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September 30, 2011

the banks install 5$ debit card fee

I first heard about the news of Bank of America's five dollar debit fee yesterday.  Actually, scratch that — I first heard of it earlier this year, as The Banks were implementing their enormous fake-grass roots publicity push that could be summarized as Concerned Citizens sock-puppeting, "The Congress wants to take away your debit card!" in a very shrill manner.  Turns out The Banks are very prescient, as it seems that our debit cards are being taken away (at least as a non-fee service).

Now it may seem like a bit of a head-scratcher, being forced to pay a fee to access your own money — no, not credit, but your actual own money.  But you see the exegesis of this whole thing is the Dodd-Frank Act, and the Durbin Amendment therein, which limits the amount of fees that The Banks can charge retailers to process debit transactions.  So The Banks lobbied against it vigorously, because they stood to lose ten or so billion dollars a year on these fees (which is a lot of cabbage, even though only a fraction of the bailout The Banks received from the government).  So if The Banks can't screw the retailers then they gotta find someone else to screw, because the bottom line shall not be fucked with.

Which makes the customers of The Banks just the wrong people at the wrong place at the wrong time.

I'm actually shocked that the story is getting the front page play that it is.  The Banks have been quietly raising consumer fees for half a year now, once it became clear that they could not buy enough congressional support to block it.  But maybe this is a conversation we can start to have.  In fact, maybe we can even discuss whether consumer banking should be more of a utility than a commercial venture, and maybe even if usury is as good of a thing as everyone is pretending it is.

(See also this Awl piece on bank fees, which finally actually feels relevant.)

Posted by mrbrent at 10:05 AM

September 29, 2011

way to go, distributor

Thanks to the failure of the local distributor to get copies of the New York Times to my neighborhood this morning, I was forced to instead read the Daily News on the subway this morning.

As a result, I learned that some dude stopped a daylight attempted sexual assault by yelling, and that some mobbed-up dude who is a suspect in a stabbing is or is not friends with stars of a show called "Mob Wives" (also: there is a show called "Mob Wives"), Ashton and Demi are splitting up, and then some actually useful baseball news.

I love all of God's newspapers, believe me, and I grew up with some famously not-sophisticated ones, but not only is there actually a show called "Mob Wives", but it's something the Daily News feels is news.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:06 AM

September 28, 2011

adjusted for inflation on the awl

This may be the proudest I've been — new post up at The Awl right now, concerning the maybe-specious question of how much actors have been paid, and how that's changed over the years.  It's lite, and is dripping with back-of-the-envelope.

But the source of the pride is that at the top of this little guy is a big picture of William Powell.  So for the next 20 minutes, every single person that visits the site will be presented with the searing eyes of William Powell, of whom I am a big, big fan.

That is awesome.

(And yes, there will be more pieces on the general topic of "Adjusted For Inflation".)

Posted by mrbrent at 12:40 PM

September 27, 2011

brief things 9.27.11

Here are some brief things that are either detestable or awesome:

In the past two hours, someone has arrived at this website after Googling a series of phrases that lead me to believe that they are looking for footage of a Nancy Grace nipple slip.  For which there are not enough "EW!"s in the world.

Capital One is running a big old two page ad in the papers this morning touting "HIGH YIELD FREE CHECKING".  The APR of this high yield account is 1.01% (guaranteed for a whole year!).  And The Banks wonder why they have no friends.

And finally, I think this is something like the 3,500th post on this website.  I will now commence breaking my arm patting myself on the back.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:38 AM

September 26, 2011

moe tkacik on confidence men

The Ron Susskind behind-the-scenes book on the first couple years of the Obama administration, "Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington and the Education of a President", was definitely on my radar (he's been all over the TV/radio/Internet in support of it), but I was on the fence on reading it.  It's kind of a bleak picture, word was, with the president being not so good of a manager of people, leading a team constantly in conflict, wrong decisions inadvertently being made.

So when I saw that Maureen Tkacik had reviewed it for Reuter's, I was cheered — I love Tkacik's writing and she's quite knowledgeable about matters involving finance and other issues that I am not so knowledgeable about it.  And it's a terrific piece that you should all read:

Suskind hammers home a lesson the Beltway cynistocracy really badly could do us all a favor by growing up and learning already: It didn’t need to happen this way. Plenty of smarter, wiser and more fundamentally decent people were standing on the sidelines, doing their best. Regardless of the presidency and regardless of the party.

And it absolutely confirms the fact that I am not yet ready to read that book.  So please excuse me while I try to find that hole in the sand in which I bury my head on the darker of days.

(Actually, there's a bit of a rallying cry buried in the end of her piece that we would all do well to heed.  Sadly, there aren't many out there with the sheer wattage of Tkacik.)

Posted by mrbrent at 5:03 PM