Wednesday, May 20, 2009

90-5, or Walking Tall and Chewing Gum

Senator Dodd’s “Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility, and Disclosure Act,” passed the Senate by a jaw-dropping landslide vote of 90-5 (Who the hell are these 5 abstainers?

Did they hold out because the bill doesn’t go far enough? …Yeah, right.)

Now the House and Senate are expected to author a compromise that Congress can vote on by the end of the week, although there are rumblings after this sweeping approval that the bill may be strengthened, not watered down. Let’s hope. President Obama wants Congress to send him a bill by Memorial Day.

The bill was cosponsored by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Robert Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Tom Harkin (D-IA), John Kerry (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jack Reed (D-RI), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), please contact your Senator’s website and commend them on a fine job against a nefarious and powerful foe that bleeds Americans every single day. Think of them and their efforts every time you get your credit card bill. If your Senator was one of the five opposers? Well, I think you know what to say to them.

My collaborator on this blog pointed out that the Obama administration has been accused, by political opponents, as well as supporters of taking on too much reform, setting too many goals. These opponents have their own myriad of reasons why they’d like the new administration to do less. Ironically some “supporters” have taken the cynical view that it is simply a tactic to justify a lack of results on the thornier issues: using an overcrowded slate of ambitions as an excuse/rationale for failure on politically compromising challenges in legislation and policy. If President Obama signs this into law, it’s one more campaign promise kept as opposed to several others that seem relegated to the limbo of deliberation and inaction that plagues ambitious administrations operating under the always fractious political unity of the government and the nation. -But I’ll take it.

Some of the most powerful and well financed lobbyists and special interest groups in Washington, from the ABA, to lawyers who defend collection agencies opposed this legislation. The credit card companies have successfully fought this legislation in the past, but something was very, very different this time around: the companies themselves are in no position to cloud the issue. Companies like CitiGroup, Chase, Discover, Bank of America, et al… have been at the very top of every headline related to the global banking crisis. They tried again, as in many years before, to win votes and spike this legislation with conditions and loopholes to make this bill ineffective and useless or kill it outright on the floor.

This time, the Senate could not turn a deaf ear to millions of Americans suffering under criminal practices like “Universal Default” and retroactively shifting APRs, and could not instead defend the interests of banks and credit card companies who were surviving on the tax money paid by the same citizens they are still exploiting.

The ABA said today that this bill’s passing into law would jeopardize credit and access to credit cards at all for some consumers; something I’ve always supposed the credit card companies reserved the right to jeopardize in any case.
–If you don’t agree, try to correct an inaccuracy on any of your credit reports from Experian, TransUnion or Equifax. After you go through that labyrinthine nonsense of snail mail, letters and such, see how long it takes to affect your credit score. I tried this in November of 2008, it’s now after 1Q 2008 and with the noted exception of TransUnion, I still haven’t seen any adjustments and corrections despite the fact that the record of my accounts reflected (and some still reflect) errors such as thousands of dollars that had already been paid down. Remember that the credit card ratings bureaus' clients are in fact the industry itself, and not the card holders. Why on Earth would the bureaus ever operate efficiently, fairly or transparently and give you the rating you deserve when it would only force their clients to give you a smaller rate of interest?

If this were my bill, I’d apply the same draconian rules at regulating these companies that they’ve applied to me, you, and our fellow taxpayers who were recently forced to bail them all out. This legislation should be retroactive. These companies make a standard practice of raising interest rates on existing debts, retroactively. This is what loan sharks do, and it’s actually illegal. These companies make new rules, or change conditions and then apply them retroactively to cardholders. This used to be called Vigorish in my town, and if the Feds caught you charging it, you went to jail like you deserved to.

The regulations in this bill would roll back at least five years if I had my way, and not dragging its way into effect next year sometime. This “give back” should be part of the price they pay for destabilizing the world economy and shoving us and our fellow consumers in scores of other nations around the world into a recession.

As for the Democrats who have brought this badly needed regulation against these crooks? Thank you for your bold step in our name and in our defense. Thank you and please march on, walk on… walk and chew gum at the same time. I’ll buy you a stick of Adams, Beaman’s, Wrigley’s or a pack of Hubba Bubba.

Push for healthcare reform, education reform, housing reform, stop corporate welfare and subsidies, stop the off-shoring of jobs by American companies, close the tax loopholes…
Do all of those things I thought I’d never see in my lifetime.

…And thank you Senator Dodd, for getting the ball rolling.



Jack Jodell said...

I have absolutely no sympathy, and nothing but contempt, really, for the banking industry and all its lobbyists and apologists. Our entire financial system, from the Federal Reserve Board all the way down, is rigged for the wealthy. I hope this bill passes quickly, and will become one of the few and far between, far too rare, real victories for the people! We need a lot more of this after the past 30 years.

SJ said...

Holy mackerel.
it passed:

Now all that has to happen is a signature from the President. Done and done.