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Opinion: Financial Literacy Critical as World Goes Cashless

November 7, 2018 Crime, Featured, Politics/Policy, Retail Comments Off on Opinion: Financial Literacy Critical as World Goes Cashless
Shake Shack is one of the places mentioned as going/being cashless. Since we use plastic I have no clue if they accept cash or not.

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was about cashless businesses — establishments where you need plastic (debit/credit) to purchase goods/services. I current live essentially a cashless life — save for one $2 PowerBall ticket per month. After having paid off mountains of credit card debt the 2nd time I vowed to never have credit cards again. Then, in 2012, I sold my car. For a few years prior I didn’t use bills & coins, just my debit card. Once I sold my car I knew I needed a dreaded credit card again to be able to rent a card at times.

My parents, both now deceased, were raised in Oklahoma during the Great Depression/Dust Bowl. They tried very hard to instill good money management habits in me. I listed…then did all the wrong things over and over. I was never a fan of cash, though I still remember going with my dad as a kid when he bought a used van from an individual. They haggled on the price and when they agreed on a number my dad pulls out his wallet from the bib in his work overalls. He then proceeded to count out the $5,o00-$6,000 amount in $100 bills. Today people would think they were counterfeit, but it was like 1981 and people were more trusting. The seller had a shocked look on his face because my dad never looked like he had much to his name — but he usually had a few thousand in cash on him. I rarely have more than $5 on me.

Since my stroke and father’s passing in 2008, and selling my car & meeting my husband in 2012, I’ve applied all the financial advice my parents gave me. I do things differently than they did, however. We pay for everything we can on credit cards. This allows me to do a monthly cash flow spreadsheet for the next month. I know when each payment is due and when we each get paid. By paying off all cards on the due date we don’t pay any interest. In fact, we basically borrow a couple of thousand dollars each month interest free.

I know a person who received a small amount from social security every month. The government stopped mailing checks long ago, and she can’t manage a checking account with or without a debit card. She got her benefits through a checking cashing place that charged high fees to receive her money electronically and convert it into cash for her. For those like her  they can receive benefits on a government debit card — no checking account required.  Still, it’s hard for people who’re used to carrying cash to adjust to non-cash on a debit-only or checking account. I’ve been trying to educate my brother-in-law for a few years now.

Which brings me to cashless businesses. I got on this topic because of the homeless asking me for change. I barely have a $5, and certainly don’t have any coins. I recognize it’s unlikely they realize the world is going cashless. Think of all the things that require plastic: renting scooters/bikes, parking apps, transit fare machines?, Redbox/Netflix.  There are non-attended gas stations, like the one at Broadway & Chouteau, that only accepts credit cards.

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I worked retail for about 6 years when I was in high school & college, thankfully never encountered a robbery. For a few years I was one of the people that went to the registers at Toys “R” Us to remove excess cash during the holidays.

Last week one local retail clerk wasn’t so lucky.

An armed robber opened fire inside a Dollar General store in St. Louis Thursday afternoon, hitting and killing a store clerk, police said. (Post-Dispatch)

Going cashless can reduce crime.

In Sweden, which is leading the race toward a cashless society, negative attitudes toward the decline in cash usage has increased as the country progresses toward a cashless society. Although cash is still used extensively in several countries, such as Austria and Germany, the use of physical cash is diminishing across the board.

Even the U.S., where cash accounts for one-third of all purchases, the use of cash is declining. But at the same time, the amount of cash being issued is growing. Forty years ago there was approximately $80 billion of cash in circulation. Today, this number has increased nearly 20 times, to roughly $1.5 trillion in circulation. In the same period, the amount of $100 bills has increased from 25 percent in the mid-1970s to around 80 percent today.

The obvious explanation is inflation. However, the increase has exceeded inflation — with a good margin. According to economist and author Kenneth Rogoff, the world is drowning in cash, and it is making us poorer and less safe. He argues in his book The Curse of Cash that this phenomenon is not an American phenomenon, but also the case for every other widely used currency — and the primary explanation is that cash is the preferred means of value exchange in the black-market economy. His solution? Phase out the larger bills. (Techcrunch)

Of course cash is also the currency for legal medical & recreational marijuana — because retailers can’t get back accounts because of outdated federal drug laws.

