Speaking of Wall Street we all now know that crooked, deceptive practices there frequently gum up the works, but none of us were prepared for the scale of the heist involving the packaging of crap mortgage loans. However, to me the following emerging story takes the cake.
Citigroup, one of the biggest perpetrators/losers in the credit crisis, recently paid $18 million in refunds and settlement charges for stealing $14 million from customers' credit-card accounts. The bank had an "account sweeping program" that automatically removed positive balances from customers' credit-card accounts. If a customer double paid a bill by mistake or refunded a purchase, Citigroup took the positive balance without notification, in other words, outright stole it. In defense, Citi said it voluntarily stopped the program in 2003. In a statement, it added, "We take issue with the state's characterization of our conduct and the parties' voluntary settlement." More info
I have been trying really hard to learn to not get upset. I have been pelted with advise from my loving wife about "letting go" and "not sweating the small stuff". I can see a certain brilliance in this strategy. I really can. The result of my efforts at "anger management" have been pretty successful frankly. But the above story has my blood boiling. I am not just angry about yet another institution being caught with their hand in the till stealing from consumers too old or too debt sodden to figure out what is going on. I am also angry with California's AG (Jerry Brown) for letting them off the hook with a slap on the wrist fine plus restitution. I want the bastards at the top level of Citibank to do time. They are scumbags and deserve a jail sentence. If you or I were to reach into the till of a 7-11 store while a confused clerk wasn't looking, and were caught undeniably, we would do time, or at least end up with a conviction for a felony. (If you happened to be in Texas and were black, chances are that your time would be at least several months and you would do it.) As it is, about the only thing I can do is tear up my Citibank VISA and send it in. I will never, ever, do any amount of business with this bank again. That organization is definitely one of the evil ones. I urge you to consider the same if you have an account there.
When it comes to rants about congress...as Jimmy Durante used to say...I got a million of em, a million of em". But this one sticks in my craw more then most:
Recent projections by the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office reveal that the highway trust fund will run out of money during FY 2009. Unless the fund is replenished soon, federal spending on highways could decline significantly as the fund reverts to a spend-as-you-earn basis until a permanent remedy is enacted. Until then, one solution is to re-concentrate the fund's focus on highway investment and safety by abandoning the many low priority and non-transportation diversions that now encumber the federal program. The soon-to-be-empty trust fund is a direct consequence of recent congressional overspending in excess of the fuel tax revenues that replenish the fund as well as decades of congressional mandates allowing non-highway interests access to the highway trust fund. In FY 2008, these mandates are estimated to have diverted approximately 38 percent of trust fund spending to projects and programs of little value to the motorist's mobility needs.
Not surprisingly the leaders of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure want total spending raised from the current $286 billion to nearly a half a trillion dollars. The siphoning off of funds for "pork" to pass around is just too good for them to miss the chance to increase the take. To achieve this rate of funding (which always equals spending) would likely require a doubling of the federal fuel tax from its current level of 18.3 cents per gallon. Ain't that a pretty sight? In the midst of the highest fuel costs Americans have ever paid, our "leaders" want to increase the funding to a level that will doubles the tax on fuel.
The Chairman of the house committee on Transportation & Infrastructure is James L. Oberstar. You can't write to him though because he uses a web site that only allows residents of his congressional district to send him email. WTF is that!!?? This guy oversees one of the most critical congressional committees in existence, affecting all Americans, and he only takes email from people living in his district? This guy sounds like a piece of work. He funds zero of his own campaign expenses, 56% of which comes from PACs. At $1.48M he raised approximately 40% more in campaign funds then the average congressman in the 2007-2008 campaign period.[source: Federal Election Commission]. By the way, it turns out that most members of congress restrict email reception to those from residents of their congressional districts. However, you can write snail mail. Here is a list of the committee members. A quick google on any name will yield an office address. Write to them and tell them to stick it. You'll feel better.. a little.
Special Note to my always supportive Veronica: I am going to have a big rum drink and get lost in a movie. I will relax. In fact, I've forgotten the above referenced rotten, dirtbag, sunzabeaches already...kinda.