Rein in big banking
Legislation is needed to stop the rape and pillage of banking customers. On Dec. 15, Janine Kearney and Debra Reid reported on the Kafkaesque but very familiar case of Janie Boykins-Raschilla, who saw U.S. Bank on Oddie Boulevard turn a 34-cent overdraft into more than $500 in service charges. The bank has refused to reverse any of the usury it is trying to extract from a woman who lives on $600 a month of Social Security.
I uploaded a special edition of the Barbwire on Dec. 18 to track the issue. It will serve as the latest of almost a dozen NevadaLabor.com consumer war rooms. Thereat, you will find a link to a 2003 New York Times article which notes that such service charges “translate into an annual rate of 1,000 percent or more (and) are paid disproportionately by low- and moderate-income people.
“(C)ritics say the programs are similar to the ‘payday loans’ made by check-cashing outlets and other ‘fringe banks.’ Those loans, which are often exempted from usury laws because of their small size, usually cost $10 to $15 for every $100 borrowed and must be repaid in two weeks, terms less expensive than the cost of the overdraft programs.
“‘The purpose of this is not, in my opinion, to help the consumer,’ said J. Philip Goddard, deputy director of the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions. ‘These programs are only to increase fee income.’
“The fees represent about 30 percent of banks’ operating profits,” the Times reported.
Boykins-Raschilla’s nightmare began when she got a new debit card and tried it out at a convenience store which charged an extra 50 cents to use it. Her $1 purchase became $1.50 with just $1.16 in the account. The bank’s computer paid the extra 34 cents and added $37 for its trouble.
Banks are an awesome lobby in Nevada, both profitable and powerful. Their main legislative goal for the past two sessions has been getting their taxes lowered. USeless Bank’s treatment of Boykins-Raschilla stands as evidence to the contrary. New legislation to control these latter-day loan sharks is screamingly needed. Any sponsors out there?
Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Florida, wants to hold hearings on the impeachment of the vice president. He undoubtedly wants to consider an impeachment resolution introduced months ago by Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, a candidate for president. I am glad to see other Donkeykongs finally showing some guts. I endorsed the impeachment of Bush and Cheney earlier this year and joined legion with other Democrats in revulsion when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in her first act, announced that “impeachment is off the table.”
Why? You may not get a conviction in the Senate, as the Republicans failed with President Clinton, but at least you will eat up at least half their waking hours preparing their defense. That’s less time to go invent new foreign disasters that get lots of people killed.
You can sign the online petition supporting Wexler’s call for hearings at wexlerwantshearings.com.
Support national health care
Rep. Kucinich is the only presidential candidate of either party advocating for a national, government-supported basic health care system similar to Medicare. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has introduced a bill to do just that. I will link a list of current co-sponsors to the Web edition of this column at Barbwire. US. None of Nevada’s three Congresscritters has as yet signed on. Why not? Go ask them.
We lost two great ladies this month. Former Sparks resident Bernie Pennington, 85, passed away on Dec. 19. She and her husband, Lester, lived in a perfect house with a perfect garden in a perfect Sparks neighborhood. One of my fondest memories is of a visit to Bernie and Lester’s where my wife and I came away with one of Bernie’s homemade pies made with fruit from her backyard. She was one of Harrah’s longest tenured employees, an institution in the Garden Room. Lots of locals, myself included, would waive our place in line to wait for a table on Bernie’s station. She was a link to a fading past when things were smaller and friendlier in these parts. On Dec. 15, former realtor Connie Foster passed away just two days shy of her 67th birthday. The Tonopah native is survived by her husband of 26 years, George Foster, former business manager of Sparks Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 350. Mrs. Foster was active in the Storey County Democratic Party where her husband served several terms as chairman after his retirement from the union. A memorial service will be held on Jan. 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Peppermill in Reno.
Stop retiring the truth
The latest round of downsizing at the Reno Gannett-Journal is not unique in the age of chain gang media.
“Rather than freeing up time for reporters to cover important stories, the new model often means simply laying off salaried pros and putting the squeeze on whoever survives the cuts,” writes Adam Weinstein in the January-February edition of Mother Jones. “As Ryan Sholin, a new-media blogger, writes, ‘It’s hard for lifelong newsroom types to see layoffs one day and reader participation initiatives the next and not feel a bit slighted.’
“By forcing their beleaguered staffs to depend on outsiders for content, then running the content without much editorial oversight, newspapers may be taken in by crackpots and sly marketers. Take the ‘South Dakota Politics’ and ‘Daschle v. Thune’ blogs, which influenced the Gannett-owned Sioux Falls Argus Leader’s coverage of the state’s 2004 senate race. Eventually, the bloggers were found to be on the payroll of just-elected Republican Sen. John Thune.”
A similar thing happened here in 2004 when now-convicted drug dealer Eddie Floyd accepted $30,000 from Republican operatives to turn his radio station’s morning show into wall-to-wall Bush pushing and Kerry bashing. The on-air “newsman” even read Bush speeches verbatim from GOP Web sites. Only this column reported the skulduggery.
Just yesterday came word that the Miami Herald, once a great newspaper, has begun outsourcing some of its copy editing to a contractor in India.
Be well. Raise well.
Andrew Barbano is a 38-year Nevadan and editor of NevadaLabor.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988. E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org