Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Lie Called "Too Big To Fail"



Examining the banks is much like peeling a very rotten onion. Layer after layer gets stripped back only to expose more rot, more fiduciary fungus, more corruption. Common sense tells us that the rot is not limited to the outermost layers of the industry, but it emanates from the core. On the outside, everything looks more or less fine. The evidence of rot gets blacker the further into the onion we go.

As the nation and the world become exposed to the seemingly endless series of lies and corruption that have served as the backbone of the financial industry, the industry has tried to cover its ass with yet another lie... that of "Too Big To Fail." Ladies and gentlemen, there is no such thing as "too big to fail." TBTF is a four-word lie designed to fool you into believing that the banks are impervious to any outside forces. Lie, lie, lie.

Consider this: In 1912 the White Star Line promoted its most massive undertaking, the RMS Titanic, as "unsinkable" (another way to say "too big to fail"), yet sink she did at tremendous cost, not only in money but in human lives and English pride. Empires and regimes all throughout history, believed at the time to be "too big to fail," have toppled. Even our gigantic planet exists in a delicate balance. We know that disrupting the eco-system through deforestation and global warming can cause the planet to fail. And, one good-sized meteor in the right place can wipe out life as we know it simply by striking the earth.

So, that being the case, imagine the level of bombastic pretentiousness that must exist in the banking industry for them to believe that their thieving, their conniving, their lying, and their manipulations, have created an industry that is so gargantuan as to be infallible. Incidentally, "infallible" means "not liable to fail" - another way of saying "TBTF." So considering that the "infallible" banks are run by fallible and deeply flawed individuals, the promise of TBTF is nothing less than a marketing ploy. A lie. False advertising.

The lie is designed to keep you subservient to the banks. If you believe the lie, you will then believe that you are powerless in their presence. But that is far from the case. The power the banks have is the power of YOUR money, which they are more than happy to free you of. The more of YOUR money they have control over, the more they can - and will - push you around with it.

Also consider that the banks sit atop a gigantic tower of air. Not gold. Not fiat money. Air. They have bought, sold, loaned, traded, and gambled your money to the extent that it no longer exists except in promissory form. And this is why they want you to believe that they are too big to fail. Because if each of us came to our senses and demanded our money back they wouldn't have enough cash to satisfy the demand. And it would expose the lie of TBTF.

Well, my friends, that is exactly what I want you to do. I have worked to expose the lie of TBTF through this blog and my Facebook page. Now more people understand the idea that TBTF is a lie. But the lie of TBTF needs to be proved through action. And that's where you come in. If only one corporate bank were made to fail, the lie would be out in the open. It would be irrefutable. Concrete. Nobody would believe it ever again, just as nobody believes a ship, no matter what size, to be unsinkable. All we need to do is concentrate our efforts towards causing ONE bank to fail in the U.S. and we can make that happen by orchestrating a run on that bank.

I submit we make Bank of America our target. It is one of the nation's largest banks and it has earned a reputation for being one of the smarmiest, most corrupt banks in the world. It shouldn't be too tough to bring BofA to ruin. They've already given themselves more black eyes than they have eyes to blacken. By making them unstable, we will not only expose the lie of TBTF... we will also set an example for the other banks that the same could happen to them if they don't mend their ways. And THAT, my dear friends, is how we will enforce bank reform. NOT by waiting for Congress to do it. NOT by waiting for the President to do it. And certainly NOT by hoping the banks will reform themselves. As things stand, the greedy corporate banks won't change because there is no incentive to. As long as they have your money they will continue to do whatever they please, no matter how much verbal protest you wage against them.

I say let's give them the incentive. What have we got to lose?

On Friday, January 21, 2011, I am calling for a run on Bank of America. Between now and then, I need you to help get the word out to every last Bank of America customer you know to withdraw all (or a significant part) of your/their money from BofA and keep it out for a minimum of one month. Thirty days. That's not so bad, is it? To have control of every dollar you make for 30 days? Of course, you may open an account at a different bank, and to that end I encourage you to move your money to a Credit Union or maybe a small community bank rather than support yet another ogre in the banking industry.

I closed my BofA account back in May and I have been living blissfully bank-free since then. You can do it too. It's not only something you CAN do, it's something you SHOULD do. Dare I say it's your moral and civic obligation. By keeping your money in Bank of America you are silently enabling them to continue exploiting you and every other BofA customer. You are supporting them and their wrongful business practices. You are hurting yourself and others.

Do what is right. Join the BofA BankRun on January 21, 2011. Use your money as your voice of protest. Take it away from your abusers. And above all, EXPOSE THE LIE OF "Too Big To Fail!

Comments?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Let's Get Back To The Business At Hand

Now that the mid-term elections are over, it’s time we get back to the business of correcting our banking industry. But before we do, I’d like to talk a bit about the recession, and the realities that go with it.

You see, what happened in Congress as a result of the election – with the Republicans gaining control of the House – is a direct reflection of the unrealistic expectations the people of America have developed. I’m not going to say that the Repubs gaining control is necessarily a bad thing even though they have done their damndest to stymie nearly every attempt by the White House to get this nation back on track. But the reason that all of the pundits are giving as to why the Repubs did so well in the election is that America doesn’t think the Obama administration is getting things done quickly enough.

I’d like to remind America that in 1929, due to similar conditions in the financial industries, the stock market crashed and sent this nation and the rest of the industrialized world tailspinning into a depression. Banks failed. Unemployment soared. People became homeless (sound familiar?). And it took over ten years and a World War to claw ourselves out of that mess. The Depression didn’t happen overnight. A decade or more of recklessness led up to the Wall Street crash, and there was a modest rebound during 1930. Yet the economy tanked severely and, four years after the Depression started, America's economy hit bottom. Personal income, tax revenue, profits and prices dropped. Unemployment reached 25%. Construction was virtually halted in many countries. Farming and rural areas suffered as crop prices fell by approximately 60% *. And it took the following 9 years to rebuild this nation’s economy.

President Roosevelt implemented programs across the nation to create jobs. Under acronyms such as WPA (Works Progress Administration), NRA (National Recovery Administration) and more, people went to work building the nation’s infrastructure… bridges, public buildings, roads, tunnels, many of which are still in service. Via the radio, Roosevelt spoke often to the American people and reminded them that the work to be done was not entirely outside the home, but started with the way they thought… that through patience, dedication, sacrifice, and hard work a brighter day lay ahead. Our country hosted two World's Fairs during the Depression to help spur the economy and - especially in 1933 - create much needed jobs. But just as the skies started to look clear again, war broke out in Europe and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Rationing, conversion of industry to war production, sales of War Bonds, an effective propaganda machine, and a genuine involvement of the American people in the war effort got us through to that brighter day. By 1947 – eighteen years after it began - the effects of the Depression were finally over and we entered into our nation's greatest period of prosperity.

By contrast, the current “repression” (a term coined to describe a severe recession that borders on a depression) has come about as the result of three decades of undoing the financial industry safeguards implemented during the Depression, plus a shift on the part of many stock market investors toward real estate, and our culture’s greed, apathy, and selfishness. Unlike the Great Depression, our Repression commenced with a war waged by us upon the Middle-East – a war of political hubris for which we have not been asked to sacrifice anything but our young. There have been no rationings, no war bonds drives, no overall conversion of industry, and the attempts at propaganda have been tremendously weak. In fact, as you may recall, the Bush Administration handed out tax breaks to encourage the public to buy gas-guzzling SUV’s shortly after we dropped the first bombs on Iraq. Hubris made for weak attempts at national morale building and mobilization of the people toward the war effort. The war quickly used up our nation’s tax reserves and sunk us into massive debt. The Fed dropped the interest rates and banks loaned money for millions of properties they knew to be grossly overpriced in a betting scheme dubbed the “greater fool theory.” These actions set the stage for the tanking of our economy.

