__ The Senate Financial Overhaul Bill __ For Consumers, It’s a FinReg Flop!

 

On April 19 I wrote an article critical of an amendment proposed by Senate Durbin to the Senates’s FinReg bill which would have capped the interest rate ceiling on consumer loans at 36%. Senator Durbin said that he tried to pick an interest rate high enough that even the biggest banks could not object.  Guess what?  They objected.    

Senator Durbin did not get his way with his 36% interest rate cap.  What the American public got instead was a kick below the consumer belt by Senate Republicans.    According to Reuters, the Senate  gave a 35 -60 thumbs-down vote on the Senator Sheldon Winehouse amendment, that could have put the brakes on predatory consumer loan lending.  What the Senate did for consumers was to let the large national banks, which do most of the credit card business in the United States, continue to be allowed to charge basically any rate anywhere that they wanted.  Their rate limitations, to the extent that there will be any, will largely be determined by the laws of corporate friendly Delaware and South Dakota which, essentially, have no interest rate limitations for consumer loans.  States will not be allowed to set their own interest rate caps within their states on lending done by national banks.

I haven’t looked at the analysis of the Senate vote, but I think I can safely stick my neck out and say that the 60 votes were overwhelmingly Republican ones.  If they want to vote their conscience for special big banking interests, then so be it.  But voting against an issue that gives the states more regulatory rights doesn’t quite jibe with the Republican Party line – that is, unless it is convenient to do so.  The Winehouse vote just confirms that the Republicans use state’s rights’ issues only when it is politically expedient (Bush-Gore comes quickly to mind).  I guess that there isn’t a constitutionally based principle in their bodies when it goes against their Wall Street buddy-banks.  It’s sickening. 

 Unless the House of Representatives does something drastic in the reconciliation process (don’t get your hopes up), the die is cast.  Of course, that means that we can look forward to endless TV commercials; mail solicitations will start rolling again; and people will continue to get fleeced.  But according to 60 Senators, that’s OK.  In fact, not was it only OK, they pressed the button that will make it happen.

I wouldn’t count on increased disclosure on credit card statements to do much of anything to alter the consumer loan landscape.  You don’t have to put in capital letters on the front of someone’s credit card statement that they will likely get in financial trouble.  They already know it.

A STORY OF FASHION CYCLES IN MY FAMILY

One of my late father’s recurring clichés was that “everything runs in cycles.”   From the time I was in about the 5th or 6th grade, he and I would have various debates about the cyclical nature of things and events.  Most of the time our discussions were jovial and agreeable;  other times, a little more contentious.

I recall that many of our more humorous debates over the years centered around clothing style and fashion.   As most young kids do, I always wanted to be wearing the latest – meaning, what all of my most popular classmates were  wearing.  This developed into a mini-obsession that included only wearing particular brands.  I didn’t want to necessarily wear this stuff to be cool, I just wanted to be free from any ridicule.  Typical peer pressure.

 In high school  (the late ’60’s) the rage for guys was “Florsheim” wing-tips , H.I.S. shirts (with little loops on the back, called fruit loops), V-neck sweaters (alpaca, if available), and so on.  My father graciously went along with a lot of this but, being a child of the Depression, he had his limits.   He permitted me to buy, within reason, most of the clothing that I wanted, but there was a rule:  nothing was to be thrown away.  He was of the strong opinion that if you wait, it will come back into fashion.   I really didn’t have a problem with this rule since I knew that by the time it returned to favor, if it ever did, I would be long gone.  As it turned out, and time wore on over the years, I learned that my mother quietly donated most of these clothes-in-waiting to the Salvation Army.  What she didn’t give away disappeared in other mysterious ways to which only she was privy.

There were two items of clothing in our life-long running fashion debate, however,  that lasted far longer than any of the others.  One of the items was a shirt and the other was a coat.  They both provided fodder for endless teasing, ridicule, laughter, criticism, and entertainment for not only the two of us, but for others for whom we would occasionally put on a  performance.

