone gets the same reward regardless of their level of effort or initiative, no one gets much of anything and no one has any motivation to try to improve their situation.

I was reminded of this today as I saw Elizabeth Warren's comments made last week in front a Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension began circulating conservative news sites and the Internet.  During the course of the hearing, Senator Warren wondered allowed why minimum wage isn't $22.00 an hour, adding that it would be if it had kept pace with the growth of the economy since 1960.

Since the State of the Union when President Obama called for raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour, I have read numerous commentaries about the problems that will be caused by increasing minimum wage.  Many of these have been well written and researched, and they make valid points that higher minimum wage cuts jobs for entry level workers, does nothing to substantially help those in poverty--many of whom actually do not work at all--and ultimately hurts the business that create jobs and provide the economic growth in this country.  Beyond these arguments, however, I believe that the push to increase minimum wage to higher and higher levels belies another huge issue that I have not heard anyone discuss--the desire for the government to determine and regulate how much everyone can make.

For that reason, I found it particularly interesting that Elizabeth Warren would propose that minimum wage should be $22.00 an hour.  Remember that before Warren was a freshman Senator from Massachusetts, she was the interim director for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the massive new government agency created by Dodd Frank.  She was also one of the architects behind Dodd Frank, which created extensive new regulations for financial services and the mortgage industry, including regulating the maximum amount of compensation that mortgage loan originators can earn.  Over the past two years, experienced originators have left the mortgage industry as the government has limited compensation more and more.  Those restrictions began as regulations saying that originators cannot be paid by both the borrower and the lender, making it illegal for brokers to negotiate individual fees with borrowers.  Next year, in 2014, the provisions of the Dodd Frank bill that mandate a set cap on fees and points will be implemented.  As a result of these rules, many experienced originators have left and are continuing to leave the mortgage industry, leaving newer and less experienced originators in the marketplace. 

The problem with setting maximum compensation for a profession is that it accomplishes very much the same effect as saying that every person should get the same interest rate.  A free market system contains built in incentives for hard work, education, additional training, personal growth and long hours.  Professionals who are willing to apply themselves, to get the additional training they need and to work the additional hours do so in the hopes of reaping financial rewards for that extra labor.  But to liberals like Elizabeth Warren, being able to command higher fees for a greater level of expertise is not good business--it is cheating.  To Warren, a loan originator with 20 years experience, numerous certifications and a track record of closing thousands of loans is no more valuable to the consumer than a newly licensed originator working on her first loan.  They are the same and they should receive the same compensation.

Over the past three years that I have been writing this blog I have warned several times that the mortgage and real estate industries were a proving ground for policies that liberals plan to implement in industries across the board.  Now that Warren is in Senator, she can advocate for $22.00 an hour minimum wage just as she advocated for capping our compensation at levels so low that experienced originators cannot keep our doors open as independent business people.  By arguing that entry level employees should be making over $45,000 a year to flip hamburgers or answer the telephone, she is really saying that experience, hard work and education do not have any compensatory value. 

To the socialist mindset, this argument makes perfect sense.  To have a system where harder working, better educated, more competent people make more money than those who are less skilled or less well educated or less ambitious is inherently discriminatory.  (And when I speak of education here, I am not only referring to formal education through degrees--I am also referring to industry specific training which is often expensive to obtain.)  The solution to this discrimination is to raise the minimum wage and lower the maximum compensation--both through higher taxes and through regulations which set caps on compensation.  By narrowing the wage gap between the entry level and the experienced professional, liberals remove any incentive to work harder or to become better trained.  But, then again, to liberals the issue is not really how much anyone makes, so long as everyone makes the same amount.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

GLC welcomes Housing Minister's advice on bedroom tax and apparent support for the principle of 'No evictions for bedroom tax arrears''

Govan Law Centre (GLC) has welcomed the Scottish Housing Minister's advice for landlords on the bedroom tax, which the Scottish Government has announced today.  In particular, GLC is pleased to see Housing Minister, Margaret Burgess, encourage social landlords to work with local authorities on the reclassification of 'bedrooms' where appropriate to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax.

This was a legal issue which GLC on behalf of the Glasgow Advice Agency Ltd (GAA) had obtained the opinion of senior counsel over a month ago, and which GAA had expressly called for the Scottish Government to utlise as a practical strategy to minimse the application of under-occupancy charges, especially where a household had a disabled person. We support the Minister's helpful words of encouragement to social landlords' today:

"There are also circumstances where a bedroom’s classification may be changed and tenants not penalised. Again, I would encourage landlords to consider this possibility and work with their local authority if at all possible".

GLC also welcomes the Minister's endorsement of Dundee City Council's 'No eviction for bedroom tax arrears' policy, which we believe is a very progressive initiative based upon the exact same principle as our 'No eviction for bedroom tax arrears' campaign. The Dundee City Council policy will last for 12 months and guarantees that no tenant who is doing their best to pay their rent arrears will be evicted for bedroom tax arrears. The Minister's statement on this issue is reproduced below, and GLC hopes that the Scottish Government will reconsider its position on amending section 16 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 in light of its apparent support for Dundee's no evictions for bedroom tax policy.

The Scottish Housing Minister said today: "You may wish to be aware of the policy adopted by Dundee City Council which I believe provides a useful template to protect tenants who genuinely cannot make up the shortfall in rent caused by the bedroom tax. The Council has committed that, where the Director of Housing is satisfied that affected tenants are doing all that can be reasonably expected to in order to avoid falling into arrears, they will use all legitimate means to collect rent due, except eviction. I would encourage you to consider this as a mechanism to protect the most vulnerable of your tenants.”

