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Nevada: A good place to visit,
but do you want to live here?

Expanded from the 6-15-2008 Daily Sparks Tribune

2009 Nevada Press Association first-place award winner
Updated 9-20-2009

Bad news pounded Nevada like earthquake waves through the high desert last week.

The Dean's List

   The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.

RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006

The 2009 first-place Nevada Press Association award winners
Tony the Tiger & the flaky NFL
Barbwire / 11-30-2008
Deregulation is never having to say you're sorry
Barbwire / 8-3-2008
Nevada: A good place to visit, but do you want to live here?
Barbwire / 6-15-2008

 

We stand among 44 states with abominable protections from the depredations of the insurance industry. Worse, we are one of the reasons for it.

Nobody remembers the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945. (Yes, another disaster from the powerful and thoroughly corrupt red-baiting legend from Nevada.)

Because of it, insurance is among the few businesses (baseball is another) exempt from federal anti-trust laws. I went into the subject thoroughly on my new live call-in show (Barbwire.TV, 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. Monday thru Friday, 775-682-4144) last week and will continue working on it.

U.S. insurers are free to conspire to fix prices and cut up the market to their mutual advantage. Not content with a license to steal, they invent other tricks like phony malpractice insurance crises to jack up rates and limit patient and consumer protections.

No law is worth the powder to blow it to hell if the government will not enforce it. Action against rich and powerful corporations has not been a federal priority and won't be this year as we close out the seventh consecutive term of the Reagan administration.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has often noted that Americans are funding both sides of the war on terror. We do the same with companies that exploit us. Corporations can not only pay for smarter lawyers than governments, but because legal expenses are deductible on tax returns, we also subsidize their machinations to flout the law.

Nice racket.

Perfectly legal.

BigOil has gotten so good at it that the majors can hide in plain sight, eliminating competition and colluding to fix the price of gasoline without ever talking to each other. I have chronicled the clever strategy at the Barbwire Oilogopoly Archive for more than a decade.

Alas, until the day Britney Spears starts picketing ARCO stations, national media will show no interest.

Little people get crushed in the process. Nevada, as always, is in the forefront of abusing our citizens.

Perhaps because we've lived off the earnings of vices for decades, we don't exhibit a lot of moral courage to defend our citizens against exploitation.

We promote addictions: drinking, smoking, gambling, whoring and even expanded our market by legitimizing loan sharking.

Janie Boykins-Raschilla reviews banking documents. (Photo: Debra Reid/Daily Sparks Tribune)

Checking the Moneychangers
Special Internet Edition 12-18-2007
UPDATE 12-30-2007: USeless Bank still stonewalling
UPDATE 1-6-2008: Service charges pass $700 mark

In 1981, Democratic Gov. Richard Bryan called the Nevada Legislature into special session to repeal Nevada's usury laws so that Citibank/Citicorp could locate a credit card processing facility in Las Vegas. The bank was so ashamed of having a Gomorrah South postmark that it juiced into existence not only its own zip code by also a mythical city, "The Lakes, Nevada," to print as its return address.

The name proved prophetic, as Citicorp has been a principal player facilitating the drowning of a nation in debt.

The Nevada Legislature tried to reign in payday loan companies in 2005 but had to revisit the issue in 2007 because of the loan sharks' creative maneuvering around the law.

The experience of Janie Boykins-Raschilla stands as evidence that similar attention needs to be paid to victims of exorbitant bank overdraft charges.

Sparks Tribune readers were informed last year in this column and in stories by Janine Kearney and photographer Debra Reid about how an overdraft of 34 cents turned into a Nevada version of Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.

Ms. Boykins-Raschilla, who is disabled and lives on a fixed income, was given a debit card by U.S. Bank on Oddie Blvd.

She made the mistake of taking it for a test drive when she had only $1.16 on deposit. She made a one dollar purchase at a convenience store, which tacked on a 50-cent service charge.

USeless Bank could have simply refused the $1.50 charge, but its computers were set to allow the debit plus $37.00 and $7.00 for every day the account remained in an overdrafted status.

Bank employees simply told her that there was nothing they could do.

Tough.

These days, the moneychangers in the temples of Mammon don't even pretend that there are costs involved in carrying an overdraft.

Actually, the expenses are so minimal as to approach non-existence — just electronic pulses on a computer mainframe somewhere between here and India.


AB 478: Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley's 2007 remedy for continuing payday loan abuses

Jury orders U.S. Bancorp to pay $17.6 million in Ponzi scheme

But the costs and burdens imposed by big banking on little people are very real indeed.

With the way financial institutions share data today, she will never be able to get another checking account while the loan-shark usury remains on the books.

"At least 1,000 banks are encouraging customers with low balances to overdraw their checking accounts, allowing the banks to skirt credit laws and collect billions of dollars in new fees," The New York Times reported in 2003.