The Tom Jones Shirt

In 1969, while a sophomore at Boston University, I made a date with a girl introduced to me by my roommate’s girlfriend.  I decided that I wanted to impress her, so I made reservations for one of the most exclusive French restaurants in the city.  I had a problem though in that I did not have anything sufficiently new or nice to wear to such a fine eatery.  I decided that I needed to do some quick shopping.  I remember finding a small shop in downtown Boston that had been in business for many years.  Their specialty was hand-made custom shirts.   I discovered from them that they would be delighted to make any shirt, in any style, and with any material that I so desired.  I still don’t know what possessed me at the time (maybe Jimi Hendrix and “Are You Experienced?”), but I requested a Tom Jones style shirt with massively puffed and pleated sleeves, french cuffs, pearl studs and cufflinks, made from an aqua-colored Irish linen with tiny embossed white decorative swirly designs.  It was a strange variation of a tuxedo shirt (think of a Pirate shirt), but without the ruffled front.  I went the whole 9 yards and had it monogrammed, too. The shirt was outrageously expensive for my circumstance  at $ 75.00 ($ 5.00 would last me a week as walking-around money), but I wanted to look good and impress.  So I ordered it up and was properly fitted.

The shirt maker did an express job for me, and I picked it up the next day.  Saturday night could not come too soon, or so I thought.  I tried it on when I got back to the dorm and decided to get reassurance from some of the guys on my floor.  The first guy I saw asked me, “Why didn’t you get the matching Harlequin hat?”  The opinions were unanimous.  I was in trouble, and still needed a new shirt for the date.   I ended up wearing an older sport coat and pants with white shirt, and striped tie.  I wasn’t able to impress my date at the restaurant either.  Everything on the menu was, naturally, in French.  All I could read was English and Latin.

I never wore the shirt.  A year or two later I divulged my idiocy to my parents.  My dad surprisingly perked up and asked if I would send the shirt to him.  He said that he could use a shirt like that.  I told him that I would more than oblige him.  Later, I heard from my mother that the debut of the shirt never occurred.  Although dad had planned the perfect occasion for his and the shirt’s joint appearance – just a regular night out with friends for dinner and dancing – she laughed so hard before they got out of the house that the shirt’s inaugural was immediately cancelled.  The shirt continued to stay on the rack.   He continued to threaten to wear it, but I suspected that he knew all along that it was an eternal lost cause.

In later years, long after I had my home and family, I would occasionally ask dad if the old Tom Jones shirt was back in style yet.  “You wait, it will be soon enough, and I’ll be ready,”  he would say.  I recall once hearing him say that maybe it was acquiring collector’s value.  It was a running joke between us off and on for about 20 years    Probably the only reason that the joke didn’t continue was, in the interim, another item superseded it.

The Brown Plaid Coat

In 1978, as a first-time homeowner, I discovered that one of my new duties was to shovel snow from my sidewalks and driveway.  While I had a nice winter dress coat  and a fairly sporty winter coat for leisure, I really didn’t have anything suitable or warm-enough for long periods outdoors.  I decided to do something about buying an everyday work coat.

It must have been buyer’s impulse, or the allure of the soft sheepskin lining , but I decided upon what could best be called a brown plaid woolen car coat.  It didn’t have a hood, but it had a luxurious large roll-up collar and a button-down front.  I didn’t like zippered coats then for some reason.  It’s outstanding feature, however, was its striking plaid.  We’re talking Scottish plaid, but not in Tartan colors, but soft-tones of baby-poop brown.   The coat had to have been unique.  I know that I never have, and hopefully never will, see another one like it.  It was an immediate success functionally.  I was toasty warm, and I didn’t seem to excessively perspire while shoveling or working.  But the coat did have immediate problems.  It got the occasional odd look from people.  I felt that some people who took special notice were thinking, “Who or what  vomited on that guy?”