Rejecting Big Government and Common Core Standards in Favor of Parental Rights

Last week Glenn Beck's pantomime of giving triage to a dying Lady Liberty while she lay bleeding and gasping on the floor of his studio went viral across the conservative internet.  Beck finished his pantomime by admonishing parents to get their kids out of government schools because the schools are turning the kids against the parents.

Beck is exactly right about this; one of the reasons that our country is sliding so far to the left is that progressive social engineering has been happening in this country for over 40 years. Now, however, social engineering is accelerating to a whole new level as the Common Core Standards are implemented across the country. 

In today's column, conservative blogger and bestselling author Michelle Malkin explains that Big Government wants to control not only what your children learn, but how they process it, respond to it and feel about it.  They also want to be able to track your children's behaviours, attitudes, likes and dislikes from infancy through high school graduation, and use that information both for research and for profit.  Malkin cites a Department of Education report which underscores that the true intention of Common Core Standards is not to make sure that all children learn, but that the Federal Government has a firm grip on exactly what attitudes, beliefs and concepts the children leave school with.  States Malkin,

"The DOE report exposes the big lie that Common Core is about raising academic standards by revealing its progressive designs to measure and track children’s “competencies” in “recognizing bias in sources,” “flexibility,” “cultural awareness and competence,” “appreciation for diversity,” “empathy,” “perspective taking, trust (and) service orientation.” 
Read Malkin's full article, which also contains a link to Glenn Beck's recent work on CCS, here.

In an era when our young people are graduating from school with minimal skills and competencies, but a strong foundation in liberalism, sex ed, and socialism, it is outrageous that politicians in both parties are pushing the Common Core Standards and this new federal tracking of students attitudes and behaviours.  The CCS, along with President Obama's new push for universal preschool, the folly of which has been explained in today's Morning Bell, are designed to ensure that the government can get fully inside the head of every kid in America starting at age 4 and lasting through high school.  Children who have been indoctrinated into this system are foundational to the liberal, socialist, godless society that our federal educational system has been building for the last generation. 

After the 2012 elections, I saw Charles Krauthammer interviewed on Fox News.  He was asked whether he believed that the young people who voted for Barack Obama the second time were a permanent block of reliable liberal voters.  He responded that normally people become more conservative as they get older--as they get married and get jobs and mortgages and have children of their own, the desire for universal welfare is commonly replaced by the desire for lower tax brackets.  Traditionally what Krauthammer says has been true; young radicals grow into middle aged accountants with values that more closely resemble their parents. But in the case of the new generation that is growing up, I think Krauthammer's formula no longer applies.  The 60's hippies were rebelling against a "plastic culture".  They understood the values of their parents--they just rejected them only to find out that liberal, leftist politics work better in theory than in practice.  Unlike the previous generations of young people who grew up, got married, got jobs and cut their hair, this new generation is actually not rebelling against anything.  They have been programmed and engineered into an odd conglomeration of Peter Pan, Fifty Shades of Grey and Karl Marx.  They have been taught that they should never have to work, be responsible, or grow up, that socialism is good and capitalism is bad, that intolerance is the only sin a person can commit and that traditional family structures are old-fashioned, boring, repressive, and no fun.  People so indoctrinated at such an early age cannot "grow up" to be conservative, responsible adults--they don't even have a concept of what that means.  Children who start out at age four in government daycare, spend their formative years in a completely socialist system, and then spend their college years enjoying "Sex week" at major universities are going to emerge so damaged ,that they will never rehabilitate into stable, productive, hard working Americans who support freedom and independence.  (This is the 21st century "Jedi Mind Meld" that Obama complained two weeks ago that he could not use on Congress and Senate.  Progessives know that they just have to be patient--they cannot change the attitudes of "set in our ways" freedom loving conservatives, but if they can get control of our children, they can make us as extinct as the dinosaur within one generation.)

And that takes me back to Beck's speech about getting kids out of the public school system.  I am a product of homeschooling--my mother homeschooled me and my nine younger brothers and sisters starting in 1975, before the word "homeschooling" had even been coined.  We did not meet another homeschooling family until I was fourteen years old.  We used accredited correspondence schools and skipped no grades whatsoever, but each of us had a master's degree from California State University before our seventeenth birthdays--completely educated by a very hard working woman with only a high school diploma whose previous work experience consisted of being a secretary.

Homeschooling provides students with a completely different world view than that held by people in public or private schools.  Today there are estimates of between 2 and 6 million homeschoolers in this country, including second generation homeschoolers such as my nieces and nephews.  This block represents a small but significant segment of people who have been taught to think outside of the system. Homeschooling by parents who really want to not only educate their children but shape their character and prevent their indoctrination into the "New World Order" is the best hope that this country has for salvaging its future.

Homeschoolers beware, however, because the federal government's Common Core Standards are coming to a textbook near you. Many companies that sell textbooks to homeschoolers have signed on to the Common Core Standards.  Last week, homeschooling mother and conservative advocate Tina Hollenbeck began contacting companies that sell textbooks to homeschoolers to find out whether their companies were not aligned with CCS, were coincidentally aligned, or were consciously aligned.  She has compiled three lists which are now available on her website which you can visit here.  Her website also contains a link to her Facebook group.

If you just simply cannot homeschool, you can still opt out of the Federal database tracking system being implemented through the Common Core System.  Malkin's blog references a form that parents can sign and submit to school districts to protect the privacy of their children and prevent the federal government and major corporations from tracking their kids through school. This will at least protect their privacy, though it won't do much to protect their minds. 