Since the beginning of the Repression, the American people have demonstrated a vehement unwillingness to give up the ways of life we had grown accustomed to during the previous thirty years of excesses and recklessness. Prices and profits have not, for the most part, dropped, except in some housing markets. Food costs more on the whole. Taxes keep going up while our state and local governments cut jobs. Businesses close or lay off employees when their intake can no longer support the costs. And we Americans keep cluttering our lives with as much technogarbage as we can afford. There have been no public jobs programs created. And our banks, which had the power to stop this Repression before it raged out of control, continue to flagrantly pay themselves with profits purloined from their customers - yet we haven’t committed ourselves to withdrawing our support from the thieves that rob our meager savings so that they may live ridiculously high on the hog.

We Americans are not invested in our own recovery. Instead we whine and complain, point fingers, and accuse the clean-up crew – the Obama Administration – of not doing enough quickly enough.

GET OVER YOURSELVES!

Let’s face it… it took 18 years for this nation to dig its way out of the Great Depression which took roughly 10 years to create, and the country (population 122,775,046) was invested in the act of recovery. We are currently NOT invested in our own recovery from this Repression, which took 30 years to create. And we expect the President alone to recover this nation with a population 2.3 times larger (2000 census) than the population at the start of the Great Depression, in the span of time it takes to send a text message. What gives?

Here is the hard truth. We ALL must invest ourselves in recovery. It means we stop passing the blame and start looking in the mirror. Every one of us has had a hand in creating this mess. While the banks were raping our accounts we continued to bend over for them rather than standing up for ourselves and putting our money into more customer-friendly institutions. We let the government remove the safeguards that protected our economy and continued to elect public servants who demonstrated a lack of interest in serving the public. We became selfish, and greedy, and focused on immediate gratification, no matter the cost. We lost sight of the plights of others as we tried to amass everything from wealth to clutter. And many, many people foolishly paid way too much for property instead of exercising the most powerful word in the English language: “NO.” We have sat idly by, passing our decision making powers to others.

The current economic mess may take many, many years – even generations – to fully repair. Especially if we continue on as selfishly as we have. That’s the real, hard truth. And we as a whole need to face that truth.

If we are to see progress, we have to be involved with it. The more we invest ourselves in our recovery, the more quickly it will come about. But it will not happen overnight, no matter how fully we commit ourselves. That’s because we have 30 years of bad behavior to correct. The sort of impatience that was demonstrated at the polls on Tuesday will not speed things up. We have shown that we truly do not understand the breadth and scope of what our current President is dealing with. We have shown a shortness of memory that comes as a result of our own selfishness and impatience. We have shown that we are unwilling to wade through the murky waters with him or lend him a hand in pulling the proverbial car from the ditch. We have shown that we are unwilling to make necessary sacrifices - we still expect we should have it all. And because of these things, our nation rewarded the party that has blocked nearly every reform the President has set out to accomplish by giving them more seats in the House of Representatives. We have bought into partisan spin rather than looking through our own eyes at the nation as it is. And we have opted to recline in armchairs while expecting a handful of people to fix a mess we each had quite a hand in creating.

I suggest we stop putting the burden for our own lack of restraint and our own un-watchfulness onto one man and his cabinet, or the Congress, and start accepting our role in what went wrong. I suggest we acquiesce to the idea of expecting less – less money, less in the way of creature comforts, less of our politicians – and immerse ourselves in the recovery of our economy. I suggest we eliminate greed and apathy from our day to day dealings. Stop trying to screw thy neighbor (or one-up him). The less we expect the more we shall receive. I suggest we extend a helping hand whenever we encounter someone less fortunate. I suggest we mobilize and pull our support from businesses that treat us - and our money - with disrespect.

I suggest we change our world one day at a time.

Insofar as our dealing with our government and the banks, we still must demand severe bank reforms, including the reinstatement of the policies that limited the actions of banks, which came about as a result of the Great Depression. Those policies worked until an overconfident President Reagan began chipping away at them. And above all, we must let the banks know that “business as usual” no longer flies with us. We must take back our power by taking back our money and lending it only to those institutions that have demonstrated respect for their customers and support for our communities. In order to effect change we must first change ourselves.

And let’s now be realistic for once. Let us accept that the recovery from this Repression will take as long as it takes, and not point fingers of blame at the clean-up crew before we first point them at ourselves.


*source: Wikipedia

Monday, September 13, 2010

Let's End Merchant Abuse

Attention Merchants: Did you know that you do NOT have to accept VISA if you accept MasterCard (and vice-versa)? Yep, that’s right. Even though VISA and MasterCard share the same processing systems and they always seem to be in tandem at every store or online business in town, the truth is you DO have the right to pick and choose which company you would like to support. That comes directly from the mouth of a service rep at MasterCard.

I bring this up because the financial health of this nation depends largely on choice. Choosing not to do business with a company that costs your company too much money is one way of reducing your costs and increasing your profits. VISA USA is perhaps the most aggressive, hateful, fee-happy corporation in North America. It should come as good news to some of you to know you are not contractually obliged to accept their “product.”

There is a growing movement afoot to prevent merchants from charging a usage fee for debit cards. It’s being fostered by those politicians who claim to be serving the best interests of the consumer… and as usual, at the cost of the merchant. Here’s the problem. VISA assesses fees to the merchant for each plastic transaction – not just the typical usage fee, but an additional “interchange” fee as well. And VISA says that merchants are not allowed to charge their customers more when they use their VISA branded cards, even though the cost of accepting VISA is higher than the cost of accepting any other credit or debit card. Instead, VISA recommends that merchants raise the cost of their merchandise accordingly to defray the cost of doing business with VISA.

In other words, VISA would rather you penalize your customers for using American Express or Discover or cash than tack on a fee only on VISA purchases. They apparently don’t want consumers to know how deeply they are gouging merchants. They’d rather that merchants take it in the shorts because they’ve chosen to accept VISA.

Some merchants have gotten around this problem by simply adding a fee to all debit card transactions, and this has both consumers and legislators up in arms. Well, let’s be reasonable here, shall we? The money to pay for the increasing fees that VISA charges has to come from somewhere. If a merchant raises his prices to cover his losses, the consumer gets mad and may change where he does business. Because of VISA’s rules, a merchant cannot charge more for the same service that charges him more, so he either suffers the loss - which can be hundreds of thousands – even millions - of dollars each year depending on the size and nature of his business. Or he can charge a bit more to those customers who ELECT to use plastic instead of cash.

I see nothing wrong with adding a surcharge onto an elective service. You pay more to have other elective services with such things as your cell phones and TV signal provider. So why not the same thing at the places you buy gas and milk?

Currently, the merchant industry is all but surviving in an increasingly hostile environment. Municipalities keep raising taxes and licensing costs on businesses. Rents on storefronts are often high. A depressed economy means consumers aren’t spending as much, or are going to places that can offer them bargains. And if that isn’t enough, accepting credit and debit cards to make things easier for the consumer is getting to be a significant cost of doing business. Not only are the fees to accept credit/debit cards going up (VISA has raised its fees over 300 percent in recent years), but then VISA has also dictated that purchases made using VISA cards may be returned, for almost any reason, without penalty to the consumer.

The person who gets hit with all of this is the merchant. And that does not bode well for our economy. Here’s why.

