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Not to beat a dead horse, but …

In further follow-up to my post of yesterday (I already appended the original post yesterday) called, “Stories That Will Continue to Get Far Too Little Attention As Long As Obama Allows Them To.”: Reader coberly and I exchanged the following further comments in the Comments thread:

coberly:

Beverly
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.

Me:

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.

The intended point of my original post was that if Obama and the congressional Dems and want to leave a meaningful legacy on economics and finance-related matters–if they want to finally end the Repubs’ success at defeating or undermining that legacy–and if they want to regain control of the House in 2014 and tru ly put an end to the profoundly destructive three-decade “conservative-movement” juggernaut that in its current iteration continues to control the mainstream-media conversation and so much of actual policy despite their congressional legislative defeats in 2009 and 2010, and despite their significant popular-vote losses in the presidential, Senate, and House elections last November, the Dems have to engage in a concerted national effort to inform the public about what, in past news-media and political eras, the public would know from observation. 

Whew.  That was a long sentence.  I’m out of breath.

But I’m actually not beating a dead horse.  The horse isn’t dead.

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Stories That Will Continue to Get Far Too Little Attention As Long As Obama Allows Them To. [Appended]

* Don’t forget about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau: Paul Krugman has the goods on a story that’s getting far too little attention: In filibustering Richard Cordray, Obama’s choice to head the consumer protection bureau, and demanding major changes to the agency, Republicans are trying to transform it into something that’s essentially unable to carry out its mission.
How can the G.O.P. be so determined to make America safe for financial fraud, with the 2008 crisis still so fresh in our memory? In part it’s because Republicans are deep in denial about what actually happened to our financial system and economy. […] Just four years after runaway bankers brought the world economy to its knees, Senate Republicans are using every means at their disposal, violating all the usual norms of politics in the process, in an attempt to give the bankers a chance to do it all over again.

Krugman notes that Cordray has drawn praise even from the bankers, which I’ve seen elsewhere, too. So: Do the financial institutions even favor what the GOP is up to here?

Worth some more reporting, I’d say.

— Greg Sargent, Washington Post, today

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:

cobery:

Beverly

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.

Me:

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 to keep 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.)

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.

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