Since January I have spent hours helping a neighbor whose attempts to pay his creditor, GE Money (doing business as CareCredit), were all being headed off. Whether he used the website or the telephone, he was unable to complete the transaction, and was in danger of expensive penalties. Reaching a customer service rep required unusual persistence, and once he did so, the employees were consistently unhelpful, besides being alternately hostile and contemptuous.
After research, I formed the following hypothesis:
GE Money Bank formed CareCredit, and tricked it out to look like a nonprofit, in order to mislead elderly, inexperienced, or otherwise vulnerable customers into signing up for a credit card that is easy to acquire but difficult to make timely payments on. This results in crippling penalties and interest on what is touted as an “interest-free” credit option. Instead of helping customers pay their health-care bills, CareCredit is more likely to punish customers with extra expenses.
As the president and congressional leaders meet today on financial regulation, I offer this story as evidence of which direction we need to be going now. It is not in our national interest to allow banks to take customers for everything they can get, while “denying any wrongdoing.” We need an independent financial consumer protection agency with the power to intervene in the interest of consumers. Continue reading →
Health care: Liberals want the government to take care of everyone, while conservatives want the government out and the free market in. Everyone hates what we have, and neither side can have everything they want. Can we reach a consensus that works? The ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee thinks maybe so. Rep. Paul Ryan talks with health reporter Ezra Klein, then rushes off to an unspecified appointment.
Casino economy: And you thought that was just a metaphor. After the president called a Las Vegas vacation an example of unwise spending, the Senate majority leader and other Nevada pols lost no time grousing and whining about how cruelly Obama had harmed the tender sensibilities of the gambling and convention businesses. The Nevadans’ statements make it clear who calls the shots in their state.
Remote-control havoc: While we’re in Nevada, leave it to BBC Radio to look into the way certain commuters in the Battle-Born State earn their paychecks by operating drone aircraft to spy on people in Afghanistan, or to kill them. It’s a living. Drone strikes are war crimes that enrage our allies and inspire our enemies, yet we can’t seem to wean ourselves off them. See the discussion at Crooked Timber.
The Republican Party has it in its power to settle the immigration issue once and for all. And it can begin with tomorrow’s procedural vote in the Senate on health care reform.
All the Senators need do is hold the line against reform and entice at least one Democrat to join them in talking the bill to death. They can use the same filibuster techniques that allowed reactionary segregationists to stall civil rights legislation for generations.
Next, they only need wait while the status quo of skyrocketing health costs continues to do its work, undermining American business, boosting the relative competitiveness of other countries, bankrupting state governments, and sinking individual wealth into a black hole of rising cost and declining coverage.
Keep this up for another decade or two, and the immigration problem will go away on its own. Instead, we’ll have net emigration, as Americans leave home to seek jobs in more prosperous countries, like Mexico.
The South Carolina delegation really did its part to bring a dash of nonsense to the president’s speech to Congress about health insurance reform. I’m not just talking about Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst, which he quickly apologized for. There was also Sen. Lindsey Graham’s moment of letting a little common sense seep around his solid partisan front.
State Senator Zeb Little was busted for driving drunk. Remarkably for a pol, he made no excuses and criticized his own behavior. He hasn’t even asked for sympathy. Good for him.
My sometime Congressman Mike Rogers makes Little look comparatively sober. Rogers just went on the record calling House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “crazy,” “mean as a snake” and “Tom DeLay in a skirt.” All this in the course of lecturing Democrats about the need to change the partisan culture in Congress.
State Democratic Party chairman Mike Turnham has offered to set up a meeting between Rogers and Pelosi so he can get things off his chest. Of course, the rules of the game dictate that Rogers must pretend not to hear the offer.