I don’t want cash-only people to be excluded from society, but increasingly being cash-only means they’re not part of the mainstream. I want to help find ways to ease them into new habits. So do the credit card companies. They make their money from fees charged on every transaction. Those of us with excellent credit scores can get rewards cards to offset fees but most don’t qualify for these cards.

This is a long way of saying I have no clue about banning cashless businesses. Would have zero impact on my life either way, but would keep many from being excluded. In the non-scientific poll most didn’t think we should ban cashless businesses:

Q: Agree or disagree: St. Louis should ban cashless businesses & discounts for paying with cash

  • Strongly agree: 2 [8%]
  • Agree: 2 [8%]
  • Somewhat agree: 3 [12%]
  • Neither agree or disagree: 1 [4%]
  • Somewhat disagree: 3 [12%]
  • Disagree: 6 [24%]
  • Strongly disagree: 7 [28%]
  • Unsure/No Answer: 1 [4%]

As more commerce moves online/apps the number of legal cash transactions will decline. As cash transactions decline and store robberies increase, we’ll see more businesses make the decision to go cashless.  Now is the time to increase financial literacy to help others adjust.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Missouri’s Investigation Into Clergy Abuse Will Find Results Similar To Pennsylvania

August 29, 2018 Crime, Featured, Missouri, Religion Comments Off on Opinion: Missouri’s Investigation Into Clergy Abuse Will Find Results Similar To Pennsylvania

Missouri Attorney General, Josh Hawley, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, recently opened an investigation into sex abuse by priests within the Catholic church:

This review makes Missouri the first state to publicly announce such an inquiry after the searing Pennsylvania grand jury report released last week, which documented a wave of abuses and coverups spanning decades and involving more than 300 Catholic priests.

It remains unclear whether other states have launched new efforts to investigate alleged abuses after the Pennsylvania report. While other states may be conducting or considering beginning investigations, none has said so publicly. The Washington Post reached out to the offices of attorneys general in 49 states and the District of Columbia after the Pennsylvania report was released to survey their responses. Authorities in most of these offices either said that they could not comment on potential investigations or that their offices lacked the authority to immediately act and investigate local cases.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis said Thursday that it welcomed the review in Missouri and that the examination was being conducted at its request. St. Louis Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said he knew the public was calling on the attorney general’s office to investigate the Catholic Church and that “we have nothing to hide,” adding that he was inviting Hawley to review the church’s files on anyone who has been accused of sexual abuse. (Washington Post)

How did we get to this point?

Although some accusations date back to the 1950s, molestation by priests was first given significant media attention in the 1980s, in the US and Canada.

In the 1990s the issue began to grow, with stories emerging in Argentina, Australia and elsewhere. In 1995, the Archbishop of Vienna, Austria, stepped down amid sexual abuse allegations, rocking the Church there.

Also in that decade, revelations began of widespread historical abuse in Ireland. By the early 2000s, Church sexual abuse was a major global story. (BBC)

So a worldwide problem brought to light, once again, this time by Pennsylvania’s grand jury investigation.

It has even reached the head of the church.

A report released this weekend by a former Vatican ambassador to the United States charges that Pope Francis knew about sexual abuse by former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, removed a suspension placed on him by Pope Benedict, and proceeded to make the known abuser one of his most trusted advisors. Pope Francis “knew from at least June 23, 2013 that McCarrick was a serial predator, [but] he covered for him to the bitter end,” wrote Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, nuncio to Washington from 2011-2016, before demanding the pontiff resign. (USA Today)

Vigano is a right-wing critic of Pope Francis, so make of this what you will.

Cathedral Basilica St. Louis

The recent non-scientific Sunday Poll was on this topic. I phrased the question from the positive view — that Missouri wouldn’t be as bad as Pennsylvania.

Q: Agree or disagree: Missouri’s investigation into clergy sex abuse will uncover nothing like Pennsylvania’s recent case, on a per capita basis.

  • Strongly agree 2 [10%]
  • Agree 3 [15%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [15%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 1 [5%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 6 [30%]
  • Strongly disagree 1 [5%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 4 [20%]

Until it’s done none of us know what the outcome will be, but Bernard Law went to Boston from more than a decade in Springfield MO.

Law’s name became emblematic of the scandal that continues to trouble the church and its followers after a Boston Globe investigation revealed that he and other bishops covered up child abuse by priests in the Boston Archdiocese.

