Citibank received $45 billion from President's Bush's Troubled Asset Relief Program. It also got an exception from President Obama through long-standing tax rules worth billions of dollars. Additionally Obama guaranteed another $30 billion in troubled assets that would remain on the bank's books. All of that was given to them because of the ridiculous and irresponsible way in which they conducted their business. Which supposedly has now made them "too big to fail." And how did the bank show the taxpayers their thanks? Anybody? 'Cause I got nothing.
What I do know is that a whole lot of folks got their credit card interest raised. Some as high as a family-budget-busting 29.9 percent. Which if you had maintained a balance of $7,500 would have raised your monthly bill by approximately $100. If you were unfortunate enough to have cards from two or three other banks who did this - Bank of America, the other $45 billion TARP recipient comes to mind - we could easily be talking $50-$75 dollars a week extra. When you called to inquire why or how that after years of being a good customer and never missing a payment, how is it that your interest rate almost doubled overnight? You would have been told in the most unsympathetic way that it was based on "market circumstances." A reason on its surface that one might have a tough time arguing with. But whose "market circumstances" are they talking about? Theirs? Which received $45 billion from us. Them? Who made more money than at any other time in their history. They? Who all kept their jobs. Or you? Who lost or are in danger of losing your job. You? Who basically in part because of this casual and self-interested move by our financial institutions are now financially living week to week or a best month to month. Plus, how exactly is this helping the overall economy? That $25-$75 a week that used to go back into the economy is now going to absolutely nothing of direct benefit to your family or the economy. You may as well take it outside and burn it. I also wonder how many personal relationships are slowly being destroyed because of these "market circumstances."
So here we stand. Over the past 12 years the government and the corporations have been doing nothing by growing and growing in their size and power. Government is now taking 40 percent of our yearly $3.5 trillion-plus budget and corporations have become "too big to fail." Corporations, by the way, whose profits have risen 62 percent since Obama took office, the highest 18-month rise since the roaring'20s. Except back then the whole country was roaring in good times.
I continue to be amazed at the mass media's narrative that Obama hates big business and big business hates Obama. The financial industries gave $7.9 million to Obama's campaign. A lot more when you add the individual contributions of the people who run these firms. More money to any one presidential campaign in the history of this country. Citibank gave $702,000 in 2010, second only to that Wall Street firm that is now a bank, but one that does not lend out any money called Goldman Sachs, at $995,000.
To be fair Citigroup has paid back around $30 billion. Too bad the rest of us didn't get their deal. Would it help? Let's see. We get a huge chunk of cash with no real payback plan, huge tax breaks, have all our debt guaranteed to be paid and, oh yeah, we can borrow more money if needed at zero interest. Now that would help the economy. I also realize that we agreed to the terms when we applied for the credit cards. But what they are doing is wrong for America.
It's like buying a toaster oven for $30 but when you get to the register the cashier says it's now $45, because the store down the street is charging $45 so "market circumstances" say they can get more. So what if the $30 oven is what got you to come into store in the first place? Of course in this scenario you can put the toaster oven back on the shelf. The family with the credit cards by law cannot.
They have to pay. "Market circumstances" depends on your perspective.
The writer lives in Calabash, N.C.