"The banks' programs cover checks that would otherwise bounce and even allow people to overdraw their accounts with A.T.M. and debit cards. The fees are paid disproportionately by low- and moderate-income people, according to industry consultants who help banks create and market the programs," the Times reported, adding "unlike lines of credit, which typically charge annual interest of up to 20 percent, the new programs charge flat fees (which) translate into an annual rate of 1,000 percent or more."

It has gotten worse for Janie Boykins-Raschilla. The bank has been tacking on charges every month since I last wrote about this in January. The most recent total is close to $1,000.

But that's not all.

A Texas-based collection agency has started calling, demanding $806.59 for that 34-cent overdraft.

VIctor Hugo, call your office. Somebody's stealing your story.

This needs to be made a political issue this year and the 2009 legislature needs to act to protect the vulnerable like Janie Boykins-Raschilla.

Stay tuned.

Be well. Raise hell.


Smoking Guns...

Nationwide survey reveals health insurance company abuse
Daily Sparks Tribune 6-12-2008

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., introduces a bill to remove insurance industry anti-trust exemption
U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, 6-20-2006

Phillips, Kevin; Numbers Racket: Why the economy is worse than we know
Harper's Magazine; May 2008; page 43
Phillips has authored numerous books on history and politics over the past 40 years. His most recent, Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism, was published by Viking on April 15, 2008.


...and more ammo




The campaign against forcibly-paid newspaper obituaries
And they wonder why the newspaper business is dying?

 

The Dean's List

   The Dean of Reno Bloggers could very well be Andrew Barbano, self-described "fighter of public demons," who started putting his "Barbwire" columns online in 1996 and now runs 10 sites.
RENO NEWS & REVIEW, 11-9-2006

The 2009 first-place Nevada Press Association award winners
Tony the Tiger & the flaky NFL
Barbwire / 11-30-2008
Deregulation is never having to say you're sorry
Barbwire / 8-3-2008
Nevada: A good place to visit, but do you want to live here?
Barbwire / 6-15-2008



NAOMI WOLF: Fascist America in 10 Easy Steps
There are some things common to every state that's made the transition to fascism. Author Naomi Wolf argues that all of them are present in America today.
Alternet 5-20-2007

Johnson, Chalmers; REPUBLIC OR EMPIRE? A National Intelligence Estimate on the United States; Harper's magazine; January, 2007. I love it when heavy hitters validate what I've been saying for years in the tiny Sparks Tribune.

Barlett, Donald L. and Steele, James B.; America: What Went Wrong? (1992); America: Who Really Pays the Taxes? (1994); America: Who Stole the Dream? (1996) ; Andrews & McMeel/Universal Press Syndicate. For additional comments on the work of the two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning team, use the NevadaLabor.com search engine and sweep for "Barlett."

Review of Alex Carey's Taking the Risk Out of Democracy:
Propaganda in the US and Australia

The Orwell Diversion by Alex Carey
Excerpted from the book available below

ORDER Taking the Risk Out of Democracy
Corporate Propaganda versus Freedom and Liberty
By Alex Carey
Edited by Andrew Lohrey
Foreword by Noam Chomsky
University of Illinois Press

     SEE ALSO: Lapham, Lewis H.; Tentacles of Rage: The Republican Propaganda Mill, A Brief History; Harper's Magazine cover article; September, 2004, page 32.

     By one conservative estimate, the corporate right has spent about $3 billion over the past three decades manufacturing public opinion to suit big business goals. Lapham's number covered the early 1970's to the present day. Alex Carey noted that by 1948, anti- New Deal corporate propaganda expenditures had already reached $100 million per year, not adjusted for inflation, for advertising alone. (Carey, ibid; page 79)

     Adjusted for inflation, that 1948 $100 million becomes $801,659,751.04 in 2005 dollars.

Conservatives Help Wal-Mart, and Vice Versa
As Wal-Mart struggles to rebut growing criticism, it has discovered a reliable ally: conservative research groups.
New York Times 9-8-2006; Free registration may be required.

      BARBWIRE: Labor Day '94: People vs. corporate con job, 9-4-94
Chilling forecasts from Alex Carey

      BARBWIRE: The Nevada Republican Party Becomes Communist, 3-30-97
A prescient Plato on the dangers of oligarchy

The sands of time do not cloud the long memories of the sheiks of Araby
Barbwire 9-10-2006

      Rinfret, Pierre A.; Peace is Bullish; Look magazine, 5-31-1966

 

 

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Copyright © 1982-2008, 2009 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, editor of NevadaLabor.com and JoeNeal.org; a member of Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO, and the Reno-Sparks NAACP. As always, his opinions are strictly his own. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

 

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