Most people are scared and angered by what has transpired in the last year and half. Certainly a lot of people are hurting and in dire financial straights as a result of the events that have led up to this recession. And once again, our Government has demonstrated it's ability to do nothing about it other than to increase our debt, spend money we DON'T have, to stand around bickering and pointing fingers at one another, and refusing to cooperate and solve the problems.
Well since they're either too reticent, too partisan, or just too unconcerned to address (much less begin to solve) the problems, here's my personal laundry list of things that would go a long way toward getting the ball rolling in the right direction:
1. Reinstate Glass-Steagall. The central banks have proven that they are too corrupt and irresponsible to be given Carte Blanche. They've been robbing their customers and the American taxpayers as well. The very concept of combining investment and commercial banking is outrageous, given the propensity for abuse, and obvious conflict of interest that arises from allowing banks to underwrite their own loans.
2. Abolish the Federal Reserve. Dissolve their charter, and return control of American currency and the production of it to Congress. Have US Marshal's and the Secret Service secure and take control of all currency printing and coining operations, physical plant, and manufacturing machinery. This sham has gone on for about 97 years too long and it's time to end it.
3. Repeal the Bankruptcy law reforms passed in the last decade and return to the people the protections that were taken away (But big businesses STILL enjoy). Restoring some semblance of parity would go a long way toward getting these large corporate entities to deal fairly and honestly with their customers.
4. Regulate the reporting of credit bureau information and the way the information is collected. Remove penalties to scores for making inquiries, and reinstate the mandatory removal of derogatory items after seven years--no more selling it to a new holder and keeping it on the report for 10...20..30 years and so on.
5. Reinstate government regulation of Telecommunications, Cable/Internet providers, Utility companies, and transportation services such as airlines, Rail and Bus. The prices for these services have skyrocketed over the last 20 plus years in spite of assurances by industry experts that de-regulation would actually drive prices down though enhanced competition. Nice fairy tale, but unfortunately, that's all it was. Time to pull that one back. And the safety records of airlines and rail systems have been abysmal in the wake of their relaxed regulation.
6. Ban the use of credit reports as a basis for hiring decisions. An individuals personal credit history has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on their ability to perform their job effectively, and this practice should therefore be abolished. And for those who argue that such checks are necessary in positions where the employee would be handling cash and payment transactions such as bank tellers, payroll, and accounts payable clerks, etc. I would suggest that such credit checks be on a voluntary basis as part of a standard criminal background check. This type of verification has been around for the last fifty or sixty years. The current policy is just an excuse for additional privacy invasions and it needs to be outlawed.
7. Cap credit card interest rates at 25%, PERIOD! I'm not even going to elaborate. As everyone already knows, even at 25% most people would consider it usury. Additionally, interest rate increases on existing balances should be outlawed, late fees restricted to no more than 10% of the delinquent payment amount (NOT the entire balance) , and the billing cycle based on a thirty day month (NOT 21 days as some outfits are doing at present) with the option for consumers to set payment dates that correspond with their payroll dates.
8. Impose limits on derivatives trading. While investing in options may be a fine way for an airline to control it's fuel costs , it can also (if abused) drive the price of gasoline to $5 a gallon. We saw that right before and as a precursor to the big financial meltdown. People couldn't afford the fuel, the prices for everything else went up because of increased fuel costs. Then suddenly, people couldn't afford their mortgage payments anymore, and it was like a snowball rolling downhill. When an investment house is leveraging it's securities at levels that go as high as 300% that's beyond unethical. This HAS to be controlled.
9. New limits on corporate lobbying, particularly the financial aspects of it. It's okay to ask for laws that help ones business, paying an elected official to make it happen is NOT! And that's what we're really talking about here. If the Supreme court says it's alright, they're WRONG! It is NOT all right. Mr. and Mrs. everyday American citizen do not have $100,000 "campaign contributions" to give to their congressman to get education or clean water bills passed; so why should Toxins Amalgamated be allowed to pay the guy a hundred grand to allow them to knock down the school for the new plant and pollute the city reservoir?
10. Institute right of removal for ALL elected officials. When it is shown that an elected official is conducting government business affairs contrary to the wishes and best interests of his constituents (See Roland Burris, Rod Blagoyevich), the members of the constituency should be given full recall and removal rights regardless of the term and time of service remaining. The truth is elected officials would conduct their affairs much differently if they thought their jobs depended on it. And in the case of Senators and representatives (this is sidebar to the issue), those juicy "Full salary for life" pensions should be reduced to 1 year for every year of service in that elected capacity. That way we'd know that what we are paying them is whatever the salary is that they vote for themselves, and for how long we'd have to pay it. Then the motivational aspects of the pension system would become apparent.
11. Labor laws need to be revised yet again to take us back to a more equitable system. All full time employees should receive a total of vacation days and Holidays during the year that total not less than 14 days. As part of the upcoming Healthcare reform, ALL working Americans should have and be able to afford health insurance for themselves and their families. Employee pension savings program such as 401K should have hardship withdrawal regulations loosened so that money can be accessed more easily in times of financial difficulty. The loophole that allows employers to work an employee 31 hours per week to withhold benefits should be closed, and employees working over 8 hours a day should be paid time and a half for every hour over the standard 8 hour shift unless they are working an agreed alternative schedule (ie: 4-10, 3 off schedule, etc.). and all hours over 40 should be overtime, with holidays at double time. Minimum wage will never keep pace with inflation but $10 per hour (for now) seems not unreasonable.
12. Bank fees and ATM fees need to be capped. $3 on a $60 ATM withdrawal is a little steep. And in the wake of the news that in return for bailing them out, these banks are going to raise all our fees..well that just makes it all the more egregious. Overdraft fees are nothing short of legalized theft. A $28 overdraft charge for an overdraft of 4 cents the day before payday is unacceptable. Bank regulators need to step in and shut this kind of abuse down PERMANENTLY!
In short our systems of government, banking and business are broken. They're all just overrun and consumed by greed. This attitude of "Hey as long as I get mine to HELL with the rest of the world" has become so prevalent that we're probably just one or two more big financial scandals away from a depression that will set us back to the stone age. I'm not such a fool that I don't know these aforementioned measures are unpopular. But who exactly are they unpopular with? The very people who benefit from the lack of them now. And if you look down the list you will see that most of these are laws or regulations that we've already had at one time or another, but were gradually taken from us and "Sold" off by our own government. If you want to know how we got to this point, a lot of it appears above. If we don't get some of it back soon, there will just be more trouble. Now would be a good time to contact your own elected representative with a few "Suggestions" of your own. Maybe forward my little rant on to them if nothing else. But we all need to do SOMETHING, that's why I wrote this. So jump in, jump on, whatever. Because doing nothing is no longer an option.