If you are interested in homeschooling, numerous resources are available to help you get started.  The time and the money you will spend are not just an investment in your children--it is an investment in America's future, which is currently hanging in the balance.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her newest novel, The Chosen, about one small group of Americans' fight to restore the Constitution and end indefinite detentions without trial, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Are UK mortgage lenders entitled to triple their tracker rates?

The proposed doubling and tripling of Bank of Ireland's (BoI) base rate tracker from May has caused shock and outrage among its 13,500 mortgage customers in the UK. Tracker mortgage rates are meant to track the Bank of England's base rate, which hasn't moved in four years. As many consumers get to grips with how they will find the many hundreds of unexpected pounds needed each month to stave off repossession, is BoI entitled to do this? GLC's Mike Dailly believes the bank appears to be acting oppressively and may not be entitled to do this. In a guest column for, he urges victims to fight back.

King John, the Bill of Rights, and Assassination by Drone

When I was in school, I read a poem entitled, "King John and the Abbot of Canterbury".  The poem relates how the Abbot of Canterbury was a kind and generous and loved man, who was well respected throughout England.  He was also one of the wealthiest men in England--wealthier than King John himself. The king became increasingly enraged by stories of the Abbot's goodness, kindness and generosity, and he coveted the Abbot's wealth, so one day he summoned the Abbot to appear before him in court. When the Abbot arrived, the king told him that he must return to court in three days time to answer three questions for the king. If the Abbot failed to appear or if he were unable to correctly answer each question, he would immediately be executed and all of his wealth and property would be forfeited to the king.  Following were the three questions for which King John demanded answers:
  • Question 1:  How long, to the minute, will the king live? 
  • Question 2: How much, to the penny, is the king worth as he sits on the throne with the  royal crown on his head? 
  • Question 3: What was the king thinking while the Abbot was answering the first two questions?
In the poem, the Abbot leaves the court in dismay and immediately travels to England's greatest scholars to try to find the answers to the questions.  He goes to the universities--he travels to Cambridge and to Oxford, he asks the wise men of the church, but everywhere he goes, he hears only that no one can answer such questions for another person.  Finally, at the end of the second day, he arrives back at his estate grief-stricken because he knows he will die the following day, and he is greeted by a faithful servant who tells the Abbot that he can answer each question for the King, and persuads the Abbot to allow him to go in his place to face King John.

I have been reminded of that poem several times lately as our government has reauthorized indefinite detention of U.S. citizens under the NDAA and most recently when the Attorney-General announced last week that the Administration does have the authority to kill American ciitzens on U.S. soil using drones.  Yesterday, Senator Rand Paul spent more than 12 hours filibustering CIA nominee John Brennan's nomination simply to make the point that no Administration should have power to assassinate U.S. citizens without due process.  Paul made some excellent points, including the one that once we give up our rights and freedoms, we cannot expect to get them back. 

What amazes me about the filibuster is that any American cannot see clearly that drone attacks against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil are an egregious violation of our Constitutional rights.  Yet, this morning the Wall Street Journal attacked Paul for his "political stunt" saying that he had managed to rally "libertarian  college students in their dorm rooms."  How demeaning and insulting!  I stayed at work an extra hour last night to send #standwithrand tweets so that he would know that, like millions of Americans, I appreciate what he is doing on behalf of liberty.  I am certainly not a libertarian and I have not been a college student in over 20 years. The men and women with whom I interacted on Twitter last night were largely people like me--working professionals who care about the Constitution, freedom and the Bill of Rights.  Regardless of what the WSJ, Senator John McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham like to pretend, we are not a mindless army of anarchists.  We know that in a free society, the government must operate under the boundaries of its own laws.  No person can be above the rule of law--not the Attorney-General, not the president of the United States, not anyone.

Our founding fathers understood this principle all too well.  They had lived in a society where the king was above the law--his whims and wishes trumped any written legislation.  While the story of King John and the Abbot of Canterbury is almost definitely fiction, it highlights the real abuses committed by King John against his subjects--abuses so severe that finally his nobles forced him to sign the Magna Carta guaranteeing some rights and protections to some portions of society.  While the Magna Carta granted very limited protections, the document became the basis for the concept that the king is not above the law, and that concept became the basis for our Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Each right we are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights--the right to freedom of speech, of assembly, of religion, the right to freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, the right to trial by jury, the right of due process, the right to keep and bear arms--all were guaranteed to us by people who understood what it meant to have no rights.  They wrote down our freedoms for us so that we could learn them and live under them. 

Today we have a society that has been free for so long that we have lost sight of what it means not to be free.  When the current Administration tells the American people that a senior level official should have the right to examine the evidence and determine whether to assassinate a particular person, an alarming number of people in this country seem to think that this is acceptable.  Many leaders of both parties, and many in the press, seem to believe that this power of assassination or imprisonment without trial would never be abused or used to destroy a person who was not guilty of a serious crime against the country and who did not pose an imminent threat to its security.  History suggests the opposite.  From the Old Testament Story of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, who murdered their neighbor Naboth and stole his vineyard because they coveted his property and he refused to sell it, to more modern examples of citizens living in the Soviet Union during the Stalin years who reported fellow citizens as traitors to the government and had them executed to get their apartments, history teaches that people are often motivated by greed, pride, envy, lust and a desire for personal gratification and that these are often the driving forces in their decisions to execute another person. What is to stop the "senior official" from killing the rival for his lover's attention, or executing the owner of a home he wants, or assassinating any person who stands between him and some desired goal. Perhaps, as in the case of King John and the Abbot, envy could be the sole basis for determining that a certain individual or group of individuals was a threat, or, as in the case of most tyrants, an honest disagreement with a certain policy or idea could target a particular individual for termination.  Due process and a trial by jury system is of paramount importance in a world where selfishness, greed and anger are basic human instincts.

