Memo to Jackass, the Credit Card Industry Doesn't Need Anyone Standing Up for It
Continued from previous page
And this isn't about vengeance, it's about policy: if the "consequence" for blowing a $4 trillion hole in the economy is seeing masses of government officials line up to hurl billions of taxpayer dollars at you, that doesn't provide much of an incentive to fix your behavior. This is one area where there should have been a seamless melding of public outrage and government policy: we should have swooped in, rounded up 200 of the most guilty executives, hauled them before congress in a public trial, and packed them all off to a Supermax in Florence, Colorado to do real time with murderers, rapists and terrorists. Reality shows should have been quickly greenlighted to track their progress in the hole (can you imagine the ratings for a show called Project D-Block starring John Thain, Angelo Mozilo and Dick Fuld?).
All joking aside, this would have been an incredibly healthy step for our society to take -- just as it would have been healthy (and still might be) for someone to go to jail for torture during the Bush years, or for contracting fraud in Iraq, or for any of the other countless crimes committed this past decade that will almost certainly go unpunished. The social contract has to be considered broken when some dumb schmuck can go to jail for five real years for selling a bag of weed while a guy who went to Harvard and Wharton and had all possible advantages gets nothing but a bailout and a temporarily lowered bonus regime for destroying billions of dollars of public wealth.
As for the credit card companies, fuck them. The biggest of them are engaged in one of the all-time great scams right now, gorging themselves on cheap money lent to them by the Fed or the government via bailout programs and then turning right around and further widening their spread by increasing prices to the ordinary consumer. Imagine an oil company that got to buy government crude from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve at a discount during the Katrina crisis and then turned around and gouged consumers during the shortage.
Think there would be public anger then? Maybe. This is close to the same thing, and let's not forget who these motherfuckers are: they are the people who spent most of the last decade and a half showering congressmen with cash in order to get the Bankruptcy Bill passed. That bill made it significantly harder for people to declare bankruptcy to get out from credit card debt so that they could keep their homes. A study by the New York Federal Reserve last year concluded that there are roughly 32,000 more foreclosures per quarter because of this bill than there would have been had the old bankruptcy laws remained in place. The study estimated that the bill resulted in about 400,000 additional foreclosures total since its inception.
Gee, you think that played a role in the financial crisis at all? Forgetting all the predatory practices that these people are known for, they were a major accomplice in the financial disaster -- and now they're fighting tooth and nail to keep Congress from forcing them to stop arbitrarily jacking up fees on consumers. In other words the same banks (like Citi, for instance) that got a hot sexy multi-billion-dollar massage from the Fed and TARP when they pushed their debt-to-equity ratios to insane levels, borrowing 30 and 40 dollars for every dollar they had and investing them in the housing casino and the derivatives market, now are arguing that ordinary losers like you and me who might have $5000 or $10000 in revolving credit card debt shouldn't get a break on their fees just because times are tough (or because they're too stupid to hire a $500-an-hour lawyer to decipher their insane consumer contracts). In other words, when you borrow $500 billion against $20 billion and blow all of it at the roulette table, you should get a bailout; but when you take out a $10,000 credit card to pay for gas and groceries, you should pay whatever freight the company deems fit.