When the cost of doing business becomes too burdensome, merchants are forced to either raise their prices and risk losing customers, or they are forced to cut back on their own internal costs, such as giving pay raises, offering benefits, hiring new people, keeping the employees they already have, shortening their business day (or conversely lengthening it in hopes of attracting night-owl clients). Or, they may simply elect to close up shop – as many have.

Each time a merchant has to lay off employees or closes shop, that increases the unemployment percentages in their community. The landlord who owns the commercial building where the merchant once had his shop loses income because of a vacant storefront. Vacant storefronts depress the communities and can adversely affect the property values of the area. The city, state, and nation lose tax revenue that once came from income and sales, and they then have to cut services and lay off government employees, which again adds to the burden of unemployment. Consumers have to travel to other places to purchase the things the out-of-business merchant used to offer, and those travel expenses add up, which in turn puts limits on the consumer’s spending power.

And all of this can happen simply because VISA wants an ever-larger piece of a pie they aren’t really entitled to. Sure, the folks at MasterCard are no saints either, but they are less aggressive and only do about half as much business as VISA. And that means that VISA doesn’t NEED to gouge its merchants as much. They just do it for the sadistic pleasure and overwhelming profits received.

So I say to the politicians who are up in arms about merchants who are trying to recapture income lost in the whole credit/debit card scheme, “you’re going after the wrong guys!” You NEED merchants in order to collect sales taxes. You NEED merchants to be healthy so they can afford to hire more employees, generate more income tax, and bring down the unemployment levels. You NEED merchants to provide a robust selection of goods and services to the communities they serve. So STOP THE ASSAULT ON THE MERCHANTS AND GO AFTER VISA and the others in the debit/credit industries.

It is admirable to plead the case for the consumer, however you cannot do that at the expense of the merchant class – not at this time. Aim your sights at the credit card industry, which is systematically pillaging your communities in order to line their own pockets. Create limits and caps on fees for their “services”. And for God’s sake, DON’T restrict merchants from charging more for services which cost them more. To do that would only serve to hobble an already crippled industry upon which you and your constituency rely.


*Consumer Tip: Use a pin-pad when making debit purchases. This actually lowers the cost to your merchant, whereas signing your sales slip costs the merchant a much higher percentage.
(You should be advised, however, that using a pin pad will not earn you extra points from VISA. As usual, they only reward you if you end up costing your merchant more dough.)

* Merchant Tip: Ask your service provider to cut VISA out of your account, in favor of accepting MasterCard, Amex, and Discover. Most of your customers have more than one brand of credit card, and will be happy to pay using one of the other brands. Encourage cash sales as much as possible.

* Additional tip for legislators: Pass legislation that requires VISA USA (and all other credit cards) to put a percentage of its ill-gotten profits into the Social Security system, so that each purchase made on plasatic goes to benefit the entire country.

Monday, August 16, 2010

One Flew Over The Bankster's Nest

I love the internet. Whenever I want to know more about something I just have to get online and start Googling. Almost everything I could hope to learn is contained here, in one form or another. Sometimes I need to find technical information, such as how to repair a 50 year old single barrel carburetor, other times I just need to get a detailed definition of a word. It’s all there.

Take for instance the other day… I decided to look up the definition (and symptoms) of the word “sociopath.” I’d been using it to describe the folks who run Wall Street for a while, but I wasn’t sure if I was using the accurate and appropriate term. Thanks to Wikipedia, I found out that I am.

I learned from a number of articles that to be considered a “sociopath” a person has to exhibit three out of seven discernable character disorders. I wasn’t surprised to discover that bank executives (as a group, if not individually) meet the behavioral criteria of the sociopath. Those 3 criteria are:

1) Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;

2) Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

3) Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

There’s also trait number 4) “Reckless disregard for safety of self or others.” And some items that don’t generally apply to bankers overall, but may exist within the individuals include:

5) Impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
6) Irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults; and
7) Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;

Even without the last three criteria it appears that the folks on Wall Street have enough behavioral disorders to qualify them as sociopaths. You won’t find much argument against that on the internet.

God, I love Google!

Let’s take a closer look at the first 3 abovelisted items and see how they apply.

1) Failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest.

An article here further states that the sociopath repeats antisocial behaviors despite having been previously caught and punished for them. The suggestion the author makes is that sociopaths do not historically ‘recover’ from their mental illness because they lack the necessary brain functions that mitigate antisocial behavior. A disconnect occurs in the brain of the sociopath, and the mitigating function (the thing in our head that says "I really shouldn't do that") gets put on the back burner while the personal reward function (the greed function) goes unchecked.

I should also add that the term “antisocial” means a lot more than not talking to people at a party. Antisocial technically means “against the people” and can refer to intentional acts ranging from distancing one’s self from his peers, to cheating, manipulating, stealing, murder, and anything else that harms the fellow man.

Applying this to the financial industries, the reason that the banks, credit card and loan companies keep trying to find loopholes that they can slither through in order to continue raping the public and stealing its money, is because the slaps on the wrist they receive have no lasting psychological effect on them. The sociopaths who operate these corporations are apparently unable to equate the punishment they receive with any wrongdoing on their part… primarily because they believe that their actions are justified and ‘normal’. They use the terms “ambition” and "talent" to describe their sociopathic behavior.

2) Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;

How many horror stories have we heard regarding people who were sold junk debts after being guaranteed they would pay off handsomely? How many lies were told in order to sell those debts when the sellers knew they were toxic? Plenty! Those guileless bankers knowingly defrauded their customers by lying through their teeth because their brains were focused on their own personal reward – regardless of the collateral damage they created in their wake. To a degree, the banks are STILL deceiving their customers and the Government by trying to pretend that their transaction-reorganizing scam is something we all wanted. Lies upon lies. They will say whatever is necessary to keep the gravy train of your profit pulling into their station instead of taking their lumps as we all know they should.

3) Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

Throughout this whole financial ordeal – the mortgage meltdown, the fee debacle, the fraud charges, the credit card rate scams – the banks have remained aloof and indifferent. They have offered no apology to the people they have harmed through their own avarice and negligence. In fact, they are appealing the recent restrictions imposed by Congress and Judge Alsup because they somehow believe THEY are the injured parties, not their long line of victims.

They use their only weapon in the fee debacle – repeating over and over again that we, the public, want them to reorganize our transactions from highest to lowest regardless of the cost to us – as a smokescreen to hide the issue that they employed this plan when some other sociopath discovered it could generate huge amounts of revenue for almost nothing. And the fees, they argue, are the cost of doing business.

They double the interest rates of credit card users in good standing, and penalize individuals who purchase certain items with their credit cards in order to “justify” charging a higher interest rate. And they callously kick families out of their homes when the loans they planned on seeing fail finally do.

They continue to reward their execs with outrageous bonuses, despite the Government’s insistence that they do not. The reason/excuse they offer? “We have to pay these bonuses to get the talent that will make our stockholders happy.”

Adding insult to injury, they use those same stockholders as their scapegoats in order to try to trickle the responsibility down off of their shoulders and onto to the shoulders of their investors. After all, it’s the STOCKHOLDERS who make them do such dastardly deeds. It’s the STOCKHOLDERS who are the greedy ones. Not them. Not the banksters. The banksters never look in the mirror when blame is being tossed around. They just keep trying to flick it off like a booger on the end of their finger, hoping it will stick to anyone or anything other than themselves.