Today, Jay Carney reluctantly read a statement from Eric Holder informing the American people that drone strikes are to be restrained under the guidelines of the Constitution and that the President does not have the power to assassinate non-combatant Americans on U.S. soil.  I applaud Rand Paul and the fourteen Senators who stood with him yesterday in getting this admission out of the White House.  As Paul said in his statement following Carney's announcement, "under duress and public humiliation" the White House decided to uphold the law.  I am just disappointed that it took a 12 hour filibuster to get the White House to admit that it has a legal obligation to uphold the Constitution, and I am saddened that on the day after the filibuster so many Americans do not seem to understand the importance of protecting and defending this document that was created to protect and defend each of us.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her newest novel, The Chosen, about one small group of Americans' fight to restore the Constitution and end indefinite detentions without trial, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Scottish Government provide flawed reasoning and no evidence to reject the principle of 'No evictions for bedroom tax arrears'

Addressing a packed roundtable meeting of Scottish community groups, trade unionists and representatives of civic Scotland bodies organised by the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) tonight, Govan Law Centre set out why it believed the Scottish Government had based its decision to reject the 'No evictions for bedroom tax arrears' campaign on flawed reasoning and without any evidence.

The Scottish Government set out its position on why it would not amend section 16 of the 2001 Housing (Scotland) Act to prevent evictions caused by under-occupancy deductions to housing benefit during General Question Time in the Scottish Parliament today (the BBC Scotland video of GQT is below).

Govan Law Centre's analysis of the reasoning put forward by the Scottish Government today can be read here, and these points were discussed at the STUC this evening, where all participants very strongly rallied around the principle of 'No evictions for bedroom tax arrears' in Scotland.

GLC hopes that the Scottish Government will reconsider its position here, and take the opportunity to ingather empirical evidence, as well as taking evidence on the proposal from Scottish community representatives, trade unions, disability rights campaigners, advice agencies and civic Scotland.

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On February 8, 2013, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) issued a final rule, “Implementation of the Fair Housing Act’s Discriminatory Effects Standard. The rule formalizes a national standard for determining whether a housing practice violates the Fair Housing Act as the result of a discriminatory effect. The rule goes into effect on March 18, 2013.

HUD takes the position that the Rule reaffirms, formalizes, and provides a consistent interpretation of, its longstanding position that liability may arise under the FHA from a racially neutral practice that has a discriminatory effect, even if there is no evidence that the practice was motivated by discriminatory intent. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said “the Department, which has the responsibility and authority to interpret and enforce the Fair Housing Act, has long interpreted the Act to prohibit housing practices with an unjustified discriminatory effect, if those acts actually or predictably result in a disparate impact on a group of persons, or create, increase, reinforce or perpetuate segregated housing patterns. Indeed, this well-established legal precedent has been critically important in helping HUD remedy discriminatory practices in home rentals, sales, and financing nationwide. The rule formalizes the existing legal framework of the Fair Housing Act.”

The regulation is intended to establish uniform standards for determining when a housing practice with a discriminatory effect violates the Fair Housing Act. Eleven circuits court of appeals have agreed. However, there have been minor variations in how courts and HUD have applied the discriminatory effects theory.

The rule establishes a three-part test for proving liability for an unlawful discriminatory effect on housing-related activities, including the rental and financing of homes, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, disability, familial status or national origin. The test does not take into consideration whether there has been any intention to discriminate, but focuses instead on whether a particular housing practice results in a discriminatory effect. A Plaintiff must prove that a challenged practice caused or predictably will cause a discriminatory effect. Once the plaintiff meets this burden of proof, the burden shifts to the defendant to prove that the challenged practice is necessary to achieve one or more substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests. If the defendant satisfies that burden, the plaintiff may still prevail by proving that the substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests supporting the challenged practice could be served by another practice that has a less discriminatory effect.

The rule provides clarity and consistency for individuals, businesses, and government entities subject to the Fair Housing Act. HUD anticipates that the rule will make it easier for individuals and organizations covered by the law to understand their responsibilities and comply with the law. Lending institutions and other housing providers expressed concern about formalizing the discriminatory effects liability standard as a regulation. HUD considered their comments but ultimately determined that the rule will not have a chilling effect on lending in lower-income communities, on development of affordable housing, on the use of credit scores, other evaluative tools or on other matters.

Fair housing advocates on the other hand, welcomed the news that the long-awaited rule would finally be published. In a press statement, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, said, “by releasing these regulations on disparate impact today, HUD is empowering municipalities across the country to enforce housing codes equally for all Americans and bolstering protections for those who face housing discrimination.” Let’s just hope that the rule will be affirmed by the highest court of the land.

Sheriff Principal rules on proper approach to section 16(3) factors in Scottish eviction case callings

Sitting at Glasgow Sheriff Court today, Sheriff Principal Bowen QC has recalled a sheriff's decree for ejection and payment in an action of recovery of hertiable possession upon the basis that the court had taken the wrong approach to section 16(3) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001, and did not have a sufficient factual basis to determine the question of whether it was reasonable to evict the tenant. 

