(First, a correction to Bipartisanship: The Lowest Common Denominator. I misleadingly referred to Obama’s restriction on executive salaries as a restriction on executive compensation. Though President Obama has put his weight behind capping certain executive salaries at $500,000, total executive compensation may be oodles more. Oodles, billions or trillions? The difference is…?)
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On one hand, Walt Disney accused the Screen Actors Guild of being a communist front bent on malevolently influencing Hollywood. On the other, he created Donald Duck who quacked his way into popular culture in 1934. When Donald’s nephews, Huey, Dewey & Louie came to stay for a day and never left, Donald was a de facto single dad with a romantic companion he never really married (Daisy). In later years, he morphed into an adventurer who dumped the kids on Uncle Scrooge.
Donald’s Hollywood foe, Mickey Mouse, was another Disney creation. He met his main squeeze, Minnie the Barmaid, in a tavern and in their first short together, Minnie parachuted out of a plane to escape Mickey’s pawings. It was the anthropomorphic mouse version of John Wayne dragging Maureen O’Hara around by her hair in one cinematic lust fest after another. (Not that I’ve watched The Quiet Man two billion times….) Mickey & Minnie free float in each other’s lives–sometimes married, sometimes dating–but frequently together for shared adventures.
In a time when Puritanism and Doris Day were slathering our cultural landscape with goo, Disney understood that if a creature, character or person was cute enough, he could sell us anything — even lifestyles we found offensive in 1950.
“Cute” and adorably irascible have sold us down the drain regularly. George Bush and Laura Bush are almost as cute as Ron Paul and he’s even more adorable than Barnie Frank, Diane Feinstein and Chris Dodd, none of whom hold a candle to the ETrade babies. (Check out the E-Trade babies which front for the much-maligned E-Trade online trading platform. )
Whether it was weapons of mass destruction or financier- and congress-based schemes to rip off credit cardholders, we’ve spectated at our own screwing because so many of the salesman looked or spoke as disarming populists.
Bank of America did virtually no due diligence before it bought Merrill Lynch one weekend for $50 billion in stock. Then, when BOA realized it had grossly underestimated Merrill Lynch’s toxic holdings, it “accepted” a taxpayer bailout.
In this economy (brought to the point of collapse by financial institutions like Bank of America) what does BOA do to taxpayer-customers who have BOA accounts and own BOA’s debt? They manipulated “…customers’ account activity in order to trigger more fees for overdrawn accounts, returned checks, and similar infractions. Under the agreement, account holders who incurred overdraft fees from BofA between 2000 and 2007–or from any of the banks it took over during that period–may be entitled to up to a $78 payout. Although it may be a victory for the consumer, financial services advisory firm Bretton Woods says the restitution represents only a sliver of the $368 that the average U.S. household doles out each year for overdraft charges. Generating these and similar fees has become big business for banks and credit unions, which posted $37 billion-plus in such charges last year. As financial institutions try to compensate for losses on loan defaults and stiffer competition during the credit crisis, they are making it easier for customers–even those that carefully monitor their own activity–to trip the fee wire. Practices such as clearing the largest transactions in a single day from largest to smallest and posting deposits last of all makes it difficult for even the most diligent bank customers to avoid charges. In response, consumer advocates are counting on the Federal Reserve to take steps to protect the public from overdraft fees. While the issue failed to earn a place in new credit card rules approved by the agency last month, the central bank has signaled that it will raise the issue again–this time independently–sometime this year. (See: Center for Responsible Lending: Bank of America)
We’re being raped by the people we saved and somehow, Uncca Chris Dodd and “Populist” Barney Frank can’t get legislation through Congress that would rescue us because of push back from the financial lobby.
And then, there’s Citigroup.
“… Citi began sending the notices at about the same time it was getting a $20 billion, taxpayer-financed government bailout. No one at Citigroup would talk on camera to CNN about the matter. Instead, the company issued a written statement, which said: “To continue funding in this difficult credit and funding environment, Citi is repricing a group of customers.” Citi told CNN that anyone unhappy with the new [credit card] rates can opt out and continue paying the lower interest, but they must close their account when their card expires. It’s all in the fine print. (See: Cnn/Citigroup.)
Here’s Representative Carolyn Maloney’s proposed legislation “Credit Cardholders’ Bill of Rights” which has been supported by The Center for Responsible Lending.