It’s always someone else’s fault. The banks are the victims, dontcha know. That’s why we had to bail them out. They didn’t know that so many loans were toxic when they slipped them quietly into derivative junk packages. No… they are the innocent ones. And the reason they keep lying to promote that image is because they fail to see their own wrongdoing... forgetting of course that a lie is of itself a wrongdoing. Oh, they know that the public sees their acts as criminal, but the public is wrong. We have to be wrong, because the banks are always right.

Well, they may not be right, but they are truly sick.

Where things are not clear to me – and perhaps many others - is whether this sickness is something innate in all of these people, or whether the sickness is acquired by being exposed to that particular environment. Certainly, those at the top of the industry have suffered the disconnect from their conscience long enough that they will probably require years of institutionalization. But what of the underlings? Is the whole financial industry a magnet to people with Antisocial Personality Disorder? Or does exposure to other sociopaths within the industry rub off on reasonably well-balanced folk and thus imbalance their brain-chemical balance? In other words, is the sociopathy within the financial industry inborn, or is it contagious? Or both? It’s an interesting question, and one whose answers might someday lead to better screening of job applicants on Wall Street. But first we have to get a few long-term studies underway.

Now that we know that our financial bigwigs most likely are sociopaths, the question becomes what do we do with them? Well, to be honest, I’m not exactly sure. I suppose we could demand that the Federal Government mandate the full and complete psychiatric evaluation of all financial corporation leaders, and institutionalize and/or incarcerate those who are deemed psychopathic or sociopathic (both terms fall into the category of Antisocial Personality Disorder, according to the American Psychiatric Association). Given the nature of sociopathic disorder, I lean toward institutionalization rather than incarceration. Besides, our jails are already full enough. And if, as I suspect, these banksters are indeed sociopaths, prison is absolutely the wrong place for them to be… along with at the helm of any financial firm.

Your thoughts?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Announcing "A Month Without VISA"


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our protest against Bank of America continues as we reach more and more people and educate them about the prudence of withdrawing their money from this abusive bank. I can't thank those of you who have participated in the Bank of America protest enough. You should all pat yourselves on the back for doing a great job!

So, while the Bank of America protest wages on, we're going to take on the next evil giant, VISA USA. For the month of July, we're putting away our VISA cards - in drawers, in safes and safety deposit boxes, under our mattresses, or buried in the back yard if necessary. Some VISA victims may choose to cut their cards into little pieces. Go ahead! Good work!

So why are we cutting the cord to VISA for the month? Well, let's look at VISA's history. To start with, VISA is the demon-spawn of Bank of America. VISA was born in 1958 as the BankAmericard. By the mid-60's BofA began licensing the BankAmericard to banks outside of the BofA network, distributing over 100 million unsolicited cards to bank customers and non-customers alike and creating economic and civic havoc - which they did apologize for. The Feds put a stop to the distribution of unsolicited credit cards as a result. In 1970, BofA relinquished control of the BankAmericard and the issuing banks created their own independent financial corporation around the card. This independent corporation was a closed-door operation. It had no investors from the public sector, and it was not traded on the stock market. This would give BankAmericard additional power by making them untouchable.

In 1975, the various and sundry BankAmericard brands (which included Chargex, Barclaycard, and Carte Bleue) were united under the new name VISA. In ensuing years, the VISA Corporation, like its unholy parent Bank of America, would adopt aggressive advertising and marketing schemes to build its business to be the largest in the world, and then turn around and start stabbing its merchant base in the back. In 1996 VISA was sued by Wal-Mart, Sears, Safeway, Circuit City, and The Limited for market manipulation and conspiring with MasterCard to violate US antitrust laws. The case dragged on until 2003 when VISA and MasterCard settled out of court. Immediately after, VISA cut a deal with all major banks West of the Mississippi to drop MasterCard products and carry only VISA. In exchange for doing this, VISA would provide enough plastic to give every checking account holder in the West a free (read: unsolicited) Debit Card - with the VISA logo on it. For a period of a few years, it was impossible for Americans in the Western US to acquire a MasterCard through their local banks.

There they go, raising that specter of antitrust again. Won't they ever learn?

Also during this period immediately following the class action settlement, VISA redlined the internet, declaring certain classes of internet merchants as "high risk" - regardless of whether individual sites had demonstrated a chargeback risk or not - and giving them 30 days to fork over in excess of $700 per each domain (and another $375 each year thereafter in addition to transaction fees) to maintain the VISA service for which they had been paying nothing up to then. This was clearly a move to strong-arm the small internet business owner into shelling out even more of his profits in order to defray VISA's own penalty for abusive behavior. VISA cards were being used in roughly 70% of all online transactions and VISA knew they could muscle the extra money out of these online merchants who would be afraid of losing significant revenue if they dumped VISA.

And how do you show your contrition for your abusive behavior? Well, by abusing the next sucker you can find, that's how - at least according to the Book of VISA. Messing with the big retail corporations backfired because they have big legal departments. Not so with the little guy. He's much easier to push around. And push is exactly what VISA did so that it wouldn't have to look itself in the mirror and face its own corruption.

Next VISA USA exercised more of its muscle by mandating that their logo and the VISA name could not be displayed on such sites (even in the payment area), and that excessive chargebacks would result in termination of the paid service (the exact number of chargebacks which would define "excessive" was never disclosed to the merchants even when asked point blank). VISA then ruled that merchants are forbidden to add a surcharge onto VISA transactions to offset the cost of the service, and any language that is used on the site that VISA determines unkind to the corporation will result in immediate termination of the service. Furthermore, the credit card giant also gave itself power to control content on the sites that used the VISA service, again using racketeering practices to force webmasters to edit and censor their own material or face termination.

And you thought they were just a credit card agency. Ha! They also fancy themselves as a censorship bureau and moral police too.

In the last few years, banks have been slowly re-introducing the MasterCard brand to their credit card offerings, perhaps to avoid charges of collusion and antitrust with the Demon of Debt, VISA. But once again, as in the earliest days of the BankAmericard, the saturation of the market with VISA cards and the willingness of the banks to put VISA branded cards into the hands of anyone with a checking account has taken its toll on the economy. Now, issuing banks, backed up by the weight and power of the VISA Corporation, are raping the people they hooked on their "plastic heroin" - charging ever increasing interest rates to their customers regardless of re-payment record, lowering purchasing limits, destroying credit scores, and bullying the very people that gave them the power to begin with. Sound familiar?

VISA is a loan shark. A mobster. A racketeer. A monopolizer. A manipulator. And a charlatan. For every time they throw a little money (YOUR money, may I remind you) toward the Olympics, or planting a tree in a city park, or other such unnecessary but nice gestures, they con a whole new set of people into believing that they are indeed the Good Guys. The "winning team." And who doesn't want to be associated with the winning team? But it's all just a paper smile pasted over the face of Satan. Membership may have its rewards, but they go mostly to a select few at the top of the VISA dungheap. Meanwhile you pay dearly.

A Month Without VISA is a protest designed not only to reduce the flow of money to the "too big to care" company, but also to help wean you off of the VISA addiction they have instilled in you. We will help you break your dependence on plastic while reminding you that ANY company that punishes you for doing business with it, whether you are the consumer or the merchant, isn't worthy of your loyalty or your money.

There are alternatives to VISA. There are other credit cards, obviously, and they can pretty much all be used as widely as VISA. And there's my favorite VISA replacement: CA$H. Cold hard cash. If it was good enough for my grandparents it's good enough for me. And merchants will appreciate your giving them cash. They don't have to pay someone else a fee to accept it so it creates a higher margin of profit for the owners of your favorite stores.