In the case of Glenoaks Housing Association v. DF the sheriff had granted decree after a sist was recalled on the hearing of an incidental application by the landlord, and the pursuers had advised that arrears had risen to almost £3,000. The defender had sought to continue the cause to resolve a housing benefit application and the pursuer had argued that housing benefit was not particulary relevant because the tenant had failed to provide relevant information to enable the claim to be determined. This was disputed by the tenant's solicitor who requested a continuation to resolve this key issue.

The sheriff at first instance had refused to grant a continuation or fix a proof and held that the facts were 'sufficiently agreed'  in terms of SCR 8.3 to enable him to dispose of the case on the merits at the hearing of the incidental application. At the appeal hearing, the defender and appellant had argued that sheriff had failed to properly have regard to the factors set out in section 16(3) of the 2001 Act and was wrong in law to have held the facts were 'sufficiently agreed'.

The Sheriff Principal held that there was substance in the appellant's arguments in terms of the proper approach to the evidential factors in section 16(3) and questioned whether the facts had been sufficient agreed, and doubted there was a sufficient factual basis to determine the reasonableness of granting decree; and therefore recalled the decree, allow 14 days for a Supplementary Note of Defence and fixed a diet of proof, reserving the question of expenses.

The cases of City of Edinburgh Council v. Forbes 2002 Hous LR 61, Northern Rock (AM) plc v. Youngson 2012 Hous LR 100 and Henderson v. Nova Scotia Limited (2006) UKHL 21 were considered. The pursuers' were represented by Mr Bauld of TC Young in the appeal hearing, and the defender by GLC's Mike Dailly and Laura Simpson.

The Absurdity of the Sequester Crisis

What do you think is the single biggest problem with government today?  I know that is an open-ended question that could generate pages of responses since there are so many clear problems with our government. But as I have watched and lived through the massive regulations of the past four years, I have come to believe that the biggest problem with our government is that we have two sets of rules--one for politicians and the other for everybody else.

Two days from now, the sequester is about to go into effect which will cut $85 billion over 10 years from a budget that will still be larger than the federal government's 2012 budget.  I have spent the last few days watching and reading various commentaries on the sequester--ABC News reports that the sequester will lead to longer lines at the airport, cuts to Head Start, cuts to education, cuts to defense, and on and on.  A few days ago, the Administration released non-violent illegal immigrants awaiting hearings to drive home the consequences of budget cuts to federal law enforcement.  Much of this is an obvious attempt to create a public outcry against the government being forced to cut its budget by 2.3%.  Unfortunately for Washington, no outcry is coming.  The American people are fed up--we simply don't care that it's finally the government's turn to make do with less money than it would like to have.

I have also read some excellent commentaries on the fact that the all Americans were subjected to a 2% payroll tax increase in January of this year, so we all have to make do with 2% less money than we had last year.  Yes, agencies may not be able to hire so many employees; yes, they may have to furlough employees.  So what?  Government workers earn an average of 16% more than workers in the private sector.  In a climate where many businesses are struggling and millions of Americans remain unemployed, no one is going to shed any tears over a federal employee being furloughed.  At least they have an excellent job to go back to as soon as the furlough ends. 

Another possibly horrific consequence of the sequester--Congress might not be able to travel free on military jets as a result of defense cut spending.  According to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley at the Air Force Association's Winter Conference, the reduced military budget might not allow for free transport of Congressmen and women.  That would truly be sad--they might have to fly business class where they would stand in the lines created by TSA and sit next to their own constituents during flights to and from their districts. This might, however, have the positive effect of increasing business class air travel if people knew that they might actually have an opportunity to speak face to face to their elected representatives since anyone who has ever lobbied on a grassroots level knows that these people are virtually impossible to contact directly by phone or email and often do not see visitors from their districts who travel to their DC offices to meet with them.

What is hypocritical about the weeping and wailing over the cuts brought on by the sequester is that the same government officials who are warning that the Apocalypse is about to begin have spent the last four years imposing draconian regulations dictating how much private businesses can earn.  In the mortgage industry, for example, two years ago the government implemented regulations mandating that a self-employed loan originator could no longer be paid both by the consumer and by the lender to whom he sold the mortgage loan. At that time, many experienced originators left the market, because the government had cut their pay.  Last year, the government again cut the pay of originators--this time indirectly--through ruling against Wells Fargo in a discrimination case.  In that case, the government determined that because some brokers had charged higher fees to some minority borrowers than had other brokers, Wells Fargo's policies, while not intentionally discriminatory, had a "disparate impact" on potential borrowers and therefore Wells Fargo was guilty of discrimination. The immediate effect of this ruling was that many lenders (including Wells Fargo) stopped working with independent loan originators completely, and those who remained changed our contracts effectively reducing how much we can earn once again.  Now, in January, the CFPB announced its new rule federally capping all fees on qualified mortgages at 3% in a move that will finish destroying what is left of the independent mortgage market. 

All of these regulations were touted as necessary for the protection of the consumer.  Mortgage brokers were apparently charging too much money and their customers did not understand the hundreds of pages of forms provided to them to explain their costs and fees.  In order to protect the consumer from being overcharged, the new regulations had to be implemented.  No one ever protested, "But mortgage brokers with many years of experience have financial obligations--homes, mortgages of their own, children in school, debt, office expenses, payroll, etc. They have entered into those obligations based on past earnings. If we cut their incomes how will they meet those obligations?  How we can expect them to do the same level of work they are doing now for substantially less money?  What if they can't earn enough money to meet their expenses and they are forced into bankruptcy or foreclosure?"  Rather, the bureaucrats who made these rules were smugly confident that what they were doing was for the greater good.  The businesses they affected would just have to learn how to make do with less.

