Stories That Will Continue to Get Far Too Little Attention As Long As Obama Allows Them To. [Appended]
One of the most dismaying and frustrating of Obama’s first-term communication failures was, for me, his utter absence of any real attempt to apprise the public of the existence of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, what its mandate is, and that (and how) the congressional Republicans have concertedly tried to undermine it, via Senate filibuster of any nominee–not just, first Elizabeth Warren, and then Richard Cordray, but, by their own admission, any nominee–to head this bureau, and by attempts to fail to appropriate operating funds for it.
Eight days from now, in his State of the Union address, Obama will have a terrific opportunity to educate the public about all this. All this. By which I mean: Not just a clause or a sentence near the end of the speech, alluding to it in listing this, that, and the other thing, but instead an actual explanation of it and of the undermining of it by the Repubs. Near the opening of the speech, before viewers click to whatever because they, like me, want to avoid gagging at the extremely tired James Baker’s great-idea-for-staging-at-Reagan’s-State-of-the-Union-addresses-and-used-by-every-president-sinnce-then real-Americans-as-props thing. (Talking about a program to help oil-company workers? Cue two oil-company workers flanking the First Lady, sitting in the first row. You know what I’m talking about. Ad nauseum.)
But since the invites of real Americans surely have already been sent out, and there’s no stopping that juggernaut anyway, however more eyes it causes to roll each year, I suggest the addition of some real Americans who already have benefited from the Bureau’s actions.
I also, by the way, suggest the addition of a real American or two who, because of the provision in Dodd-Frank–or maybe it was a separate statute, all its own, effective in August 2011 but enacted in 2010 by a Dem-controlled Senate and Dem-controlled House; I’m not sure–that ended what millions of Americans fondly came to call the $400 Starbucks/McDonalds/Dunkin’Donuts coffee/sandwich/dessert, the result of inadvertent, momentary checking-account overdrafts when the mortgage payment, the doctor’s co-pay, and payment for the brake job the SUV all just by chance happened to post to your checking account moments before you swiped that ATM/credit/debit card at the Starbuck, McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts. I’ll nominate myself for an invite on that one, even though I’ve never actually owned an SUV and don’t like them much.
No, that doesn’t involve something that changed the state of the union this past year. But it’s long past time for our Dem politicians to start pointing out things of exactly this sort, and to ask what exactly the congressional Republicans have done along those lines since Jan. 2011. And to start educating the public about what the specifics of what they’ve done to undermine protections against financial-industry abuse, whether legal or illegal.
Stories that will continue to get far too little attention as long as Obama allows them to. Or until maybe Prof. Krugman becomes President Krugman–which sounds like a plan, to me!
UPDATE: Oh, dear. Turns out that Mitt Romney isn’t the only one who wasn’t familiar with the pre-Aug. 2011 $400 McDonald’s sandwich paid for (many times over) with ATM card payment charges (a.k.a., multiple overdraft fees within a period of 30 seconds.) Regular reader coberly wasn’t either. So he and I just exchanged the following comments in the Comments thread:
Back in the pre-Dodd-Frank days, there were looooads of stories on the web and elsewhere about this kind of thing. So I assumed everyone was familiar with the issue. Not so, though. So I thought I’d add this explanation.
You did not exactly take advantage of your own opportunity to explain the Starbucks $400 dessert, but I can guess.
Back when it might have been a problem for me, I kept track of the checks I wrote and did not write them for any more than I had in the bank. I think this prevented even “inadvertent” overdrafts.
Ah. Actually, I just threw that in there to be funny. Or to try to be. (It’s not really a funny subject, so maybe I shouldn’t have tried.) But unless you keep a lot of cash in your checking account or tie it automatically to a savings account, or were extremely careful track of your checking account–and a lot of people have more than one checking account–you would, before that law came into effect in 2011, have to keep enough money in your account to include an overdraft fee of $36 (or whatever) each for a single inadvertent overdraft, or you would find yourself charged repeated overdraft fees in a single day for every charge that came in until you realized you were overdrawn.