My barber has a sign in his shop: "Credit Makes Enemies. Let's Be Friends". Good words to live by. Start being friendlier on July 1, and put your VISA cards away. Continue to pay off your debt to VISA, but don't incur any further debt on your VISA card for the entire month. You'll feel good about yourself once you see how easy it is... and I should know. I stopped the co-dependency ride with VISA years ago (when the banks colluded with VISA and ditched MasterCard) and I couldn't be happier. It's time our nation learns it can be emancipated from the wretched clutches of the VISA Corporation. Like the banks, it only has the power of our money if WE give it to them. So let's don't.

Join the protest, "A Month Without VISA" and tell everybody you know to join too. Chances are everybody you know has a VISA card. Chances also are they can learn to live as happy a life without it. I have!

VISA is a four-letter word

Monday, May 24, 2010

Protesters Give Bank of America Exec What He Deserves

Over the weekend, a group of approximately 500 NPA and SEIU protesters, armed with signs and bullhorns, converged on the front lawn of Bank of America lobbyist Greg Baer and demonstrated their anger toward the giant evil bank. And, it has been reported that DC police actually escorted the busloads of protesters to Mr. Baer's address. Brilliant!

Apparently, Baer's teenage son was the only one home at the time, and the peaceful protesting frightened the poor little rich kid so much that he barricaded himself in the bathroom and phoned his daddy to rescue him from the demonstrators. Of course, the kid could have opened a window or the door and told the gatherers that the target of their protest was not home, and asked them to leave. But he didn't. Poor little gutless child of privilege...!

The protest has incited the voices of the more conservative among us, who are likening the event to some sort of union terrorism. One of these voices, Greg Hedgepath, states, "Here you have thug unions that have no interest in the people they represent at all. They are only interested state maintained pensions. A bailout is what they are after. " What Hedgepath fails to acknowledge is that the banks that these unions are protesting have done exactly what he's accusing the so-called "thug unions" of having just done. The banks have demonstrated no interest in the very customers who have made them ungodly rich; they are only interested in the multi-million dollar bonuses they can give themselves; and they GOT a bailout (which did nothing to help or benefit the taxpaying public as a result).

Well, as they say, payback is a bitch. Perhaps the conservative bloggers who are vocalizing their opposition to groups of citizens gathering on the lawns of the very same people who caused the economy to tank, who are responsible for doling out bad loans and then collecting on them through foreclosure, and who, like Greg Baer, have taken our money to go to Capitol Hill and prevent legislation that would benefit the general public, are doing so because they are afraid of the backlash that may be heading their way. I don't think that a backlash against Wall Street is unwarranted. In fact, I think it's well-deserved.

Unlike in Greece, where unions have reacted violently against the targets of their anger, the NPA/SEIU protesters were peaceful (albeit perhaps loud). They wore t-shirts with the message "Put People First / Take Back Our Democracy" and brandished hand-painted signs with slogans like "Reclaim America" and "Hold Banks Accountable". They chanted "Bank of America, Bad for America" and shared their personal stories of the bank's abuses via a bullhorn. Far as I can tell, nobody set fire to anything, broke windows, held the banker's candy-ass kid hostage, bombed the Baer's house, tried to enter the domicile, or did anything remotely violent. And they returned to their caravan after Baer returned home to coddle his Little Lord Fauntleroy and asked the protesters to leave. Even so, Hedgepath and his right-wing blogging cronies are accusing the demonstrators of being thugs. THUGS! Do they even know what that word means?

According to the dictionary, a "thug" is:

1) A cutthroat or ruffian; a hoodlum. A tough and violent man, esp a criminal. A violent, brutal person
or
2) One of a band of professional assassins formerly active in northern India who worshiped Kali and offered their victims to her. (Historical Terms) (sometimes capital) (formerly) a member of an organization of robbers and assassins in India who typically strangled their victims.

Sorry Mr. Hedgepath and others of your ilk, but the 'thug' shoe doesn't fit here.

What I think is most important is that the voices of the right wing are conveniently neglecting that the banks have pushed hard-working Americans right to the brink, and now those with their backs against the wall are fighting back - by taking their money away from the banks that have abused them, and by protesting. So far, protests at the banks have yielded imperceptible results. Is it surprising that the protesters are taking their battle to the front yards of the enemy? Not to me. I think it's not only about time, it's completely appropriate. We SHOULD protest these goons where they live. We SHOULD publicly humiliate them. We SHOULD be vocal about our unrest. Their selfish and greedy actions have harmed an unprecedented number of families and ruined the economies of many countries. Did they expect there would be no backlash? Did they think we would not fight back?

If protesting them at the office does not result in the change of practice the public demands; if the lawmakers are unable to resist the bribes people like (alleged 'lifelong Democrat') Greg Baer offer them; and if Wall Street continues brushing aside the requests of the President, the People have no choice but to protest - loudly, and in the front lawns of the perpetrators. Wall Street has only itself to blame for the crushing anxiety that grips this nation. Not only for causing it, but also for perpetuating it. So many Americans are desperately trying to pay for the overpriced homes they bought before it all crashed down, yet the banksters are enjoying a million-dollar property boom in their playland of the Hamptons - fueled by the enormous bonuses they received last year (LA Times article, 5-22-10: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-hamptons-bonuses-20100522,0,1217672.story), despite President Obama's request that such bonuses be reeled in. Clearly, while the country crumbles around them as a direct result of the things they have done, the Wall Street racketeers are continuing to revel in the spoils of their - er, I mean OUR - money.

Greg Baer and his fellow goons need to remember this: Actions have consequences. What they do runs completely against what is best for the masses. There is a strong penalty to be paid, not only by the mob bosses on Wall Street, but also by those like lifelong Democrat Greg Baer who prostitute themselves to said mob bosses and schmooze Congress in order to block bank reform. The People are angry. Banks should count their blessings that we are not violent. I for one do not promote, nor do I condone, violence. And if it were within my power I would free the world of all of our violent actions. But I cannot do that, and I cannot predict the future. However I do understand the nature of people, and if injustices persist to the point no option is left, people do eventually resort to violence as they historically always have. If the financial industry wants to prevent the kind of retaliatory anarchy that has gripped Greece in recent times it needs to change NOW while the American people are still willing to demonstrate peacefully.

In the mean time, I think we SHOULD continue to gather and protest - in front of the banks AND in the executives' front lawns. Public humiliation needs a renaissance. Keep organizing, my friends. Keep pulling your money out of the banks, keep sending your letters and making your phone calls, keep distributing the Proclamation Of Required Change, keep encouraging your friends, families, and co-workers to participate in these protests, and above all, keep a sense of humor about this. Use your anger to drive your efforts to effect change, but don't lose sight of the humorous side of sticking the knife into the banks and their prostitutes (figuratively speaking, of course) and turning it.

Peace and bullhorns,
JQA

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

No More Mr. Nice Guy

Bank Of America Fails in Adopting PROC-7. Customers Are Urged To Close Accounts.

That’s right folks. After 90 days of our attempts to coerce Bank of America to change its policy from one of greed to one of gratitude, the bank has failed to take action of any sort. In short, Bank of America has now clearly told us through its inaction that it does not care about its customers, our wishes, or our individual or collective well being.

All we have asked the bank to do is end its predatory practices and give back to the community it has robbed, especially now as we all try to work our way through the hard economic times that Bank of America had a significant role in creating. They have shown no remorse for their recklessness, nor for their greed-fueled practices. The billions upon billions of dollars they have wrested from our accounts are apparently not sufficient to them, as they continue to exploit us for our money. And to add insult to injury, Bank of America has produced a new line of television commercials filled with partial truths in order that they may try to win over a new crop of suckers. I call these commercials “TOC’s” as they are nothing more than Truckloads Of Crap.

