HIGHTOWER: Consumer Choice in Banking

Time again for [Hogs] Hightower Radio's "Hog Report."Hogs not only like to eat from the trough, but some want to hog the whole trough. That's the case of these squealers -- they're America's giant bankers, and they're out to crush their small competitors so the giants can then control all of our banking outlets.Lately, such giants as First National, NationsBank, BankAmerica, Citibank and BankOne have been after credit unions, which are small, local, consumer-owned banks. These small fry have irritated the big hogs by attracting millions of us customers with low fees and friendly service. Indeed, a 1997 report by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that fees at the big banks average more than twice as much as credit union fees. Rather than compete with these thrifty financial institutions by offering lower fees and better service, the hogs are simply trying to eliminate credit unions.One tactic of the big banks is to demand that Congress tax credit unions. "It's unfair," squeal the hogs, "that we get taxed, but the small credit institutions don't." Hey, hog -- credit unions are non-profit. Get it? They pass all their earnings directly to their customers, so they have no profits to tax.Foiled there, the hogs then went squealing to the Supreme Court, which loves hogs. Sure enough, the Court recently ruled that credit-union members must be employees of a particular company or occupation, which means that some 20 million of us could get tossed out of our local credit unions and leave us nowhere to go but to the hogs.This is Jim Hightower saying . . . The good news is that there's a bipartisan bill in Congress to re-write the law so even more of us can join credit unions. H.R. 1151 has a fair chance to pass. To support it -- and to support consumer choice in banking, call U.S. PIRG at 202-546-9707.Source: "Supreme Court rules for banks in a fight to limit credit unions" by Linda Greenhouse. New York Times: Feb. 26, 1998. "Statement of U.S. PIRG on Supreme Court rejection of credit union membership rules" by Edmund Mierzwinkski. US PIRG news release: Feb. 25, 1998.

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