The new law applies only to debit/credit card/ATM transactions, not to actual checks, so you still have to be careful about checks, especially since you can’t be sure when they’ll be cashed.
It also helps if you can add and subtract, I’ve learned the hard way. One of my tax-law profs. used to say that his wife was always the one to actually do their income tax returns. The guy was friggin’ brilliant in discussing legal theory and tax strategy–best as I could tell, anyway–but swore that he couldn’t do actual math, or even competently use a calculator, worth a damn. Makes me feel better when I recall that. (Calculators sorta throw me off, too, since I can’t figure out what all those funny-looking math symbols are. Like the + and – signs.)
just to ease your heart, i agree that the overdraft fees are gouging.
and i even understand that some people can’t do arithmetic.
so i am all for the reforms.
nevertheless, it is better to know what you have in the bank before you write that check or whatever it is you do with ATM’s. And certainly better not to run too close to the edge.
Yes, Dale. It’s definitely better to do things that way. But, trying to get serious here, because it’s actually a serious matter, the ubiquitous use of debit/credit cards because they’ve effectively replaced cash and checks, and the fact that many millions of people do live on tight budgets, allowed the banks to be grossly abusive in their handling of small, very-short-term overdrafts.
My point is that the new law has been a big deal to a lot of people, some of whom tell pollsters, when asked, that they want “small government” and who vote Republican because of “freedom!” “liberty!” So maybe someone should tell them what the Republicans actually stand for. Freedom! Liberty! And what the Dems’ idea of “big government” actually is.
I agree with you.
Nevertheless, one needs to be careful not to end up sounding like “free overdrafts for poor people!”
That’s the sort of “the see themselves as victims and don’t want to take responsibility for their own lives”
that drives the 47% who voted for Romney crazy.
I’d like to peel off some of those votes.
And it was when I was on a tight budget that I was most careful about not writing checks I didn’t have the balance to cover.
Dale, this is a really silly debate, because I’m not talking about writing out checks. Most people hardly ever even write out checks anymore. They use automatic bill-payment withdrawals and debit/credit bank cards. They get cash from an ATM or at the grocery store when they buy their groceries or whatever. What the banks were doing, pre-Aug. 2011, was to hold everything that came in to the bank on each account, until midnight or something, and then withdraw the largest first. With just a little momentary carelessness–forgetting that you used one checking account instead of another to pay for something, or the like–you could have multiple $36 overdraft fees in a signal day.
So, your oh-the-poor-put-upon-banks thing doesn’t really work in the modern economy.
And now, thanks to the government, there’s no such thing as free checking anymore. Not that there ever was, and I’d guess you believe it more fair that everyone pays for checking accounts than having those who don’t diligently keep track of their balances subsidize those who do.
This is not a class issue. The wealthy/upper middle class have large enough cash balances that they easily surpass the minimum balance thresholds to qualify for “free” checking.
Among others, one unintended consequence is to force lower income people into becoming unbanked, thereby subject to the much more upstanding, highly regulated, and altruistic institutions of Payday lenders.
it is, like all arguments, silly. Because people talk past each other.
I am well aware that banks use predatory practices to gouge money from their customers.
I was just suggesting… pleading… that you find a better way to address the problem than “oh the poor people who can’t balance their check books need help from the government.” This kind of argument turns most people off and will not win you votes.
I am not sure that “automatic payments” is really “the modern economy.” It’s a convenience we pay for. We pay too much for because we are stupid.
Get the government to go after predatory lenders and stop abusive bank practices…if you can find an honest government. But if you really want to stop them, tear up your credit cards and keep track of your balance.
never been wealthy/upper middle class in my life. never bounced a check either.
it’s easy if you try.
My problem with the banks runs much deeper than that. Say the current unemployment problem, the attack on Social Security, the bank caused recession, and the bank caused deficit problem.
MY objection to beverly is her shifting focus from the real problem to a trivial problem that people ought to be able to solve for themselves.