There are few industries in America that are as hated as much as wall street and the financial institutions here in America, and there is good reason for it. There have been vast crimes committed by Wall Street for the past 30 years in excess buying politicians with campaign donations, writing the tax code with lawyers lobbyists and puppet legislators, all doing their bidding. One of the most prestigious and largest financial institutions in the US is Goldman Sachs. Over the years they have had such a heavy hand in politics and the way our country has run that they have earned the nick-name "Government Sachs". Goldman Sachs is not the only player in this rigged game. Corporations such as Citigroup, who came out with a memo declaring our economy had turned into a plutonomy, J.P. Morgan Chase, who foreclosed on active duty soldiers unlawfully and used predatory schemes to make a quick buck off of US soldiers, Bank of America, whom is most famous for all the mortgage fraud and robo-signing documents that were necessary for foreclosure which were never filled out in the first place, putting into legal jeopardy the assets and home foreclosures that brought down the housing market and the economy in 2007. This list goes on for days and days. There is no end to the massive amount of fraud committed by the barons on wall street and the big banks. Through the deregulation of the financial sector, the dismantling of the SEC and other government agency watch dogs, and a concerted effort by a handful of the wealthiest special interests the game has become rigged. No longer is the American dream possible. No longer is there equal opportunity; the "job creators" as the republicans call them, also known as the rich, don't want it that way. They don't want an equal playing field because that created uncertainty. When their is uncertainty in the economy it is harder to make predictable profits, what the stock market depends on. Every corporation and big business owner's main goal is to become too big to fail. They desire to become a monopoly.
There is a contingency in government and throughout the country that defend these institutions, their practices, and the system that they have created over the past 30 odd years. This includes democrats and republicans small business owners and CEOs. The ideology that is propagated is that a free market, one with no regulation or government interference will create the best result. That has proven time and time again to be false. After all, we as man are fallible. We as man created the economy. If an inherently imperfect being creates an institution it cannot be perfect. Because it is not perfect it therefore needs regulation and agencies that look out for the public and to promote their general welfare. We have delved into a quagmire of our own choosing. There is not one instance in which you can walk into a bank request to use one of their services, and not walk away with a document that is in fine print filled with legal jargon. Whether you are applying for a credit card, a checking or savings account, a mortgage, student loan, etc, you will always receive a little booklet all in fine print half in english half in spanish. Less than 5% of people read these documents. This had bled over into other industries such as the music industry. iTunes is notorious for it's long Terms & Conditions Agreement that must be agreed upon before use. Game consoles have also now adopted this practice. South Park made an episode based on this phenomenon and making fun of the situation as well as reminding us all the dangers it can pose, through satire. These practices are now starting to be reigned in with the creation of the Consumer Protection Agency. One of its sole aims is to get rid of all this fine print and legal jargon and have all documents issued to it's customers in the common vernacular. This is a step in the right direction but these practices still continue in mass and is creating the greatest inequality gap since the Great depression. The top 400 income earners in the US have more assets than the bottom 60% combined. The top 1% of income earners have more assets than the bottom 90% combined. The largest corporations are currently hoarding capital to the tune of over $1 trillion. The predatory practices that are preying on the people are a major cause of this inequality gap.
The epitome of the class warfare that is being waged by the rich, "job creators", is with a little known prefatory practice being waged by the banks upon the unemployed. In the state of Illinois, I am sure there are other states but only have evidence for this one state, offers debit cards in place of a check. This IDES Prepaid Debit Card is issued by a bank, in this case J.P. Morgan Chase, through the state's unemployment office, the Illinois Department of Employment Security, IDES. This debit card comes, like every other bank service, with set of terms and conditions and how the card is to be used. This makes logical sense; after all one needs to know how to use the card and what is the proper means of doing so. The predatory practice that becomes abundantly clear upon further investigation is that if you use the card improperly you will be fined. These fines include the following:
- ATM Cash Withdrawals
- All Chase ATMs - 2 Free per month; $1.40 each thereafter ( If you receive unemployment benefits weekly this inhibits you from withdrawing every week you collect unemployment.
