Monday, September 21, 2009

Let Me Re-phrase That, Ronnie

Mississippi police forced
to use taser and handcuffs
to subdue wayward emu.

I am going away for a few days and probably will not be blogging until next Saturday.

You will no doubt remember Saint Ronnie’s famous (idiotic and exceedingly harmful) phrase, “Government is not the solution, government is the problem.” I would like to rephrase that, “Government is the solution, Banks and Insurance Companies are the problem.” Let me give you some examples of my personal encounters in the last couple of years with these basically criminal enterprises.

My most recent encounter (today, as a matter of fact) began when I was perusing my latest bank statement and encountered something that said, “Bill pay service fee, $9.95”). Having no idea what this meant, and not having encountered it previously (because I stupidly do not always carefully peruse my statements) I went to my bank and asked a friendly teller what it was. She told me it was exactly what it said, a bill payment fee. You see, having been encouraged, even nagged, to save the price of stamps by having my bills paid directly by the bank, I succumbed and had two or three bills paid in that manner. To make a long story short, in order to save the price of three or four stamps, I was paying the bank $9.95 for that service. When I confronted the teller with this dismal fact she began embarrassed and said, “I only work here.” Neat, huh? I did get it fixed but only because I raised a fuss about it.

Previously, I had an auto loan with the same bank. I received a notice that if I came in I could refinance at a better rate. So I went in and inquired and, indeed, I could do that. However, there was a fee for doing so. The fee was higher than the amount of money I could have saved by refinancing. I remarked to (a different) bank employee that this appeared to be some kind of scam. She, too, became embarrassed and allowed as to yes, that was so. This same sort of thing happens when you fall for one of their offers to loan you money at a lower rate to pay off other bills with higher rates. What they do not tell you, and it is not at all easy to find out, is that there is a fee for doing this. And the fee can be greater than the amount of money you might save (there is a great deal of turnover of tellers in this bank, for reasons I do not know, but I suspect it has to do with this sort of thing, among others).

I had already had another interesting experience with this bank. If you have overdraft protection, they will “loan” you the money to cover the overdraft. I learned, however, that you do not have to truly be overdrawn before they offer you this service. When you account gets down precipitously low (but you are not yet in fact overdrawn) they loan you $300.00 – at 25% interest! Apparently this is legal, unlike robbing banks at gunpoint.

I have just received notice that the interest rate on my credit card from this bank is being raised from 9.9% to 13.4. I have had this card for years and have been good about paying every month, usually far more than the basic amount required, although my balance has crept up slowly for unusual expenses I have had recently. I have no idea why they are raising the rate, other than, again, it appears to be legal and they can do it if they want. What I guess they do not understand about this is that basically they are about to slay the goose that has been laying their golden eggs for so many years. There is, in my opinion, absolutely no excuse for this other than greed. Indeed, I have become convinced over the years that credit card interest is the functional equivalent of slavery. The only real difference is that they don’t get to beat and rape us whenever the whim strikes them.

Finally, if you have been following the health care debates you will know how shamefully the Insurance companies are making their money, by refusing to pay because of claims of “previous conditions,” refusing coverage because have some existing condition, and so on. In short, they are making huge profits by actually allowing people to stay sick and die. In effect, under the existing system the people who need health care don’t get it, and those who are healthy and do not need it, do get it. But do not think this sort of thing is true only of Health Insurance. My wife and I were in Seattle about a year ago. We spent the night in my son’s apartment, right on University Way. We parked our car across the street with the passenger side against the curb of the sidewalk. In the morning we found that the passenger side fender and door had been severely damaged. Although we did not know precisely what happened, we knew it could not have been the result of a collision (the sidewalk was far too narrow for anyone to be driving on it). So, we put in a claim to have it fixed. The first agent I encountered said it was the result of a collision. I said that was impossible. He insisted it was a collision and absolutely refused to hear any more about it. You understand that if it was a collision I would have had to pay a $500.00 deductible, whereas if it was a comprehensive claim I was only out $100.00. Not only was this agent insistent, he was rude beyond belief. When I reported this to the man who was going to repair the damage he confessed that he had worked for a number of years in auto insurance, and he told me this was their “Standard Operating Procedure.” He said the first person you talk to is required to turn you down or insist on the terms. He also said, call back and ask to speak to his supervisor. I did that (suggesting that this rude son-of-a-bitch ought to be fired) and lo and behold my collision almost instantly became comprehensive (he was not fired, of course, but kept on to bully the next claimant). I have no doubt whatsoever that this is their standard operating procedure, and I bet there are thousands of customers who are thus browbeaten into accepting these bogus demands.

Obviously I am not the only one who has suffered at the hands of banks and insurance companies. Having lived quite a long time I could cite further examples from a variety of companies. These particular schemes are all legal (as far as I know) and I am certain there are many other tricks they use to separate people from their money, various hidden fees and what have you. So let me repeat, Banks and Insurance Companies are the problem. Ronald Reagan did the American public a terrible disservice when he made his absolutely stupid remark. We are now living with his legacy. And Republicans want it to continue!

The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.
Thomas Jefferson

The largest snail is an Australian marine snail that can grow up to 30 inches in length and weigh up to 40 pounds.

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