Why Aren’t You MAD?!Posted: September 8, 2012
by A. E. Neuman
Broome County Executive Debbie Preston came into county office promising to “shake things up.” What she meant by that we are not sure but it appears she is hell bent on going after county employees first in order to find slackers and those on the dole. Shortly after taking office she had a “whistle blower” order established so that county employees could tell on each other if “slacking” was suspected. We don’t know how many “slackers” she has caught if any. But I am sure we will find out come election time.
Then, in classic political fashion she got her picture taken with a DSS auditor who smoked out a man purportedly seeking public assistance at DSS while driving a Mercedes Benz. The Binghamton Press obliged her narcissism by publishing the picture and the story in their daily. We are not sure if the story is true as portrayed and what role the County Executive had in it if any and probably never will know. It is however the kind of bluster and pomp that comes out of a typical “politician.” They are more often about show than real meaningful results while in office.
So, like many before her, this County Executive looks “downward” at common folk in order to find culprits and scapegoats to blame for the financial mess our governing bodies are in. The common folk, of course, did not cause the financial collapse that now strains our local coffers and leads to fewer and fewer services and angrier citizens. They are, in fact, the victims. Those that caused the mess are the moneyed people; nationally, state-wide and locally….and the politicians of both major parties who facilitated it.
Locally, you have the moneyed aristocracy of the Southern Tier, such as the Maines’, the Matthews’, the Newmans’, the Kradjians’, the Akels’ and some others who choose to stay out of the limelight but who nevertheless get the tax concessions and other special deals from city, county and village legislators and executives to further their own special interests. And, the tax breaks they get for their business ventures causes increases in what each of us has to pay in order to keep our government running. WHY AREN’T YOU MAD?!
Statewide you have deals being made between the Governor and our local state Senator regarding the divvying out of drilling rights of the people’s property, to rapacious gas companies who could care less about the environment that they personally will never have to live in, in exchange for political favors on down the road.
Nationally, you have the big banks getting “back-door bailouts” via special favors that impact us all locally. ARE YOU MAD YET?
1. Big Contracts For Food Stamps
SNAP (formerly known as the federal Food Stamp Program) increased to $72 billion last year (up from $30 billion in 2007). These benefits are now administered by big banks on contracts with each of the states. And, as the lousy economy keeps people relying on benefits to feed their families, these big banks keep benefiting more and more from the program. In New York, one seven-year deal originally gave JP Morgan $112 million for its services, but was recently amended to add another $14.3 million. SNAP is perhaps the largest most overlooked corporate subsidy in the farm bill according to Suzanne Merkelson at Republic Reports. JP Morgan of course, spends a bunch of money lobbying the Department of Agriculture on this program making sure they get just what they want – a big paycheck from state taxpayers. And, the best part? When you have a problem with your JP Morgan SNAP benefits card? You call a JP Morgan Call Center for help –and that call center just might be the one they use in India! DOESN’T THAT MAKE YOU MAD !
2. Making Money Off the Unemployed
Unemployment benefits in 41 states are now provided through Wall Street giants like Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase. And, of course, these banks take great advantage of the captive audience of people it helped put in this economic position in the first place. For instance, Shawana Busby a South Carolina user of the Bank of America program told the Huffington Post that she’s probably spent $350 in fees to access her benefits – which are $264 per week. Another user told the Post that she was pressured to adopt the prepaid card, and then when she used it to put gas in her car, the gas station put a hold on her card for$75 which didn’t come off for three days. When she called to check on the hold, she was charged a customer service fee. The bank also collects a 3-cent fee from the state each time it “facilitates” a transfer on a prepaid card. It also gets those fees for direct-depositing unemployment benefits into someone’s bank account.
And there is more …….. The July 7th edition of the local Binghamton newspaper carried a story depicting the rise in charges to pay off the interest on loans NY state took out through the federal government to cover unemployment benefit costs for those laid off in NY state. Businesses were charged an extra $12.75 for each employee to cover these costs. Guess who ultimately gets this money? It’s not the federal government. It’s the banks that loaned them the money. So, the banks, who caused the recession in the first place, now make money in interest payments from state governments that pay out unemployment benefits. ARE YOU MAD NOW?!
3. Sweet Campus Deals to Prey on Students While Distributing Federal Student Aid Money
A recent report from the public interest research group, USPIRG, called “The Campus Debit Card Trap,” exposes the deals that universities, both public and private, make with banks to produce student ID cards and more significantly, actually handle and disburse student financial aid. In other words, young people who’ve already signed up for a lifetime of student debt are being preyed on further by banks that then charge them fees just to access their money. (And remember, those same big banks are already making big bucks on student aid loans.)
USPIRG found that 32 of the 50 largest public 4-year universities and 26 of the largest 50 community colleges – the schools in part supported by taxpayers – had deals with banks to provide debit or prepaid cards for students. The campuses often get money from the banks for the privilege of access to students, and the banks then make their money back in fees – and possibly other ways, too. Oou-u-u-uu! THAT REALLY MAKES ME MAD!!
4. Cashing in on Your Tax Returns
It’s not only your unemployment, financial aid or SNAP benefits that the big banks control these days – they also might come between you and your tax return. South Carolina has taken the lead (again) by cutting a deal with Bank of America to send out tax returns in the form of – you guessed it – prepaid debit cards from Bank of America. And just like with unemployment benefits and financial aid, the bank is making its money collecting fees from people trying to access their own money. And – they got this deal through a no-bid contract with the Revenue Department. In addition to the fees, of course, they will make interest on your money while it’s sitting in their acount. REALLY MAD NOW, AREN’T YOU?! Then do something about it!
PEOPLE’S PRESS ACTION CALL:
Tell your duly elected Republican and Democrat County, Village and Town representatives to stop looking to squeeze the little guy and to go after the big fish! Go to Preston’s Tuesday morning “Open Door” session. Tell her to really begin to “SHAKE THINGS UP!” Occupy your City Hall, County Legislature and Town Hall and demand that your representatives put the squeeze on state officials and on Congress Critters in Washington D.C. to stop the banks from stealing us blind. Tell them to stop giving out special tax breaks to the local moneyed elite who just fatten their wallets while your taxes go up or community services go down. Call ‘em, write’em. Go to your local board meetings every month. Be annoying until they get the message and begin to act truly on YOUR behalf!