Thursday, May 22, 2008

Take this to the Bank

Apparently, Congress is growing its balls big enough to legislate to its benefactors...errr...banks and credit card companies. In true "...there oughta be a law..." fashion, Congress has picked out some shady moves and intends to stamp out some of the more objectionable items. What are those items? Look them up...WTF do I look like?

Generally, I'm not a big supporter of enacting legislation to address problems because those entities with the most money are in better position to be heard and, by extension, get their points across. All that the rest of us have are links to our Congressmen. As such, legislation is sure to get watered down or, worse yet, give the card companies explicit license and authority to put our heads in a vise.

That doesn't mean I'm against capitalism. Capitalism is one thing; a corporate bordello is another.

The real issue here is that corporations (and related entities) have more rights than people. The MBNA-supported (since swallowed up by Bank of America) bankrupcy law is one example, where corporations have a greater legal right to declare bankrupcy than citizens (it is easy for the cynic to point out that the bankrupcy law is evidence, however circumstantial, that the banks saw this mess coming).

Another example is that banks can "export" interest rates across states more easily than people can (legally) transport guns across state lines.

Finally, the credit card companies have the right to alter your credit card agreement at any time and for any reason. Nominally, we have no negotiating rights; any attempt to alter those terms, it typically states, would result in cancellation of the account agreement (read: they will close your account faster than they can wipe their asses with the paper on which you wrote your "amendments.").

Imagine, for a hot minute, that you had the right to tell the card company that sending unnecessary materials (like when they send offers to buy pens with your statement), literature or other items (and you have the right to determine that qualifies as unnecessary and an item) gives you the right to impose up to a $50 handling fee (for each item) on the banks, payable by a reduction in the account balance (at the cardholder's option, of course).

In practice, of course, we do have negotiating powers, subject to our leverage and credit scores. Unless you have a credit score- which has dubious underlying logic and serious underlying reporting issues- of 760 or above, you're fighting uphill.

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