Now, it's the government's turn to experience some cuts--cuts they imposed on themselves, apparently thinking that when the time came they would never have to actually live under them.  President Obama believes that the American public should rush to the government's defense and accept more tax increases--further reductions to our own income--in order to prevent any reductions to the government's budget.  To make his case, he calls the cuts "brutal" and "severe" and warns that they will "eviscerate" key segments of the economy.  In doing so, he is using the same reactionary strategy that he has successfully used several times in the past--the world is about to end, the wolf is at the door, and we are all going to die unless we acquiesce.  Apparently, Obama never read the story of the boy who cried wolf or he would know that this particular strategy only works so many times before the people stop listening.  I think that's where we are today.

While the mainstream media and the government want to pretend that a 2.3% reduction in the federal  budget will mean the end of the world as we know it,  the truth is that it's time the government learned how to adjust its spending and live within its means.  If that means some pain for the agencies and employees, so be it.  We the people need to let Washington know that the cuts imposed by sequester are necessary for the protection of the taxpayer--we are doing it for the greater good.  The government will just have to learn how to make do with less.

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned Me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Bedroom tax facts, myth and legends: why evicting households for bedroom tax arrears makes poor financial sense in Scotland

The debate on whether Scotland should introduce a 'No evictions for bedroom tax' policy is gaining widespread public support, with many councillors, some councils, MSPs and MEPs now backing the principle of GLC's Scottish Parliamentary petition.  

GLC is aware, however, that some people and politicians remain undecided about the workability of not evicting tenants for bedroom tax arrears, and that a number of assumptions and assertions are circulating against the principle of the petition, which can be summarised as follows:
  • Not evicting someone for bedroom tax arrears will mean many people who can pay won’t pay, which is unfair for those tenants who choose to pay, or are unable to do so.
  • It would take several years to build up a sufficient level of arrears before a social landlord considered going for eviction, so what is all the fuss about?
  • It would be unworkable for a social landlord to separate ‘bedroom tax arrears’ from other rent arrears, and therefore not evicting people for bedroom tax arrears cannot be practical.
  • Not evicting tenants for the bedroom tax will damage the revenue streams of social landlords, make their business operations unsustainable, and ultimately damage the interests of other tenants who do pay.
Accordingly, in the interests of well informed public debate, GLC is publishing a 'Bedroom Tax Facts, Myths and Legends' paper  (opens as PDF) which explains the hard facts with reference to the relevant law, practice, and empirical evidence available in Scotland. We believe the facts overwhelmingly support the case for not evicting tenants for bedroom tax arrears in Scotland and hope that you will consider lending your support to our campaign by signing our petition here and tweeting and disemminating this post to a wider audience.

Marketing Indefinite Detention to the American Public

On Tuesday evening I watched an episode of NCIS-Los Angeles.  NCIS-LA has a really openly liberal bent in most of its episodes, and for that reason I am not a fan of the show, but somehow I end up watching  a few episodes each season in spite of this. But the episode this week featured more than just the normal "white rich people (especially men) are bad; socialism and liberalism are good" message that I have come to expect from a lot of television entertainment.

In Tuesday's episode, NCIS investigators played by Chris O'Donnell and LL Cool J were pursuing a terrorist group from the 70's called the "Gun Barrel Party."  This anarchist organization was a sort of a cross between the uber-leftist terrorist organization "The Weathermen" and the current Tea Party, and in the episode they had been involved in a series of high profile bombings in the 70's and were now making a comeback with new followers and a new mission to get the attention of Americans through new attacks on the social order.

As the investigators tracked the members, they came upon the scene of one demonstration where bombs were set to go off, and they were able to arrest one young member of the group.  The young man began quoting the Constitution to O'Donnell and demanding his right to see an attorney.  O'Donnell quickly shot him down, however, by informing him that because the U.S. Government had designated "The Gun Barrel Party" as a terrorist organization, he no longer had any rights and that he had better cooperate.  The suspect told them that he wanted to exercise his Fifth amendment right not to incriminate himself, but O'Donnell explained to him that under the provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act the government now had the right to detain him as long as they decided they needed to and if he failed to cooperate he would end up at Gitmo.  At that point, the suspect began talking and gave them the information they needed to arrest the leader of the organization.

Even though the indefinite detention provisions of the  National Defense Authorization Act have been in effect since New Years Eve of 2011, I am certain that most Americans still do not know that the U.S. government has empowered itself to imprison Americans without trial.  That is one reason that this episode of NCIS is so shocking.  The writers used the full name of the Act and explained that it trumps the constitutional rights of Americans, but they presented this information in a very positive light as the protagonist investigators used the law to take down the evil terrorists.

As Americans, we expect to have many disagreements with our fellow citizens about the issues of the day--welfare, deficit spending, entitlements, social issues, etc.  But the right of each citizen to be protected by the constitution should never be open for debate--this issue should be so basic that no one, regardless of political affiliation, should ever question it.  Yet, Hollywood is now doing a marketing campaign to let Americans know that some citizens can be marginalize and that anyone who is deemed to be part of a designated terrorist organization is not deserving of the rights or protections which are the framework of our society .  This is very dangerous propaganda.

It is ironic that while "Gitmo" has become a national symbol of failure in our dealings with enemy combatants, it is now perfectly acceptable as a threat against American citizens.  It is sad that Hollywood writers who, if they are going to address this subject at all, should be using their forum to explain the dangers of undermining the constitution, are instead championing a destructive law.  And it is sad that many Americans watching NCIS-Los Angeles who had never heard of the NDAA before Tuesday night now see it only as a vehicle for "cool" investigators to use to bring "really bad people" to justice. 