- at all other ATMs in the US - 2 free per month; $1.40 each thereafter
- at ATMs outside the US $2.75 each
2. ATM Balance Inquiry
- at Chase ATM - 1 free per month: $1 thereafter
- at all other ATMs - 1 free per month; $1 thereafter
3. Retail Purchase
- with signature - free
- with pin - free
- over the counter withdrawal at a mastercard member bank - 1 free per month; $5 each thereafter
- online bill payment - $0.50 each
- Funds Transfer to a bank account - free
- transaction denied for insufficient funds - 3 free per month - $1 thereafter
- Customer Service online - Free
- Customer Service phone - 6 free phone calls per month; $0.35 each thereafter
- Card Replacement standard delivery - 1 free per year; $7 each thereafter
- Card Replacement expedited delivery - $14.50 each
- Account Statement online - free
- Account Statement mail - $0.90 per month
- Foreign Currency Conversion - 3% of transaction
- Account Closer with check issuance - $12 per check
Some of these policies don't seem half bad at first glance. They are not so much different than your average debit card or credit card conditions. However this is not your average credit or debit card. This is your unemployment benefits, that you paid into with taxes. The banks are issuing a service to the unemployed by giving them a debit card. However, they do not have the right to charge people for not complying with their terms and conditions. Some of these policies are absolutely abhorrent and perverse. To charge someone who is unemployed 50 cents every time they pay a bill online, when most of your unemployment money is going to pay bills, is sick and perverse. How this got passed was a fantastic public relations move sold as the big banks helping the poor, making life more convenient. Just because you are out of a job doesn't mean you shouldn't have the same conveniences every body else does. What they don't tell you is that while you use that card they are taking a cut bit by bit so that you won't notice. They are stealing people's unemployment benefits. Why this is even an option is beyond me. This is not an issue of choice. This is not about convenience. If the banks want to issue the unemployed debit cads more power to them. But if they want to charge for paying bills online then this practice of use of debit cards for the unemployed needs to be banned.
There are two solutions to this problem that can be implimented to enact meaningful change, to keep the banks out of the unemployed pockets.
1. The banks can issue debt cards for the unemployed but not charge a single penny for any service. That may mean that some services with this debt card may not be possible. Some of these may be foreign currency exchange, use of debit card outside the US, and account closure with check issuance. However, these are minimal on the grand scheme of things and are hardly ever used by the unemployed. The banks should not be allowed to charge the unemployed for their service on money they paid into with their taxes.
2. Issuing debit cards for unemployment benefits will be banned as a policy. If the banks put fees in place to ensure their terms and conditions are followed, paid with the individual's unemployment benefits paid with their taxes, then debit cards should not be in place. Unemployment benefits are an insurance program. It ensures that if you fall on hard times you have put money away to help you through unemployment. To have a corporation come in and pretend to be altruistic offering this great convenience all the while stealing from them while their back is turned is abominable.
This practice is the epitome of what unregulated free markets can become; an avenue for unadulterated manipulation and greed. It is the perfect example of what our financial sector and big business in America has become. When profit becomes more important than the people that make up the company, the people that are their customers, and the people of the nation, that corporation has lost it's soul and should be dissolved. Without people and their interests, communal and individual, there is no corporation, their is no economy, and their is no profit. Our priorities have gone askew. We have lost sight of what is truly important in this world. It is not the things we create for our own benefit, but the connections and relationships we have with others; the good we do for them rather than ourselves. Our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values. These values extend to all faiths world wide in some way shape form or another. Even Islam shares the Torah, what they call the Tawrat, with Christianity and Judaism, the book of laws. These laws dictate that we love our neighbor as thyself, to be the good Samaritan, to give to the poor, and to love the sinner and not the sin. They are filled with compassion for our fellow man far beyond any measure of discrimination. It is these values that we have abandoned, it is these essential truths that all religions preach that we have cast away into the waste bin of history. It is these principles that our financial institutions, corporations, and special interests have opposed and readily sought out to eliminate in the name of profit, in the name of personal gain. Until these priorities are switched, until these wrongs are righted the inequality gap will continue to grow and America will continue to fall deeper and deeper into the quagmire we have created. Until we embrace the values that got us here, love thy neighbor as thyself, we will continue to be preyed upon by the rich and powerful, "job creators", with no sign of relief in sight.