Law at the time apologized to victims of John Geoghan, a priest who had been moved from parish to parish, despite Law’s knowledge of his abuse of young boys. Geoghan was convicted in 2002 of indecent assault and battery on a 10-year-old boy. (CNN)

It seems likely priests were shifted around here just as they were in other states/countries.  Assuming the investigation isn’t just a political campaign stunt, I anticipate similar results to Pennsylvania — on a per capita basis. Pennsylvania has more than twice the population of Missouri.

Meanwhile the Catholic League’s Bill Donohue said the Pennsylvania report was lies.  “Most of the alleged victims were not raped: they were groped or otherwise abused, but not penetrated, which is what the word “rape” means.” 

My question is why does it appear clergy abusing children is more prevalent in Catholicism, compared to other religions around the world? Is my perception incorrect, are clergy in other religions doing the same thing? Leaders of other religions covering it up?

— Steve Patterson

 

 

Opinion: We Need To Rethink Our Entire Criminal Justice System

July 25, 2018 Crime, Featured Comments Off on Opinion: We Need To Rethink Our Entire Criminal Justice System
Bank of holding cells at police HQ

Decades ago both major political parties both wanted to appear “tough on crime”. which led to knew legislation, sentencing guidelines, etc. The results haven’t been what was expected. Instead of a deterrent to crime, or at least rehabilitation for first offenders, we’ve created a system of mass incarceration.

Over the past four decades, our country’s incarceration rate – the number of prisoners per capita – has more than quadrupled and is now unprecedented in world history. Today, roughly 2.2 million people are behind bars in the United States, an increase of 1.9 million since 1972. We have the world’s largest prison population – with one-quarter of its prisoners but just 5 percent of the total population. And, on any given day, some 7 million people – about one in every 31 people – are under the supervision of the corrections system, either locked up or probation or parole. This vast expansion of the corrections system – which has been called “the New Jim Crow” – is the direct result of a failed, decades-long drug war and a “law and order” movement that began amid the urban unrest of the late 1960s, just after the civil rights era. It’s a system marred by vast racial disparities – one that stigmatizes and targets young black men for arrest at a young age, unfairly punishes communities of color, burdens taxpayers and exacts a tremendous social cost. Today, African-American men who failed to finish high school are more likely to be behind bars than employed. (Southern Poverty Law Center)

This highly profitable system begins early, with the School-to-Prison Pipeline:

A disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished, and pushed out.  “Zero-tolerance” policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in schools lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline. (ACLU)

So I applaud St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardener for trying to change the current system — changes that will improve lives and potentially reduce crime.

“We’re looking to collaborate more with law enforcement because as law enforcement we have to say things aren’t working and we have to do things differently. So we have to change the narrative of more arrests means safer cities because St. Louis has done a great job arresting and prosecuting and we still are a less safe city,” said Gardner.

Gardner says alternatives for jail would include diversion programs. She said also wants to reform the bail system.

Gardner added she wants her office to reach out to groups that work with offenders to address the root of violence. (KMOV)

Earlier this year 60 Minutes took a look at German prisons, a stark contrast to our prisons:

In Germany, prison isn’t meant to punish, it’s designed to mirror normal life as much as possible. Among the privileges enjoyed by German prisoners: immaculate facilities, organized sports, video games and keys to their own cells. Inmates can wear street clothes and can freely decorate their own cells — keeping all sorts of household objects that American prison guards might consider dangerous. Prisoners who demonstrate good behavior can even leave prison for work or weekend getaways. Average Americans may balk at this level of freedom for convicted criminals, but prisons in Germany cost less and produce far fewer repeat offenders than U.S. prisons. (CBS News/60 Minutes)

Less cost, fewer repeat offenders. We need to admit our ‘tough on crime’ policies are as big a failure as our ‘war on drugs’ policies.

Readers were split in the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Do the crime, do ALL the time (including non-violent offenders).

  • Strongly agree 4 [22.22%]
  • Agree 3 [16.67%]
  • Somewhat agree 0 [0%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 0 [0%]
  • Somewhat disagree 0 [0%]
  • Disagree 5 [27.78%]
  • Strongly disagree 4 [22.22%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [11.11%]

If we truly want to do reduce crime we must rethink our approach to criminal justice, because what we’ve been doing isn’t working.

— Steve Patterson

 

Sunday Poll: Should Non-Violent Offenders Get Less Jail Time?