Q) So what now?
A) Well, I do not believe PROC-7 to be a failed endeavor. I believe we did not reach enough people in time for the 90 day deadline, which I originally thought would provide sufficient time for us to rally the support we needed. Apparently not. But that’s OK. The Proclamation is out there, and there’s no reason we need to extend the deadline. Bank of America knows it exists. The time period for Bank of America to comply is now passed. They failed to meet us even part way by the deadline. There is no grace period, therefore we bail.

You see, we do have to be people of our word. The original Proclamation allowed that, should Bank of America do the right thing and start adopting the demands in PROC-7 within the 90 day period, we would reward them by returning our business and our money to them, otherwise we would take our financial support elsewhere. They did not, and thus we are no longer obliged to return our funds to them.

Bye-bye BofA! You had your chance and you blew it.

Over the last 3 months a few people told me they thought that it was too much work to dangle our cash in front of them like carrots to get them to change their evil ways. (too much work???) Instead they said they would rather pull their money out of BofA’s vaults and be done with the corrupt institution once and for all. Well, that may or may not have worked against our movement. I don't know. But now that Bank of America has clearly confirmed that they do not have any intention of changing their abusive policies, we who have been holding small sums of money in the bank pending the outcome of this experiment may now close our accounts.

Please do this right away. And please also continue to spread the word that the thieves running Bank of America have no desire to make banking with them a pleasurable and mutually beneficial experience. Please implore all of your friends, relatives, and acquaintances to close their accounts. And, please also encourage them to deliver copies of the new proclamation when they close those accounts. PROC-7 is not dead. We’re just going to have to play hardball with it. A revised version of PROC-7 will be posted shortly, which will contain more demands without any further deadlines. It will also be more generic so that you and your acquaintances may use it with any bank, not just Bank of America.

The banks as a whole, including all of Wall Street, must learn to respect us. They must learn that there is great value in respecting us, even if it means that their respect for us is borne of the fear that we can destroy their industry if we get angry enough. We have only begun to tap our collective power here. I fully believe that an ongoing campaign to withdraw our money from the corporate banks will eventually have a positive outcome for us all. For those of you who have been sitting on the sidelines and haven’t pulled your support from Bank of America, I must ask… how much more proof do you need that the bank is a corrupt organization hell bent on bleeding you dry? Are you seriously OK with supporting the obscenely lush lifestyles of your bank’s execs and investors while they would rather you have to eat mac ‘n cheese from now until you die? Would you really rather be in debt to these people for the rest of your natural life? Or would you rather have more of your earned money in your pockets so that you could enjoy the things and experiences YOU want in your life? The power to change things lies squarely in your hands. Go from being victim to victor. We’re here to help you. Close your Bank of America account today so we all can share a more prosperous future tomorrow.

Oh, and when you do get around to closing your BofA accounts, please give them the new Proclamation if the spirit moves you. Repetition is, after all, the mother of learning.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Something to think about. Wall Street vs Wall Pee

While I was writing a reply to Jim, a commenter to my last post, a thought occurred to me. We had been discussing the real John Quincy Adams' favoring of a national bank that regulated the currency. In my reply I mentioned that I believe what I am doing within this protest is helping each visitor reintroduce himself and herself to our forgotten power. By doing this I hope that our culture can become more aware and diligent against those who prey on others, and self-reliant enough to do away with the need for another government botched agency.

And that's when it hit me... the realization that sexual predators (including but not limited to the crimes of rape, sexual assault, child molestation, looking at naked pictures, taking pictures of your children naked in the bath, and urinating in public) are sentenced for the crime, do their prison or home imprisonment time and community service, and then are forced to register and be restricted for life. This was running in my head alongside the simultaneous realization:

Financial predators are pardoned, forgiven, and rewarded.

We have a problem here.

First of all, have the banks not symbolically raped the general public repeatedly and relentlessly? Has this not had a corrosive and damaging effect on our society? Have they not preyed on those with less advantage, and created the means to trip the customer up and rape him some more?

Wall Street executives are every bit as dangerous to our society as - at the very least - the guy who is serving a lifetime sentence as a sexual offender because he got caught peeing on a wall. Yes, the profiteers in the whole economic meltdown are every bit as dangerous and criminal as the wall-pee-guy. Honestly, I think more so.

Wall Pee. That's funny.

So think about it. As states like Illinois prepare to pass even more over-reaching, restrictive and debasing laws to punish those labeled as sex offenders, should we perhaps call for the same iron clad punishment for the greedy financial predators on Wall Pee... er, I mean Wall Street?

If I can find a way to set up a poll on here I'll ask you to vote on this.

When you need a little chuckle in your day, remember: Wall pee.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Congress Fails Us Again!

My Fellow Americans, Congress has once again let us down by not passing the bank reform bill. No surprises there. Haven't I been telling you all along that Congress is so heavily influenced by Wall Street that they would be incapable of standing up against the banks and legislating in our favor?


THIS IS WHY WE MUST ACT IMMEDIATELY and stop expecting politicians to do what is necessary for us. OUR PLAN CANNOT FAIL if we act together. Money - OUR MONEY - is our only voice against Wall Street. Money is the only language those people understand. Therefore we must take our money away from the banks until they VOLUNTARILY change the criminal policies that caused our economy to tank. Because of PROC-7 they now know what they can do to win our confidence back. If they fail because of their own greed and stubbornness, then they fail. Boo hoo.


As a result of Congress stalling its bank reform bill (which is rather tame compared to the bill I would have written), the banks will still continue with "business as usual." Congress COULD have imposed a stop-gap measure that would have restricted banks from engaging in their riskiest behaviors until they could work out the finer points, but they didn't. The House and Senate have failed us once again. And the banks remain untouched, still able to continue poisoning our economy with bad deals, and still able to rape our pocketbooks for as long as it takes Congress to get over itself and get the job done. I don't see that day coming any time soon.


With each passing day the bank CEO's will get richer and We, the bank's customers, will get poorer. Let's show Congress how useless they are to us, and how real Americans get things done. Let's show the banks and Congress that WE MEAN BUSINESS. It's OUR money and we demand the banks use it in accordance with OUR rules, not theirs.


Now get out there and yank your funds from Bank of America. And don't forget the Proclamation...

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Three Words That Equal Resolution

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have three words that can very quickly help you reach resolution with Bank of America:

Better Business Bureau

I wrote to the Better Business Bureau over the weekend and filed a complaint with them against Bank Of America Corporate Headquarters in North Carolina. The complaint was regarding the excessive fees the bank had assessed me, and which since August of last year I had been requesting the bank return to me after discovering that the bank's associates had lied to me about provisions in my account that would have allowed me the waiver of one fee. It was the refusal to waive their newest nuisance fee (called the extended overdraft fee) that ultimately turned an $11.13 overdraft into almost $200 on NSF fees. And it is this situation and the immense difficulty I was experiencing in getting the reversal of these fees that started me on the mission to change the way the banks in this country operate.

It is now three days following my complaint with the BBB, and this morning I received a phone call from the executive level. It seems that in reviewing my account the bank finally determined that the bank had indeed made an error, and - long story short - refunded all of the fees back to my account.

Wow. That only took 7 months.

The BBB gives Bank of America an A+ rating. I sure as hell couldn't see why (I told the BBB I give them an "F" - and you know what that stands for). After all, B of A had been anything BUT willing to refund any of the fees it collected, and I was mishandled and treated rudely in the process. Now it seems that Bank of America is very protective of their A+ rating (also understand that it pays the BBB dues to maintain this rating). So when all other attempts at resolving your problems with Bank of America fail, go to the BBB.

