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Bandits in our banks

Jackie Freeman - March 9th, 2009
You get what you pay for. American Bankers Association affiliates are the biggest contributors to congressional members. You’d have to be extremely naïve to believe that bills are not influenced by where the money is coming from.
Our own Senator Carl Levin introduced a bill “Stop Unfair Practices in Credit Cards Act” to help curb unscrupulous credit card practices. Its purpose was to ban egregious practices by credit card companies that exploit consumers and keep them mired in lifelong debt.
But Congress gave in, and offered them a year-and-a-half to mend their evil ways. During this time they will ramp up their victimization of Americans. During this delay, credit card companies will run their businesses like bandits, raising rates now in anticipation of future limits to their authority. Millions more families will become financially desperate as a consequence
Why do huge financial giants like GE Money bank, Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, American Express, Discover and their colleagues need a year-and-a-half grace period before cleaning up their business practices? It has been stated that 18 months is necessary to “upgrade the banks’ computers.”
Do you believe that? I don’t.
I think it is one more disgusting sell-out to the financial institutions by Congress. Too often I hear commentators blame the irresponsible consumers. No – blame the irresponsible banks.
Consumers would not be financially strapped if capricious charges and unscrupulous fees did not raise their credit card debt and mortgages to insurmountable levels.
Some abuses:
• Interest charged on transaction fees.
• Fees for paying bills via telephone.
• Charging interest on penalty fees.
• Soliciting college kids for credit cards and giving them cool gifts for opening accounts.
• Arbitrary rate hikes to 32 percent overnight.
• Inadequate time to pay bills before penalties accrue.
• Automatic Arbitration Awards to banks (found in the small print of credit card applications) entered by the millions in favor of the financial institutions. The salaries of the judges presiding over these cases seem to be determined by the quantity of automatic awards they rubber-stamp through.
Banks have had a field day squeezing the American public with bait-and-switch tactics. Zero percent introductory rate? It’s a trick – a temporary rate at best, and then it soars.
So blame the banks, not the folks that got a credit card in good faith and trusted them, to their detriment.
In 2006, members of the American Bankers Association – (a huge trade lobby in D.C. with glamorous offices) threw unprecedented amounts of money at Congress to influence members to pass the so-called Bankruptcy Reform Act - which has pulled the safety net out from under us. Bankruptcy, the action-of-last-recourse, is now gone for many people.
Recently, I visited my hometown bank. New rate sheets displayed many raised transaction fees. I demanded to know why they would raise fees considering the public’s outrage against banks. They just don’t get it.
Banks have become our common enemy. We are drained by taxpayer giveaways to them while they continue to twist the knife in us. Banks are out to kill us.
I have launched a citizens’ protest. Visit www.BringThemToTheirKnees.com for more information. This site has gone viral and is receiving thousands of page views nationwide.
Congress won’t force reforms on them in time to save Americans, and they won’t do it themselves. Now it is up to the debtors.

Jackie Freeman is a political activist in the area of debtor rights. She owns Michigan Debt Settlement in Traverse City and Suttons Bay.

 
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