What is saddest of all though, is that our entire media system has become a propaganda machine for leftist policies. From news to entertainment, the media is preaching one big government, post-constitutional message  and indoctrinating the less informed people in our culture to accept the trampling of our liberties as a good thing. 

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her newest novel, The Chosen, about one small group of Americans' fight to restore the Constitution and end indefinite detentions without trial, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at

Glasgow Advice Agency calls for local authority guidance to enable tenants to mitigate bedroom tax

As reported in The Herald (Saturday, 16 February 2013) the Glasgow Advice Agency (GAA) has obtained the opinion of senior counsel and understands that the meaning of 'bedroom' for the purposes of the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012 is not legally defined, and that, importantly, the definition is not static or fixed in time. GAA funds and manages free financial inclusion, welfare rights and advice services across the South and North East of Glasgow. Its principal members include GLC, Govan Money Matters Advice Centre and GEMAP Scotland.

Essentially, GAA understand that it is a matter for each local authority as 'the relevant authority' under the regulations to determine what is and is not a 'bedroom', and that the actual use of a room by a particular household will be critical in deciding whether that room is a bedroom or not. Accordingly, GAA believes it is possible for tenants to change the use of what might be regarded as a 'spare bedroom' in terms of the regulations into something that need not be counted as such, and not be subject to the housing benefit under-occupancy deductions (bedroom tax). In that regard, the guidance and approach of individual local authorities will be critical.

In particular, this approach is of obvious application for disabled tenants in Scotland or the UK who may use a 'spare bedroom' for the purpose of therapy, storing wheelchairs, medical equipment or to undertake medical procedures. Other tenants may be able to avoid the bedroom tax too. The critical factor is there is a need for formal guidance and then advice to ensure an uptake of that guidance to help tenants mitigate against the bedroom tax.

"GAA believes there is a key role for the Scottish Government to take a lead in this matter and provide formal guidance for local authorities to enable a consistent approach and facilitate best practice across Scotland."

At present, 95,000 households in Scotland are affected from 1 April 2013, with a cost implication in lost rent to councils and housing associations in the sum of around £50m per annum in Scotland. GAA believe the issuing of guidance and providing advice could enable many of those affected by the bedroom tax with a means to lawfully mitigate against it by using a spare room for a purpose that would not be regarded as a bedroom in law.

Illinois Senate Passes Historic Marriage Bill On Valentine’s Day

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Illinois Law makers passed a historic marriage equality bill geared towards legalizing same sex unions in the State. The Illinois Senate passed the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act (SB 10) on a 34 to 21 vote.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Heather Steans, D-Chicago, called it "a votefor the history books." She stated "We have the opportunity today to welcome all families in Illinois as equally valued.”

The debate over the bill was dominated by questions about protections for religious institutions and contains a compromise. Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Champaign, was the only Republican to vote yes. He worked on an amendment explicitly stating that no church or other religious organization would be forced to solemnize same-sex marriages.

Governor Quinn praised the Senate’s passage of the bill. “Today, we are one step closer to marriage equality in Illinois,” Quinn said in a statement. “Couples across Illinois have even more reason today to celebrate their love for each other, thanks to the hard work of committed advocates and lawmakers.”

If passed, the measure would officially change state law to define marriage as an act between two people. Illinois residents in civil unions would be able to convert them to marriages with a year of the law going into effect.

The bill carries great significance in Fair Housing. If it becomes law, it will expand protections against familial status discrimination in Illinois to cover gay families. There is likely to be an increase in familial status discrimination cases. The House is expected to pass the bill when is presented for a vote.

Civic Scotland organisations unite for law reform to protect tenants against bedroom tax evictions

Oxfam, Govan Law Centre, Shelter Scotland, Money Advice Scotland, the Carrington Dean Group and Glasgow Central Citizens Advice Bureaux have come together to support a campaign film calling on the Scottish Government and Parliament to prevent Scottish tenants being evicted for bedroom tax arrears.

The campaigners are calling for section 16 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 to be amended so that bedroom tax arrears are treated as an ordinary debt in law, and not as rent arrears which would constitute grounds or evidence for eviction. The new campaign film explains the expected impact of the 'bedroom tax', and the concerns that advice agencies and anti-poverty charities in Scotland have in relation to increased evictions and homelessness in Scotland.

The campaign film asks for people to sign and support the 'No evictions for bedroom tax' petition in the Scottish Parliament - which is online here:  (anyone, anywhere can sign this, and you do not have to be in Scotland or the UK to do so).  The 'Amend section 16' campaign film can be watched below.

Real Economic Stimulus Happens Only Through Less Regulation and Lower Taxes

Last night just after 5:00 PM I got a call asking me to stay another 30 minutes to visit with a homeowner to whom I have made a couple of real estate loans in the past.  The man said that he needed to talk to me and wanted to come by about 5:30 and visit for a few minutes.  The man's property is located in New Mexico, where I no longer hold a lending license, and I was getting ready to leave for the evening when the call came in, but as a courtesy to an old customer I stayed and waited for him.

When my borrower arrived he told me that he knew that I could not loan him any money on his New Mexico property but that he was very frustrated by current experience of trying to get a loan and he wanted to see if I could make some suggestions to help him.  His property in New Mexico is very nice and he does not owe much money on it, but he wants to buy a home in Texas and in order to get the down payment for his new home he wants to do a cash out refinance on the New Mexico property where he currently lives.  He complained that the companies that he is working with now don't return his calls, that the level of service is terrible, and that he is not getting the cooperation he needs.  "I called over here and you agreed to see me right away, but I can't even get these other guys to return my calls."

