Helen of Marlowe's Blog

Closing the account — again

Posted in "North Carolina" by helenofmarlowe on May 12, 2012

“No, they would have just thrown it away.”   

I paused to take this in, and then said  “That does not reflect well on Bank of America.”

As the two or three people who read my blog may remember, I canceled my Bank of America credit card last November, in solidarity with Move Your Money. I cut the card with scissors, enclosed it with my zero-balance bill, wrote on the bill “Please close this account” and mailed it in the envelope provided with my final – I thought – bill.

Since I paid off the complete balance and stopped using the card, I thought everything was in order. Silly me. I continued to get mailings from BoA, but since I wasn’t using the card any longer, I didn’t pay much attention. Promotions of some sort. Occasionally I’d get a bill showing a zero balance and wondered what’s taking them so long to let their computers know I’m no longer one of them. And then last week I opened an envelope from B of A and saw that I owed $78.94, and that total included interest.

Ok, now I’m not happy. Forget the phone, forget the mail – I drive to a local branch of B of A and ask to see a bank officer.

“I canceled this credit card in November, and yet I see that I’ve been charged $50.95 for Sirius XM” I told them, “and there’s also a charge for Blue Mountain. And interest charges.I don’t understand why charges were posted in March to a card I canceled in November.”

“How did you cancel the card?” the officer asked.

“I cut it with scissors, enclosed the cut pieces in the pre-addressed envelope, and wrote a note on the bill saying Cancel this account.”

“Oh, that doesn’t close the account,” she said rather nonchalantly.

“Why not?”

“Because that department doesn’t have the authority to close accounts.”

I replied with something that seemed obvious to me, but then what do I know. “Then shouldn’t they have sent it to someone who does?” I asked.

“No, they would have just thrown it away.”

I paused to take this in, and then said “That does not reflect well on Bank of America.”

As it happened, I was in the local branch on the same day that the shareholders meeting in Charlotte drew crowds of protesters. About 750 people marched from three directions to the Bank of America corporate headquarters, and six people had been arrested by 3 pm, according to The Charlotte Observer.

They’re protesting Bank of America’s policies on foreclosures, and the bank’s support of the coal companies that extract coal using mountain-top removal, a practice that benefits a small number of corporations while destroying homes, properties, streams, mountains, and health.

And the lavish pay package for the CEO of  “an institution with the worst rap sheet in town.  You don’t have to be good at your job to earn seven million dollars in a year. All you need is a few friends in the right places — places like the Federal Reserve, the Justice Department and the Treasury Department,” says Richard Eskow.

But back to my charges – I learned that a recurring charge will still be honored even after an account is closed.  I had actually tried to close Blue Mountain, but had learned, like many other unhappy users, that it can’t be done.  So I thought, ok, let them charge my account and the charge will be denied, since the account is closed.   Wrong.

And Sirius XM? Well, it seems the only thing of interest that I can get on Sirius is Thom Hartmann (with lots of commercials) or Pete Dominick. I say or, instead of and, because they are scheduled at the same time. So I can hear one or the other. Time to cancel.  Of course, Sirius XM also has good classical music, a symphony station, pops, jazz, and news,  but we can get all that from local FM radio stations.

And even though I thought I had closed my BOA credit card in November, I guess I don’t mind adding to the numbers of accounts being closed on the day of the big protest. Not that my one credit card account will be noticed. But it’s kind of like voting for president – we know that our one vote isn’t going to make a difference, but we do it anyway.

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It’s Move Your Money Week! And so I did.

Posted in "North Carolina", Economy, Government, Government Politics, Local Government, NC, Politics, Winston-Salem by helenofmarlowe on November 11, 2011

This is Move Your Money Week. And so I did.

 I’ve been happy with Wachovia for more than 30 years. But Wachovia is no more, and Wells Fargo, nee Wachovia, is now charging fees that Wachovia never charged while, according to Reuters, Wells Fargo paid Chief Executive John Stumpf compensation worth $21.3 million for 2009. A year ago, Wachovia/Wells Fargo began charging me a $25 fee for my unsecured line of credit. I’ve had that unsecured $15k for thirty years, never paid for it, and never used it except occasionally due to carelessness – it’s my overdraft protection.

Maybe Mr. Stumpt is worth $21million a year, every year. It doesn’t really look like much when compared to the $43.7 billion in taxpayer bailout funds that went to Wells Fargo. And the $25 annual fee for an unsecured line of credit that I almost never use isn’t going to make a difference in my vacation plans.

