Thursday, October 21, 2010

Two Stories in the News

Two recent news stories beg for commentary.

First was this AP headline yesterday on Yahoo News: "Say Goodbye to Traditional Free Checking."

Great Caesar's Ghost!! Stop the presses! No more free checking!! AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!

So tell me, when was the last time you saw really free checking...that is, with no minimum balance, no requirement for direct deposit, no charge for checks, enormous overdraft fees, etc, etc. Never, right? As a Bank of America spokesman was quoted in the story, "Customers never had free checking accounts. They always paid for it in other ways, sometimes with penalty fees."

It's all part of how banks make money. And with new banking regulations cracking down on some of their most lucrative money-making fees, they're looking for anything they can charge to make up their losses. Sort of like the airlines.

Second story, from the Washington Post on October 19th: "Unions, Lawmakers React to Post Polls on Federal Workers." According to this Blinding-Flash-of-the-Obvious quality story, Federal workers object to being characterized as lazy, overpaid, unnecessary, and oblivious. Such charges are especially popular with conservative Republican candidates who fiercely berate "government employees" for feeding at the Federal trough (from which they desperately want to feed themselves). The article reports on a Washington Post poll that found "...most Americans think federal employees are overpaid and nearly half believe they don't work as hard as private-sector workers." It quotes Utah Republican Representative Jason Chaffetz, a ranking member on the House federal workforce subcommittee, as saying Republican anger about federal workers is fueled by "a distaste for government, fueled by ineffective, inefficient bureaucracy of the federal government."

I can tell you from personal experience that Federal government employees are just like employees everywhere else. The vast majority of them are dedicated, hardworking folks just like you and I ... well ... you, anyhow ... who bitterly object to being lambasted for cheap political advantage. There are, of course, the exceptions (and I can introduce you to a few), but by and large Federal workers are Real People ... unlike many of the politicians that blame them for every problem.

Is the Federal bureaucracy too big and expensive? You bet. Is it the fault of the average Federal worker? Nope. I blame a Congress that's too ready to solve problems by creating new organizations with big staffs. I also think that most of the incompetent Federal workers you hear about are not the folks doing their day-to-day work in the trenches - they're the political appointees who have big-paying jobs for which their only qualification is that they made a big enough contribution to the party in power (anybody remember the hapless director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency who botched the response to hurricane Katrina's devastation of New Orleans?)

Your checking account is getting more expensive and the Federal government whose services you demand is under fire for being big enough to deliver the services you demand.

What's wrong with this picture?

I wonder if Australia is hiring...

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

PNC pretty much as free checking for now..I don't care if I pay for my actual checks...but the minimum balance crap is for the birds. I don't make enough money a month to be able to have an account not charged for everything.

So yeah..I have free checking. And I'll move to a credit union before I get nickle and dimed by a bank that made bad loans and has to take it out on their customers.

Mommy and her Princess said...

Great Caesar's Ghost!! .........! AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH! Have you been watching Backyardigan's again with the grands? That's Pablo's favorite line!
So true about free checking! I am one of those that has several "free joint accounts" and stuffs cash in a bag under the mattress because I do believe in a day that I go to the bank and its frozen!

KKTSews said...

I have free checking from 5/3 bank (regional bank based in Cincinnati). I pay for the actual checks, but hey, I figure that's my property so I should. No minimum balance, either. I think it was offered when we got our mortgage from them, but it is not tied to the mortgage or a direct deposit. Of course, I make no interest on it, so they get to keep the money and make the piddly .02% interest on it. I am required only to make 1 transaction per year to keep it active.

Raquel's World said...

Another free checking account over here. Wachovia/Wells Fargo. Free, Free, Free. No min. balance, no start up deposit required, no monthly fees and you even get rewards for using your debit card and they also offer a Way TO Save account where each time you use your debit card a $ is transfered into the savings account. Which also is free. That savings account can also serve as your overdraft protection. I lOVE my bank!

KathyA said...

What's a checking account? ;)

And I'm aware of that stereotype of the federal worker. It's unfortunate as many are hard-working people.

Mike said...

"the exceptions"

There will always be exceptions in any organization. And the bigger the organization, the more exceptions there will be.

John said...

I'm going to wait until I'm not at work to post a comment about federal employees...