I thank Bank of America for FINALLY revealing that it does have a customer service department, albeit it is ensconced high up in the corporation where the average Joe (and even branch managers) don't easily have access. And I thank them for FINALLY doing the right thing. However this does not mean that I am shutting this movement down. Nooooo.... not at all.

The return of my fees does not change the fact that the bank is still a predatory operation lorded over by some of the greediest and heartless people in the financial world. It does not change the fact that the bank operates on the principle that your money is their money and that they have the right to pick-pocket you at every available opportunity. In other words, I may have won a battle but we have not yet won the war.

So please, use the BBB as your ally in winning your own battles, but please continue to stand firm on demanding the banks adopt our PROC-7 policies. The time is ripe for change, and we are leading the movement to make that change happen!

Power to the People!!!

* A couple of further observations: I cannot guarantee that filing a complaint with the BBB will yield the same results as I received. Your particular issue with the bank will color what they are willing to do for you. But, the BBB is a great place to start if you want to grab the attention of those high up in Bank of America's ivory tower.

Also, it may help if your account shows that you, like me, have cleared out the bulk of your money from your bank account (remember, I left a total of $1.00 in my account after withdrawing the rest of my money). When they review your account and see that they have all but lost your business they may be more willing to mend fences with you. Be sure to withdraw as much from your account as you can without incurring such nuisance fees as minimum balance fees, and make sure that all of your pending charges have cleared and that you shut off any and all automatic payments. Tie up the loose ends and take your money and run.

It's a sad thing to learn that your money speaks more loudly to the bank than your own voice of discontent. Just remember that YOU have the upper hand here, even if the banks aren't ready to acknowledge that little fact yet. And the Better Business Bureau will help you remind them.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

SPANK YOUR BANK!



Please distribute these posters, suitable for printing!
The black and white one can be printed on any copier and distributed at supermarkets, coffee houses, schools, and any public venue with a bulletin board!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Parental Trap / Spank Your Bank


There comes a time in each of our lives when circumstances compel us to drastically change the relationships we have with certain others, and our roles in those relationships may be forced to change as well. Changing roles is not always an easy thing to consciously do. It frightens us if we think about it too much, yet we often do it unconsciously throughout the course of our day. When we reach that point of knowing that a change is necessary, sometimes it is better to just act than to think too heavily about it. Change never comes if we talk ourselves out if it.

For as long as many can remember the banks have adopted a stern paternal role - writing the rules and handing out discipline - and we've accepted the role of the child - dutifully depositing money into our accounts, handing more of our money over to the banks as payment for having done some form of misdeed in their eyes, and accepting the diminishing crumbs (ie: interest) the banks have handed us as some sort of reward - because we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that this is the way the power structure is, and these are the things that the "parent" expects of us.

Meanwhile the banks have taken the power we've lent them and used it as a fifteen year old boy might - greedily and recklessly and with the arrogance that comes with quickly amassed and ill-gotten power. The banks show a smug indifference toward public opinion and they thumb their noses at the government. Spoiled little brats, all of them.

Now with each passing day - each new fee - each increase in your interest rate - it becomes more and more obvious that we have to turn the tables on these out-of-control-teenagers we commonly refer to as the banks, and assume the parental role. It's a matter not only of what is right, but of our survival as well. Congress won't do it. Too many of our dollars have been used by the banking industry to lobby against us and our best interests. That means it is up to US to make the changes happen.

I've been asked why it shouldn't be enough to move one's money to a smaller bank or credit union - without having to hand a bank employee an envelope containing the Proclamation. I spelled out some of my reasons in a previous entry, but there's another reason.

It is common when you have a child who is misbehaving to take away something it values so as to encourage that child to correct its behavior. To the child the incentive to improve lies almost completely in the promise of a reward at the end. Usually that's understood to mean returning the item. Sometimes it means replacing it with something else of equal or higher value. In any case, the reward is the carrot we dangle in front of children to entice them into developing better patterns of behavior.

But... without direction the kid can flounder around a long time before figuring out exactly what change in behavior is going to win them their reward. So we give the child instructions to help him/her correct their behavior faster, and tailor it to our liking. Bearing that in mind, if we do not give the banks instructions - if we do not tell them what we want - it could be snowing in hell before the bankers figure it out. You see, bankers are a crafty lot. They are sneaky, sly, and unscrupulous. But what they are NOT is SMART. They can come up with the most unbelievable reasons to charge you a fee and some even more unbelievable justifications for charging it. But they are apparently not smart enough to comprehend that their actions are driving customers away.

Now, a smart person would look at the situation and say, "Okay... something here isn't working. Maybe we should stop doing the things that are causing us to lose business." But have they done that? No. Instead the banks just pass the burden of their losses on to their remaining customers by increasing their fees and interest rates.

The smart money says that's a sure-fire way to run your business aground. Even though they need no pointers on how to do this, I've prepared a list of the five steps any big bank CEO may use to successfully tank his bank:

1) Don't lend money.
2) Keep raising existing fees and inventing new ones.
3) Pass the burden of your profit "losses" on to your remaining clients.
4) Refuse to work with customers when they address you with problems.
5) Use "Customer Service" as a euphemism for your collections department.

As you can see, Bank of America is employing every single one of these practices. Since they are doing it there's no doubt that other banks are doing the same as well. Thus it would seem that the banks are not smart enough to see how the greed and corruption that has infected their industry is hurting them, or how they are positioning themselves for a failure they believe they are too big to suffer.

And this is why we are obligated to be the parents and give the banks a swat on the bottom and a new set of rules. The rules will keep the banks focused on what we will and won't allow - what is acceptable behavior and what is not. And this will permit them to grow up. Mature a bit. Perhaps even develop an attitude of gratitude (you'd be surprised at how much gratitude can come out of someone who has very few options).

"PROC 7", the Proclamation of Required Change, is our behavior guide for the banks. It is a tool for restoring the proper balance of power between the banks and us. It is a powerful gift that we give the bank which can help them remain solvent while creating a much better relationship with its customers and a much better future for our nation's economy. Think of it as "tough love", for that's what it is.

People I meet have been agreeing that it is far better to tell the banks what we expect them to do following the withdrawal of our money than to silently withdraw our money and put it somewhere else. So let's all be the "good parents" and give the banks a dose of some much-needed tough love. We shall all benefit from the results!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

IMPEDING RECOVERY

I'm sure that I'm not alone in thinking that the recovery from this recession is not progressing as rapidly as hoped. But are you aware that one of the prime culprits impeding the economic recovery is the banking industry? That's right... the very industry that plunged us into the recession is now preventing the economy from recovering as quickly as it could. Surprised?

We have all heard that the banks aren't lending money. And we know that the health of the economy is measured in part against the amount of lending going on. So, by not lending the banks are applying a soft brake to the recovery. However there's more. The banks also collected billions of dollars in fees last year. That means that billions of our dollars never had a chance to make it into the consumer stream. Businesses collectively lost billions of dollars in revenue and we, the public, lost billions of dollars in buying power in 2009 alone. And of course, adding insult to injury, the only reason the banks collected all of that money was to impress investors and siphon it up to the do-nothings at the upper executive level.

In other words, a few greedy men are prolonging the recession by pinching your purchasing power.

Let's say the bank took $1,000 from you in fees last year. That's about a month's worth of groceries for a family of four. Because the bank took that money you were not able to buy some of the things you wanted (or needed). The merchants who would have benefited from your purchases lost that business because the bank had pocketed your money - and the money of every other customer who those merchants depend on. Some businesses have been forced to close because the banks have purloined more money from their account holders than they are entitled to. This causes an increase in joblessness. And even if you haven't lost your job to the bank-created recession, the bank-created shortages in your bank account have probably caused you to go without certain necessities as well as other things.

