Monday, April 27, 2009

Credit Crookery

The voice at the other end of the phone, representing Bank of America's credit card division, had just gotten an earful and then unburdened herself by a simple tilting of the head.

What spilled from that empty vessel were suggestions from highwayscribery that she, in no uncertain terms, visit Hell in the not-so-distant future.

The basic outlines of our discussion involved- and this probably will sound familiar - a rather arbitrary and dramatic annual rate interest increase from percent to 28.something percent.

Having paid the BofA Visa credit card through the BofA online banking system on the due date, the financial giant and recipient of highwayscribery's tax money, applied a cutoff date based on Eastern Standard Time when the scribe lives in a place that starts and finishes three hours later.

The upshot was a bank determination that the scribe had been late on two different occasions and was therefore worthy of a "default" interest rate of 28.something.

The Random House College Dictionary entry for the word reads thusly: de.fault n. 1. failure to act; neglect 2. failure to meet financial obligations.

highwayscribery told the absolutely useless woman that his situation certainly did not meet the first criteria, while any claim he fell short of the second represented something of a stretch and did not merit a 27.something interest rate hike.

the scribe pointed to the meaty sums he'd contributed in recent months to paying down his debt. He further argued that to stain such a sterling record with a pair of time difference discrepancies - "isn't electronic transfer immediate?" - was punitive and unfair.

Her response, though not in so many words, was that life is unfair and Bank of America punitive.

Finally, in a fit of ridiculousness, the scribe added how he was going to contact the White House in the hopes President Obama went after the company's greedy rear-ends.

He never believed it was actually going to happen, and yet, on Friday, there was the man himself, having exercised the enormous power of his office on behalf of people being screwed by banks everywhere, "jawboning" credit card executives at the Big House.

The "New York Times," April 24, ran the adjoining photograph of President Obama sitting with these crooks and apprising them of coming changes to their profit margin based on new legislation in Congress that would put an end to the shenanigans that daily enrich them while impoverishing the rest of us.

Most of these people run companies awash in taxpayer money and are reporting tentative profits after having single-handedly wrecked the world economy with their high-flying financial fakery.

Stephen Labaton reported that the Federal Reserve Bank has already approved some reforms that will kick-in next year, and that the President told the moneychangers, "I know you feel that anything beyond what the Fed has done would be overkill. I just disagree."

Now that's what the scribe calls having a friend in the White House and he's rather shocked to find that friend. All his scribbled ministrations on behalf of the candidate Obama not withstanding.

When one spends 20 or 30 years preaching that government should serve as a countervailing force against the most powerful national interests, and favor the less fortunate, it becomes a kind of pie-in-the-sky sermon conjuring up some revolutionary rapture that would yield the milk-and-honey land.

But here it is thanks to the 2008 election when a majority of the American people woke up to the fact they'd been being screwed all these years and cathartically rejected the Republican dogma of individual freedom for the red herring it is.

And so, The Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2009 (H.R. 627), sponsored by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) would, among other things:

- require your credit card company to let you know in advance of its plans to increase your interest rate;
- ban "retroactive" interest rate increases on existing balances unless you're more than 30 days late on a payment, which is something closer to "default" than some time-zone infraction;

These are in the Federal Reserve Banks new regulation, but, The Times reports, "the industry strongly opposes the bill because it believes the law would be harder to overturn than a regulation."


Sounds like we need the law.

the scribe and Mrs. Scribe saw Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) who is one of the many nondescript pitchers pulled from the GOP bullpen of late. He talked a good game about a party worrying over those Americans sitting around the kitchen table trying to make ends meet, which, although he didn't see it, include inequitable credit card charges.

But according to the "Times," editorial department, The Credit Cardholders' Bill of Rights Act of 2009 is facing "fierce," opposition from Republicans in Congress.

Americans now know, and expect, the party's pro-corporate postures, whereas before they weren't so sure and which is why the Democrats hold the keys to the kingdom these days.

If this keeps up, a recent letter by the scribe to his Blue Cross administrator, praying that Obama sets up a socialized health care system and puts predatory health care insurers out of business, may be more than idle dreaming.

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