He wanted to know why I stopped lending in New Mexico, and I explained to him that when the SAFE act was introduced requiring that mortgage brokers have federal licensure, the licensure fees for each state more than doubled.  I had always had a New Mexico license for as long as I had been in business, but I could no longer afford to pay the fees to be licensed in two states, so I had to choose the state where I conducted the most business, which was Texas.  Prior to the SAFE act, I could have handled the transactions in both states.  It was true that I always met with him after hours, at times that were convenient for his work schedule and that I  closed his loans quickly and was always accessible, but the elevated costs of doing business coupled with the drastic cuts to our income produced by regulations have made it impossible for me to work the way I once did.

I then explained that he needs to be aware that the mortgage debt ratios for borrowers refinancing their homes or buying new ones are tighter than they have ever been.  In order to be able to purchase the new home after he refinances his current one, he is going to have to be sure that his debts do not exceed 45% of his income if he is going to be getting a conventional loan.  His current plan is to rent out his home in New Mexico to offset the payment on his new loan so that he can qualify to buy his new home, but if he does not have 30% equity in the existing home after his new loan is finished as verified by the current appraisal he will not be able to use the rent to offset the payment which will mean that he will have to qualify for the house with both his current house payment with his new higher loan amount and the new payment on the new home he is buying. To make matters worse, his wife has a steady job with the school district but her credit is not very good, so she may not qualify to be on the loan which will mean that her income cannot be used.  He is also working with the school district, and his credit has always been very good, but due to a mistake by his current mortgage servicer where they erroneously reported his payments late because of an escrow shortage, his scores are lower than they were when I was working with him and he may not make enough money to qualify by himself.

While we were talking, he received a text message from one of the mortgage loan originators he has been working with saying that the mortgage loan originator wants to meet with him.  The originator wants $400.00 in order to order the appraisal on the house in New Mexico.  My former borrower looked at me expectantly as he told me that he can't pay for the appraisal right now and expects it to be rolled into the loan.  I explained that mortgage loan originators used to allow borrowers to pay for appraisals at closing--which often meant that if for some reason the loan did not close we had to pay for those appraisals ourselves.  Although not collecting the money upfront meant that many times we had to pay those fees ourselves, because the lending environment was very competitive, we would often take the chance on not collecting the appraisal money at the time the appraisal was done because we were competing with other lenders who would not collect the money up front, so we could risk $350.00 or risk losing the deal totally.  Now, however, since new appraisal regulations were introduced in 2009, we no longer hire the appraisers ourselves.  Appraisers are selected by appraisal management companies contracted by the lender and the appraisal management companies demand payment in full upfront.  Not only are appraisals considerably more expensive than they once were, but we no longer have the flexibility to call up our friendly local appraiser and ask if he will wait three weeks to get paid.  Since loan originators no longer have the money to cover those costs themselves, and since most the competition is gone now, the borrower has to cover the cost of each and every appraisal up front.  I explained that he will be paying for his appraisal on his refinance and his appraisal for his purchase at the time each is ordered--no exceptions.

As I talked to this man, he commented that if the market is slow and loans are difficult to originate, then everyone should be eager to work with him and eager to accommodate him, but that is really a very naive view of business.   In a competitive, profitable environment, loans were affordable and loan originators worked hard to try to close the borrower.  Today, loan origination is extremely difficult and laborious and not very profitable.  As a result, there is very little competition and very little incentive to go above and beyond.  I am sure from having known this man for a number of years that he voted for President Obama both times and that he has been completely in support of Obama's anti-business policies and his strangling regulations, but now he does not understand why increasing the regulation and the costs of doing business for lenders is making it difficult for him to get the loans, the pricing and the service he wants.  I am sure that there are people all over the U.S. who would agree with him.  They like to complain about evil business people, but they don't understand why high costs doing business and low profit margins kill the incentive of business people, increase costs to consumers and limit consumer choice by driving out competition.

Tonight President Obama will give his first State of the Union of his second term.  One major focus of this speech is supposed to be jobs, the economy, and to paraphrase one commentator, "making sure that all Americans can participate in the economy while paying their fair share."  We can look for a speech calling for more regulations, higher taxes and more top down economic stimulus in the form of taxpayer funded subsidies for pet projects such as union shops and green energy.  We can be pretty certain that the speech will not call for any of the real actions that actually would stimulate the economy--unraveling the tens of thousands of regulations that have been implemented over the past four years, lowering taxes or reducing the cost of compliance.  Yet, if the President were serious about improving the economy, these are the actions he would take.  No matter what the left likes to tell themselves, the government does not create jobs.  The government does not create opportunity. The government only has the power to kill jobs and opportunity.  For profit businesses do not operate out of a sense of altruism; the owners and employees work hard and give their utmost effort so that they can experience the rewards that go with hard work.  When those rewards are stifled, the incentive to produce and compete is gone.  And when business becomes too difficult and expensive to conduct, business owners either close up shop completely or they raise the costs they pass on to the consumers and cut services.  Either way, in the end, the American people end up paying the final bill, not only through higher taxes, but also through higher fees and costs and poor service.   

Alexandra Swann is the author of No Regrets: How Homeschooling Earned me a Master's Degree at Age Sixteen and several other books. Her novel, The Planner, about an out of control, environmentally-driven federal government implementing Agenda 21, is available on Kindle and in paperback. For more information, visit her website at