July 22, 2018 Crime, Featured, Sunday Poll Comments Off on Sunday Poll: Should Non-Violent Offenders Get Less Jail Time?
Please vote below

Crime continues to be a problem in St. Louis, so I thought the following recent story would make a good poll topic:

St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner says she wants to see less jail time for non-violent offenders.

Gardner claims such a move could be the key to curbing violent crime, telling News 4 she believes her office and St. Louis police would be freed up to focus on more serious crime.

“We’re looking to collaborate more with law enforcement because as law enforcement we have to say things aren’t working and we have to do things differently. So we have to change the narrative of more arrests means safer cities because St. Louis has done a great job arresting and prosecuting and we still are a less safe city,” said Gardner. (KMOV)

Diversion programs &  bail reform would also be part of her plans. Please vote in the poll below.

This poll will automatically close at 8pm tonight.

— Steve Patterson

 

Opinion: Missouri Governor Eric Greitens Should Resign

February 28, 2018 Crime, Featured, Missouri, Politics/Policy Comments Off on Opinion: Missouri Governor Eric Greitens Should Resign
Mugshot of Missouri Governor Eric Greitens

The reasons why Eric Greitens should NOT resign as Missouri’s governor are few, the reasons he should are numerous. Let’s review the issue quickly:

Missouri GOP Gov. Eric Greitens was indicted on Thursday amid looming allegations of sexual misconduct and blackmail following an admission of an affair last month.

He was charged in St. Louis with a first-degree felony invasion of privacy, according to the Missouri court system. 
In a statement Thursday, Greitens denied committing any crime and instead called the situation “a personal mistake” from his time prior to taking office. (CNN)

Here’s a little more detail:

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who was swept into office in 2016 with a vow to clean up a corrupt state government, was indicted and booked Thursday on a felony invasion of privacy charge for allegedly taking and transmitting a non-consensual photo of his partly nude lover shortly before that campaign started.

It stems from a scandal that broke last month, in which Greitens was accused of threatening his lover with the photo — an allegation that isn’t mentioned in the indictment. Greitens has admitted having an extramarital affair, but has denied the rest. (Post-Dispatch)

So here’s why he shouldn’t resign:

  • An indictment isn’t proof of guilt. The prosecution & defense are both going to debate the applicability of the Missouri privacy law Greitens is accused of violating in 2015. Innocent until proven guilty by a jury of peers is an important part of our justice system.
  • This is a personal matter from before the election.

The above sound very logical until you look at it from other perspectives — here’s why he should resign:

  • Defending himself against this charge will require his full attention. Sorry Missouri…the governor is preoccupied. The day after the indictment he resigned from a leadership post with the Republican Governors Association — to focus on Missouri. More like to save his own skin.
  • The felony charge is serious. Ok. not Illinois-level serious but still possible jail time if found guilty.
  • Even some members of his own party are saying he should:

    Greitens should resign, even before his criminal case reaches a conclusion, said Reps. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, and Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville.

    “The recent news of Gov. Greitens’ indictment on a felony charge is very disturbing,” Dogan said. “While the governor is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, the governor appears to have lied to the people of Missouri when he said in January that he had not taken a photograph of a woman who was undressed, blindfolded and bound.” (Springfield News-Leader)

  • His defense team wants an early trial, like May, but the St, Louis Circuit Attorney says more time is needed to conclude the investigation and prepare the case. With state primaries in August and the midterm elections in November this could hurt GOP candidates. Hmm, perhaps he shouldn’t resign — that way neoliberal Sen. Claire McCaskill has a chance at being reelected.
  • Until a jury finds him guilty or not guilty this will prevent him from doing his job. Who will slash budgets of programs helping the poor, lower taxes for the wealthy, etc?

Here are the results from the recent non-scientific Sunday Poll:

Q: Agree or disagree: Missouri Gov Eric Greitens, indicted last week, is innocent until proven guilty in court. He should only resign if found guilty.

  • Strongly agree 9 [18.37%]
  • Agree 4 [8.16%]
  • Somewhat agree 3 [6.12%]
  • Neither agree or disagree 3 [6.12%]
  • Somewhat disagree 2 [4.08%]
  • Disagree 16 [32.65%]
  • Strongly disagree 10 [20.41%]
  • Unsure/No Answer 2 [4.08%]

A little more than half think Greitens should resign.

Even if he somehow continues he’ll only be in office for one term. I think we’ll see Lt Gov Mike Parson sworn in as Governor before the midterm election in November.

— Steve Patterson

 

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