And that's how the banks are single-handedly killing the American Dream.

That's why it's doubly important that we take our power back from Bank of America and the other "too big to fail" banks as soon as we can. Once we have regained our power and the banks are following our edicts we can get the economy back on track through spending, trading, and borrowing again. Keep telling your friends about this movement. Go and replace your money at Bank of America or your other big bank with the Proclamation. Let's turbo-charge this protest now and get our economy on the fast road to recovery.

Oh, and by the way... when you hear or see the phrase "Too big to fail" please remember that the Titanic was touted as "unsinkable" and too big to fail. Such claims rarely ever hold water.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Spread the word with banners




Here are a couple of banners you can copy and use in your blogs, on facebook, etc.





Frontline: The Card Game

If you missed the PBS Frontline episode "The Card Game" I recommend you take some time to watch this very enlightening program. What amazes me most about the people interviewed is the smugness and sense of entitlement the executives in the credit card industry have when it comes to the sneaky ways they have devised to get wealthy off of OUR money. They are actually proud of the fact they created so many ways of swindling the less well-to-do in our nation (and the world) to make themselves rich.

This is definitely recommended watching!
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/creditcards/view/

Also, if there are any other ideas you think should be added to the Proclamation, let us hear them! What do you think is important enough to add? Write it here! And if your ideas are very important to you, please feel free to add them to your Proclamation using additional sheets. The more great ideas that are out there, the better an understanding the banks will know what we want and expect, and ultimately the better for us.

Go ahead... let those creative ideas flow!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My day at B of A

So... I went into my branch of Bank Of America armed with 2 copies of the Proclamation Of Required Change - one signed and dated. It was a cold and rainy day here in Los Angeles - the perfect Hollywood effect for my "breakup scene" with the bank.

Upon entering, the greeter asked me if I needed any help, and I told her I wanted to see the branch manager. Sara, the branch manager, is a lovely person who had tried to help me resolve my fee issue with the bank back in December. As much as she worked to get matters overturned, the powers that be at the bank overrode her attempts and the matter was not (and still is not) resolved to my satisfaction. When I told her I was emptying out my account she understood, and she seemed genuinely saddened by the news.

Ideally, Sara is the kind of person the bank needs at its higher levels. She welcomes and assists every person who comes her way with equal attention and concern, with no regard for how much or little money that person has invested in the bank. And I think she feels a certain amount of responsibility when her employer screws over her customers. But Sara is on the ground floor as it were. She is part of the facade that BofA creates at the customer level to hide the ugliness that happens upstairs. And I know that this woman isn't making enough money considering that she has to walk that fine thread between doing what is right to keep the customer satisfied while at the same time having to satisfy the greed of her employer - which often runs counter to what is best for the customer. She has to take the brunt of all of the anger that her customers feel because of the bank's toxic practices. Some days it must be hell for her, knowing that despite her best efforts and the humanitarian concern she feels for everyone she encounters, she is nonetheless powerless to do what needs to be done to salvage a customer relationship after the bank has done everything in its power to destroy that relationship... like the almost-14-year relationship I have had with BofA.

Well, anyway, I presented Sara with both copies of the Proclamation - the one signed, sealed, and addressed to the regional manager, and one for her to read. She took a few minutes to look over the demands (the item about NSF fees especially intrigued her). After reading the Proclamation she asked if I would mind if she set up a meeting between me and her higher-ups. I agreed, but I also let her know that I would still be taking my money out of the bank that day and not re-depositing it unless and until the demands in the Proclamation were met by the deadline. She graciously understood and then checked my account to make sure I had no pending transactions. Satisfied that my account was free and clear of any such incomplete transactions, Sara then took me over to the teller window and had the teller return all but one dollar to me, per my instructions.

It was apparent that the request didn't fully register with the teller. But whether or not he understood was immaterial. He followed my instructions and gave me my money. Wow... talk about feeling a sense of accomplishment and freedom! It felt GOOD to take my money out of the bank - and to leave them with the Proclamation to chew over in their next meeting.

I am awaiting further information regarding the pending meeting with Sara's supervisor(s). It will be interesting to see what they bring to the table. And of course, I will keep you posted and report the results of the meeting back to you once it has occurred.

In the mean time, please go ahead and continue to pull your money out of Bank of America and give your teller or branch manager your signed copy of the Proclamation. Let's keep this movement going! Also, please feel free to relate your experiences here at this blog or on my Facebook page (John Quincy Adams) or join my Facebook group (Bank Of America, we demand change!) and make comments if you have any. Your feedback is most welcome!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Is Huf's "Moving Your Money" Enough?

For several weeks the Huffington Post has been encouraging its readers to pull their money out of the Big 6 banks and invest it in smaller, more community-oriented banks. I have to say I am definitely behind Ariana Huffington 110 percent. It is time we leave the toxic relationships we have with our larger banking institutions and return banking to the community. But even though I am in agreement with Huf about the idea, I feel it just isn’t enough. The plan falls short of reaching its potential. And here’s the reason I say that…

To start with, banks stop working for the community when they get to be too big (or get bought up by bigger banks). Money has a corruptive quality about it when there’s a lot of it in the same place. We should be cautious about bank-building as the cycle of bank corruption could easily repeat itself if a financial institution should grow too rapidly.

My second concern, and perhaps the more valid of the two, is that by simply walking into a bank and closing our accounts we aren’t helping the bank (and by "the bank" I mean the upper echelon of executives at the bank) fix its problems. Heads will roll once the number of runs on the bank reach a certain critical mass, however without knowing why we are leaving and what it would take to keep us or regain our trust, I’m afraid those wicked little men at the top of the company will be completely perplexed.

OK… for the point of illustration, let’s say that someone who you considered a good friend just got up and walked away one day with no explanation. The reason they walked out of your life was because you had a history of being rude and argumentative and your selfish lack of compassion hurt them too many times. But they didn’t tell you this. So, you wonder about it for a few days, and then just go on with your life - never thinking that what sent your friend and many others away was your really crummy behavior… and thus never changing as a result. But if you knew what it was that your friend and others found so distasteful about you, you could face it head on and try to change yourself for the better. The same is most likely true of bankers as well, although there’s a thick crust of corruption and entitlement that has to be jackhammered first and that could take a while.

That is why I believe it is in our best interests overall to provide the bank with a list of reasonable demands at the time we withdraw our money. This will give the bank something to focus on in its attempt to regain the public trust. It lets them know in no-nonsense language that we are fed up with the way they have been conducting business and that sufficient changes are going to have to be made if they are to ever see our business again.

If this were only about Bank of America I think I’d acquiesce to just pulling out our money and letting the chips fall where they may. But the problems that plague the depositors and customers of BofA are industry-wide. BofA is just a bit more aggressive than some of the others. The distribution of the Proclamation will have much more far-reaching results as other banks start to understand we mean business… and that our business can be won by conceding to as many of the demands as possible. Ideally, a race to see which bank can "nicen up" the best and quickest could ensue, and that could definitely work in our favor.

Nearly all of us here may hate Bank of America for one reason or another. I support that. But I do feel as though we owe it to OURSELVES to draw up our human compassion and help the bank understand the error of its ways, and what it will take to fix them. A lot of good can come of this.

To Ariana Huffington, YOU GO GIRL! But be sure to bring one of our proclamations to the bank when you yank your moolah out.