This may be redundant given a post a week ago about ditching your bank for a credit union. However, this goes along with my general idea that if you cannot for one reason or another take the best possible action, just avoiding the worst companies and switching to the lesser of the evils still makes a difference.
What can you do? Switch away from these companies for your banking and credit card needs! For credit cards, Providian isn't terrible, in that it donates mostly to the Democrats.
Why These Companies Specifically?
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, MBNA, Credit Suisse First Boston, Bank of America and Wachovia were among the top contributors to Bush's two campaigns in 2000 and 2004, giving more than $300,000 in total donations. MBNA also was one of the top contributors to Republican candidates and committees in the 2004 elections with some $7.3 million in political donations. And now they're poised to reap rewards from their investment.
Additionally, a bit of clicking around Responsible Shopper shows that Bank of America and Citigroup are more or less the worst of the worst in terms of corporate responsibility.
Right now, the House is debating the [moral] bankruptcy bill, already passed by the Senate. It will most certainly pass in the House.
The [Moral] Bankruptcy Bill
A great majority of the families that declared bankruptcy last year did so because of a major life crisis—huge medical bills or layoffs—that threw them into a spiral of debt. Now, after a multi-year, multi-million dollar lobbying effort by credit card companies, Congress is poised Wednesday to approve a sweeping change in bankruptcy law that would make it impossible for folks who have been dealt a bad hand to get a clean start. The law actually gives credit card companies new ways to seize your home and car if you get into financial trouble.
After accepting more than $620,000 from the lending industry to his various PACs, Republican Majority Leader Rep. Tom DeLay has scheduled the vote for Wednesday. The change in bankruptcy laws is a clear example of whose interests the Republicans in Congress are serving. But, in a betrayal of middle class families, as many as 90 Democrats may also vote the wrong way. Both Republicans and Democrats need to know that millions of us oppose this bonanza for corporate contributors that hurts families who are the victims of circumstances beyond their control.
What's wrong with the bankruptcy legislation? A lot. More than 1.5 million families had to declare bankruptcy last year—half because of unexpected and extraordinary medical expenses. Millions more totter on the edge of bankruptcy. The large numbers of bankruptcies is a clear sign about the tenuous state of the economy—millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules could be pushed at any time to financial ruin by job loss, business failure or major medical expenses. The pressure valve for these families has historically been bankruptcy but now Congress is making things tougher for these hard-working folks in order to secure billions in profits for creditors.
The legislation Congress will vote on is more than 500 pages long, all in highly technical language. But the Republican leadership and corporate lobbyists are in such a rush to push it through that the text is full of misspellings and repeated phrases. Representatives might not even be allowed to make amendments. But the overall thrust is pretty clear:
- Make families pay more to creditors, both in bankruptcy and after bankruptcy, so that instead of offering a clean start, a bankruptcy filing will leave families burdened by credit card debt, car loans, and continued payments to banks or to payday lenders.
- Make it more expensive to file for bankruptcy by driving up fees so that the people in the most trouble can't afford to file.
- Make it trickier to get through a bankruptcy so that more people will get pushed out of bankruptcy with no debt relief.
- Make it harder to repay debts by increasing the minimum payments in repayment plans.
- Preserve at all costs the millionaires' loopholes—special privileges that allow the super-rich to escape their debts by hiding their money in special exemptions and trusts.
Huge corporate bankruptcies, like Enron and WorldCom, have cost thousands of people their jobs. But instead of addressing corporations run amok, Congress is helping these companies run rough-shod over Americans.
The changes in bankruptcy laws are just the start. This week the radical Republican leadership, like Rep. Tom DeLay, have declared a war on ordinary Americans with a corporate trifecta: bankruptcy law changes, a permanent repeal of the estate tax (which only affects the super-rich), and a budget that cuts health care and explodes the debt.
Here are some good resoures about the bankruptcy legislation.
"The Debt-Peonage Society," Paul Krugman, The New York Times, March 8, 2005
"The Growing Threat to Middle Class Families," Prof. Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law School
Public Campaign Action Fund on the connections to Tom DeLay
Also: much of the text here was cut-and-pasted from MoveOn.org. They are collecting money for radio ads to play in representatives hometowns reporting how each representative voted on the bill (the link has the radio ad text).