But our country’s rising income inequality troubles me. Increasingly wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, and not because they have worked harder, but because they have influenced the laws that rig the rules. We like to think of America as the land of opportunity, and that once was true. But for the last three decades, economic mobility has become harder in the US than in Denmark, Australia, Norway, Finland, Canada, Sweden, Germany or Spain.

Much is amiss in the rigged and under-regulated economy that has seen corporate taxes as a share of the nation’s tax revenues plunge from 28 percent in 1956 to only 11.8 percent in 1996 and to below 10 percent in the early 2000s.

The share of all property taxes paid by corporations dropped from 45 percent in 1957 to 16 percent in 1995 (more recent figures are hard to find, as most states have changed their accounting rules to not break out corporate from personal tax payments, in response to lobbying pressures from corporations).

After decades of campaign contributions from lenders, legislators have re-written the banking rules to favor the banks over the people. Much of this corporate-friendly legislation was even written by the Corporations, instead of by the legislators whose job it is.  (See  http://alecexposed.org/wiki/ALEC_Exposed  — ALEC Exposed.) So today I moved my checking, savings, money market and credit card to the State Employees Credit Union. And as soon as I’m sure all my charges have cleared, I’ll cut my Bank of American credit card and mail it – or maybe take it – to the bank that notoriously took bail-out funds, gave CEOs huge salaries, and paid no taxes.

It isn’t that hard to Move Your Money, and it will help the economy of your own community.

US Uncut – Coming Soon to a City near You

Posted in Economy, Government Politics by helenofmarlowe on March 2, 2011

US Uncut!

As everyone in the house that night will attest, I got pretty excited when I read about UK Uncut in the January 21 issue of The Nation.   I fervently hoped this movement would cross the ocean.
To summarize (and oversimplify) the article (read Johann Hari’s article in The Nation!),  UK Uncut began when a group of British citizens in a pub wondered why the new Conservative government in Britain is imposing the most extreme cuts to public spending since the 1920s.  Among their many observations was this:  All the cuts in housing subsidies, driving people out of their homes, are part of a package of cuts to the poor, adding up to 7 billion pounds. Yet one of Britain’s leading cellphone firms, Vodafone, owed an outstanding bill of 6 billion.
So if this one company had been made to pay its taxes, these people would not have been forced out of their homes.
These people announced a national day of protest, and soon, so many British citizens were staging protests that several Vodaphone stores were shut down.   My favorite line in this story:

“Prime Minister David Cameron wants axed government
services to be replaced by a Big Society, in which volunteers
do the jobs instead.  So UK Uncut announced it was the Big
Society Tax Collection Agency.”

The movement has indeed jumped over the ocean.  See http://usuncut.org/

In the US, $100 billion annually is lost because of corporations putting their money into offshore tax havens.   Instead of cutting funds to schools and libraries and CPB, why not just collect the  $100 billion owed to the US by corporations.

One thing you may not know, if you get your news from mainstream media (or from Fox Broadcasting, heaven forbid) — or even from NPR, which has now become dependent upon corporate sponsors — is that in Wisconsin, Governor Scott Walker — who has been in office only five weeks! — inherited a state budget surplus.  In five weeks  Governor Walker  turned the surplus into a deficit.

The governor called a special session of the state legislature and signed business tax breaks  that lower  tax revenues.  These tax breaks were not offset, and this helped turn a surplus into a deficit.  As Brian Beutler  writes in Talking Points Memo, “public workers are being asked to pick up the tab for this agenda.”  These acts by Governor Walker  turned Wisconsin’s surplus into a deficit.

Now this quote comes not from a liberal source, but from the respected financial publication  Bloomberg Businessweek:

Walker and other Republican leaders in the state have made a big deal of the “gold-plated pensions” of state workers, yet median state and  local pensions in Wisconsin are less than $23,000. Fewer than 2 percent receive pensions of $100,000, the threshold bantered around in the ress as commonplace. These pensions are most likely the managers and top administrators, as well as senior police and firefighters, who, coincidentally, are excluded from Walker’s draconian legislation.

According to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, 83 of the top 100 publicly traded corporations that operate in the US exploit corporate tax havens. Since 2009, America’s most profitable companies,  including Exxon, GE, and Bank of America such all paid a grand total of $0 in federal income taxes to Uncle Sam.

I hope this movement swells beyond containment.   I will not start a chapter in Winston-Salem, but if one does form I will join it.


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