Should we be preparing for a recession?

Short answer: Maybe. In my opinion, probably.

I’ve lived through several recessions. My advice: Pay down debt now; you want to cut your monthly expenses. Stockpile household items (I always load up on toothpaste, soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, and whatever OTC medicines I need for my allergies. Basically, anything you will regret having to pay for when times are tight.) If you actually need to live off your investments (if you have any), lower your risk and put them in an index fund.

If I’m wrong, you don’t lose a thing.

Here’s some information on the topic of whether we’re headed that way:

Former CEO of large multinational: Trump’s trade war will raise prices for consumers and could trigger a recession

I’m a Depression historian. The GOP tax bill is straight out of 1929.

Wall Street’s favorite recession gauge is flashing yellow again — and not everyone thinks it’s a false alarm

Here’s just one way Trump’s SCOTUS pick will cost us money

From CBS News Moneywatch on Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee:

If he takes a seat on the Supreme Court, his vote could weaken consumer protections and favor expanded corporate rights, say pro-consumer advocates. Indeed, Kavanaugh’s business bona fides were touted by the White House to the business community, describing him as “protect[ing] American businesses from illegal job-killing regulation,” according to Politico.

Consumers might feel the shift to a more conservative court through rulings that could reduce the authority of watchdogs like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or strip away healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions. To be sure, reducing regulations could have the benefit of lowering costs for businesses and their customers, but such decisions could also shift costs to consumers.

“His record is clear — when given the choice he has sided with Wall Street special interests over consumers time and time again,” said Karl Frisch, executive director of Allied Progress, a left-leaning watchdog group, in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. “Most notably he ruled the CFPB’s structure was unconstitutional in 2016 — a position cheered on by Wall Street and conservative activists but soundly rejected by his colleagues on the D.C. Circuit Court who reversed his decision.”

His appointment “will cost consumers and investors more money.”

Kavanaugh overruled regulators 75 times on cases that spanned from net neutrality to consumer protections, the White House said in the letter sent to business groups.

If I go into more detail, you’ll get bored and stop reading. But I can assure you that Kavanaugh has a well-documented bias against Obamacare, and intends to overturn it if given the opportunity.

That will cost all of us more money — including those of you who have insurance through your job. It will drive up everyone’s costs, and it will also strip your family of pre-existing condition protection.

See what I mean? It’s all political.

Your local cable providers, where you don’t get what you pay for

Net Neutrality Protest Philadelphia January 13, 2018

Isn’t this perfect? According to Charter cable, you have no right to get what you pay for!

While people remain exclusively fixated on the telecom industry’s attacks on net neutrality, the reality is companies like Comcast, Charter, AT&T and Verizon are busy trying to eliminate nearly all federal and state oversight of their businesses. And while deregulation has its uses in healthy markets as part of an effort to protect innovation, you may have noticed that the telecom market isn’t particularly healthy. As such, the end result of eliminating most meaningful regulatory oversight without organic market pressure in place is only likely to make existing problems worse.

This battle is getting particularly heated on the state level. After the Trump administration dismantled net neutrality and consumer privacy protections, states began flexing their muscle and attempting to pass their own privacy and net neutrality rules. ISP lobbyists, in turn, tried to head those efforts off at the pass by lobbying the FCC to include (legally untested) language in its net neutrality repeal “pre-empting” states from being able to protect broadband consumers in the wake of federal apathy.

And in the wake of the net neutrality repeal, companies like Charter (Spectrum) are trying to claim that states have no legal authority to hold them accountable for failed promises, slow speeds, or much of anything else.

For example, Charter is already trying to use the FCC net neutrality language to wiggle out of a lawsuit accusing it of failing to deliver advertised speeds. And the New York Public Service Commission also recently stated it found that Charter has been effectively lying to regulators about meeting conditions affixed to its $89 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks. As part of the deal, Charter was supposed to deploy broadband to a set number of additional homes and businesses, but regulators found (pdf) several instances where Charter actively misled regulators.

EPA blocks warnings on cancer-causing chemical

Photo by Jessica Castro on Unsplash

Did you see this Politico story? Here’s a short list of just some of the popular consumer products that may contain toxic levels of formaldehyde: Cheap furniture made with plywood or pressboard. Hair products, especially keratin straighteners. Laminate flooring. Air fresheners and plug-in fragrance, and so on.

So now we know high levels of formaldehyde are associated with leukemia. Do we know how much? Not exactly, because traditionally, our government would rather let us get sick than demand that suppliers find less toxic ways of manufacturing. It should not be up to you, the consumer, to research and avoid every single one of these products. Only the federal government can address this at the root. This is one of the issues where CUFF hopes to raise consumer awareness:

The Trump administration is suppressing an Environmental Protection Agency report that warns that most Americans inhale enough formaldehyde vapor in the course of daily life to put them at risk of developing leukemia and other ailments, a current and a former agency official told POLITICO.

The warnings are contained in a draft health assessment EPA scientists completed just before Donald Trump became president, according to the officials. They saidtop advisers to departing Administrator Scott Pruitt are delaying its release as part of a campaign to undermine the agency’s independent research into the health risks of toxic chemicals.

Andrew Wheeler, the No. 2 official at EPA who will be the agency’s new acting chief as of Monday, also has a history with the chemical. He was staff director for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee in 2004, when his boss, then-Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), sought to delay an earlier iteration of the formaldehyde assessment.

Formaldehyde is one of the most commonly used chemicals in the country. Americans are exposed to it through wood composites in cabinets and furniture, as well as air pollution from major refineries. The new assessment would give greater weight to warnings about the chemical’s risks and could lead to stricter regulations from the EPA or class-action lawsuits targeting its manufacturers, as frequently occurs after these types of studies are released.