Wall Street’s Hellish Rip-Off of Jobless Americans

Kap / Spain, Cagle CartoonsHere’s a diabolical idea from the hottest level of hell, down where Wall Street’s fiendish schemers and scammers dwell.

Conspiring with state lawmakers, such powerhouse banks as JPMorgan Chase, US Bancorp, and Bank of America have devised a new way to enrich themselves by – get ready to gag – ripping off unemployed Americans. As Lily Tomlin has said, “No matter how cynical you get, it’s almost impossible to keep up.”

Bankers have slithered into the process that states use to pay monthly jobless benefits to hard-hit people. These payments used to be mailed to recipients or deposited directly into their bank accounts, but Wall Street lobbyists – using phrases like “win-win” – have enticed states to switch the payment system to bank-issued debit cards. This saves states the cost of mailing or direct-depositing the money, but banks don’t do anything for free – someone must pay for distributing the benefits to individuals. Guess who?

Yes, the unemployed! Now, each month, the costs of distribution, plus a generous profit for the bank, are automatically deducted from the meager benefits the jobless receive. Then the bank hits them with ATM fees and other charges for using the card. How handy – in the sense that it puts bankers hands right into the pockets of unemployed people, forcing those in dire need to pay millions of dollars in unnecessary fees to some of the richest bankers in the land.

California, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, and Nevada don’t even allow recipients the choice of direct deposit, forcing them into the clutches of a particular bank, which violates federal law. But the whole system of profiteering on jobless people is an obscene violation of America’s fundamental sense of morality.

For information and action, go to National Consumer Law Center: www.nclc.org.

National radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the book, Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow, Jim Hightower has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be – consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks. Twice elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Hightower believes that the true political spectrum is not right to left but top to bottom, and he has become a leading national voice for the 80 percent of the public who no longer find themselves within shouting distance of the Washington and Wall Street powers at the top. He publishes a populist political newsletter, “The Hightower Lowdown.” He is a New York Times best-selling author, and has written seven books including, Thieves In High Places: They’ve Stolen Our Country And It’s Time To Take It Back; If the Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates; and There’s Nothing In the Middle Of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos.

This piece was first published on Jim Hightower’s website.

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