Friday, April 17, 2009

Banking Crisis

I opened my first bank account with less than five dollars at the Citizens and Southern Bank branch on Peachtree and 12th Street. I cut through their parking lot every day on my way to and from Clark Howell Elementary School 50-plus years ago. The school, on 10th Street between Juniper and Piedmont, is long-gone in favor of a fire station and the old brick bank building replaced by a sleek, modern structure that fits in with the new skyscrapers in my old neighborhood. After a generation or so of cross-breeding the bank now calls itself the Bank of America. BOA is a whale of a bank. It swallows up all the little Jonah Banks and Trusts, Pinocchio Savings and Loans. Which is their right and manifest destiny under every economic theory with the possible exception of Socialism and taxpayer bailouts, whichever comes first. Since they are so good at doing the things banks do, lend money to people who can and will pay it back, safeguard deposits, and provide customer service with a smile rather than resorting to automated telephone labyrinths.

Bank of America has been among banks criticized recently in a couple of states that issue debit cards for payment of unemployment benefits. Although unemployment checks can take 10 days or more to arrive, debit cards are issued immediately upon application. Additional attractions of the debit cards instead of unemployment checks include convenience for those without checking accounts, as well as avoiding the need to carry cash. The nation’s largest banks have contracted with those state unemployment departments to provide the debit cards. However, the banks are charging fees against the debit cards, "A $1.50 here, a $1.50 there. Forty cents for a balance inquiry. Fifty cents to have your card denied. Thirty-five cents to have your account accessed by telephone," according to a report on CNN.

I’ve had some troubles myself with Bank of America. They quit sending me my cancelled checks, a major inconvenience for me, because I sort my checks like a game of solitaire to allocate my expenses according to my income taxes, Schedule-C, Schedule-E, Itemized Deductions, separate piles for medical expenses, mortgage payments, charitable contributions. For a while, BOA sent me little Monopoly Money photocopies of my checks printed front and back on standard size stationary. Then they quit sending those. I called the bank several times. The last time, they promised to send me copies of my checks. Instead they sent me about 25 envelopes with printouts saying most of my checks were unavailable. So I set out one morning last week to move my account to a different bank. Of the 8 or nine bank branches closest to my home, more than half are owned by Bank of America. All but one of the remaining banks are either in danger of going out of business or are in the process of being taken over by a national mega-bank, which is itself in need of a bailout from the federal government. Two banks told me they could not return my cancelled checks or provide me copies. One said they did not know if they could or not. The other wants to charge me $3 per month for the special service.

After I finished my banking business, way into the lunch hour, I was hungry. Maybe I could find some place where I could have it my way.

Copyright 2009 by William C. Cotter


tommy said...

I've changed banks at least three times over the years when they were bought by B of A. I tried them for a while, but they nickeled and dimed me to death, so to speak, with all their fees, so now I try and steer clear of them, but I've had to move several times, most recently from Nations Bank five or six years ago, to do it.

john said...

I wish I could show you the Hoppalong Cassidy bank that I got from the same C&S that you banked with back in the day.
You may have had one just like it. It's a plastic bust of Hoppy. There is a slot in the crease of his ten gallon hat to drop coins into.
Like you though, I'm stuck in the same rut with BOA. I'm thinking of cutting a hole in the ole mattress, and making all my deposits there. Wouldn't draw much interest, but at least the taxpayers wouldn't have to bail me out.

Paw Paw Bill said...

I do not remember ever getting a Hoppy bank. Maybe you deposited more money than I did.

Yvonne said...

I know it's a major inconvenience, but, if you sign up for online banking, you can view your cancelled checks on line.

We get copies of our checks still. But if you expenses in several catergories on one page, the only thing to do is make copies of the copies. I then circle the appropriate check for each category before filing.

robert said...

The economic crisis is out of control, as Bank of America and the corrupt corporate elite continue to wage class warfare. It's time we hit back hard. It's time we fire CEO Ken Lewis.

Our good friends at SEIU have been courageously leading this fight. We need to follow their lead and encourage everyone to demand the resignation of Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis. After all, Lewis works for us now. Tens of billions of our taxpayer dollars went toward bailing out Bank of America, but what have we received in return? More predatory lending, billions wasted on exorbitant salaries and executive bonuses, and corporate lobbying against Employee Free Choice.

Watch the video narrated by former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, and see for yourself why we must fire Ken Lewis.

Send this video to your friends and family, spread the word and Digg it. Tell them to join us Tuesday, April 28, in demonstrations across the country to fire Ken Lewis. And when you protest, make sure to yell loud and clear. Otherwise, Bank of America and other Wall Street firms will continue their economic rampage, obliterating our country's working class.

As blogger Marcy Wheeler suggests, we need to fire Ken Lewis for over $3 billion in bonuses Merrill Lynch execs received after Bank of America took them over. We need to fire him for Bank of America's continued predatory lending, soaring credit card fees, abhorrent mistreatment of workers, and for standing in the way of Employee Free Choice. We need to fire him for being the poster boy of corporate greed.


Robert Greenwald
and the Brave New Films team


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