Alexander Sammon

Alexander Sammon is a staff writer at The American Prospect. His email is

Recent Articles

Bernie Sanders Proposes Reparations—for Defrauded Homeowners

His Housing for All plan includes a commission to study and grant relief to victims of fraud and abuse in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis.

Yesterday, the Bernie Sanders campaign rolled out its latest major policy prescription, known as “Housing for All.” In it, he enumerates a list of sweeping reforms to the housing sector: massive reinvestment in extant public housing, construction of new and affordable housing on the order of 10 million units, and a nationwide rent control program. “Housing for All” also promises to root out the forces of financialization within the housing market, establishing a hefty, 25 percent house flipping tax. It includes a vacancy tax of 2 percent for empty units being used as investment vehicles, an idea that’s been considered in cities rankled by high homelessness and high vacancy rates like San Francisco. The plan builds off of his 2016 housing proposal, which had three fundamental tenets that largely remain in this newest iteration: building more affordable housing, expanding Section 8 rental subsidies, and nationwide rent control. The third prong has been...

CFPB Summoning Zombie Debt Back to Life

The consumer agency is finalizing new rules on debt collectors that would enable them to get judgments on illegitimate debts.

In the United States, debt is ubiquitous. There’s mortgage debt, student loan debt, credit card debt, car loan debt, personal loan debt, and more. And it’s piling up faster than ever. According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2018 Planning & Progress Study , the average American now has $38,000 in just personal debt (excluding mortgage debt). Only 23 percent of Americans carry no personal debt at all, while nationwide consumer debt sums to over $13 trillion in total. When these debts go unpaid beyond a certain time period, they are often sold to collection agencies. According to a study by the Urban Institute, some 71 million American adults currently have debts in collections. As indebtedness has soared, a fast-growing debt buyer industry has cropped up around it. When banks are unable to collect on a debt, be it a car loan or a credit card, they can sell those debts to debt collectors for pennies on the dollar, in order to recoup some of their losses. With that debt...

California Cracks Down on Dialysis Profiteering

The legislature has sent a bill to the governor that could set a pattern for reducing medical costs.

For a state legislative session, California’s most recent cycle was unusually high-profile. A number of bills with national implications were passed this year in Sacramento, including landmark legislation on employee classification status for gig economy workers , a bill establishing statewide rent control, and a proposal that clears the way for NCAA athletes to be paid for use of their image and likeness. It’s not often that bills in state capitals win the support of a host of presidential candidates and, more notably still, LeBron James . Less prominent, though critically important, was the passage of AB-290 , a bill that will dramatically curtail some of the more flagrant profiteering of the outpatient kidney dialysis industry. That measure, authored by Assemblyman Jim Wood, passed both houses of the legislature, and is now awaiting the signature of Governor Gavin Newsom. Wood’s bill targets a mechanism he described as a “scam,” wherein the country...

Uber Goes Back to Basics: Violating the Law

By announcing it would not comply with a California law reclassifying its workers as employees, Uber is returning to the company’s time-honored tradition as a scofflaw.

California’s AB5, a much-anticipated bill that would reclassify gig economy workers as employees, passed both chambers of the legislature yesterday, and arrived on the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign it into law. While the price of passing the bill included several short-term exemptions for various occupations, including psychologists and newspaper carriers , notably absent is any exception for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft, which have expended considerable resources in a drawn-out fight to keep the proposal from passing. Many of the mantras that have sprung up around Uber’s ascent to becoming the largest ridesharing company in the world—“move fast and break things”; “ask for forgiveness, not permission”—have implicitly been in relation to the company’s long-standing dedication to violating the law. Indeed, the company blithely disregarded state and local laws of all types, paying wrist-slapping...

San Francisco Makes a Charge Toward Public Power

The city’s bid to take over PG&E could mark a turning point in restoring a more environmentally and economically just power grid.

Late Monday, California energy provider Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) filed its long-anticipated reorganization and bankruptcy-avoidance plan in U.S Bankruptcy Court in San Francisco. The investor-owned utility filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January, owing to the expectation of some $30 billion in liabilities for its role in multiple deadly fires spanning 2017 and 2018. The company has until September 29 to formalize its final proposal, which would allow it to continue operating without heading to bankruptcy auction. The plan sets a hard cap of $17.9 billion for claims stemming from a series of record-setting wildfires in the state that the company’s power lines were found to be culpable for. Aside from the dollar amount, which some observers have suggested may be insufficient, there’s the notable absence of any proposed sacrifices from PG&E’s bondholders or shareholders. And if PG&E resolves its bankruptcy hearings by June 2020, it...