Since I only wore the coat on ruggedly winter days, primarily in my yard, the coat worked just fine.  After a few years though, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  It went to the closet for good, or so I thought.  Eventually though my father noticed somehow that my colorful coat had disappeared.   I was now wearing a new, trendy, goose down, ski jacket with a detachable hood – nice!  When I told him that the old coat would soon be on its way to the Salvation Army, he decided to intercept it.  I reluctantly agreed but warned him that if he didn’t wear it, I was going to repossess it and donate it as I had originally intended.

Over the next several years, I actually inquired of my mother about the use and/or disposition of the coat.  “Oh, dad wears it all the time.  He loves it,” she would confide to me.   I was pleased and, eventually just let the subject pass. 

During the intervening years, some things had changed in my life and I had moved several times.  Finally, I settled into a new home and again found myself without a work coat.  I think that you have probably figured out by now that I wear a suit to work and, consequently the bulk of my clothing budget is encumbered for dress clothes.  In short, I needed another snow-shoveling coat.

My mistake was that I mentioned this to my dad.  He said, “Why spend the money on another coat now when I could return your brown coat?  It’s still in great shape.”  I now know why I accepted his offer.  Sometimes, I am just plain cheap.  Plus, I really wasn’t inclined to be in the market for  a work coat.  I had other places to spend my money at the time.

So, there I was –  just like old times.  And, good old trusty took me through several more  blustery winters in fine stead.  It was still a nice, serviceable coat – still doing its duty.

But, as before, I eventually tired of it again.  I was starting to feel like an anachronistic, grumpy old man wearing the thing.  So, off it went to the Salvation Army.  In its honor I gave it a rather generous valuation for tax deduction purposes.  It deserved it.

But that’s not the end of the  story.

Two years later, while driving to a work appointment on a very cold, dark, gray day, I noticed something out the driver’s side of my car.  I immediately slowed to take a closer look.  Walking quite briskly with his head down was a man wearing THAT BROWN PLAID COAT.   I hit the brakes to take a closer look without trying to be too obvious.  At that point, he took notice and looked up.  I smiled and waved back at my old friend.  It had been a long friendship.  If the new owner only knew.

Oh, yeah.  I told dad.  He was pleased.

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Published in: on April 23, 2010 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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New HIS and HERS Stackable Washer/Dryer Combo with QUAD Pedestals – UNBELIEVABLE!!!

It’s been under the radar for a long time now.  In spite of the secrecy, my sources have managed to get an actual picture of a completed prototype.  Sure enough, it’s the breakthrough that everyone has been waiting for in the washer/dryer arena.   Though the prototype looks a little wobbly, company engineers have provided assurance that this is a minor structural issue that will be resolved quickly. 

It is an impressive unit (I guess that you can call it a unit).  “What is has,” said a company spokesman, “is real heft.”  “And convenience, too,” chimed the design engineer, who conceived the product.  “It’s similar to his and hers sinks.  I mean, who doesn’t want double sinks when you wash and dry your face in the morning.  It just seems natural for the on-the-go couple to want the ultimate in personal, yet conjoined, twin washer/dryers.  It’s a totally now thing.”

It goes without saying that the unit will have the latest features – touch controls, steam options, 36 cycles, delay start, 20.6 cu. feet total capacity, 24 temperature settings, anti-vibration technology, pre-wash/bleach/softener dispensers, and energy-star compliance.   The quad pedestals are really what sets this product apart.  After the success of the useless single pedestals ($ 200 each), it was determined that if the concept was ever going to evolve, a double or triple stack wouldn’t quite do the trick.  Why not go all the way?  Sheer design genius.

As expected, the combo unit is dearly priced – $ 6,899 in white;    $ 7, 499 in blue or red (shown); and $ 8,999 in full stainless.  No rebates or reward points.

Even the kids are expected to love the product.  With the combined extra height and the front-loading doors, it is hoped that that the family children can be encouraged to play “clothes-toss” with their socks and soiled garments.  I agree that this could be a wonderful teaching tool for our children and grandchildren.

Pre-orders will be taken beginning in late fall.   All of the appliance stores intend to carry them in spite of the big price tag.  It is projected, however, that serious consumer spending will be on the upswing by then. 

The name of the manufacturer is being temporarily withheld at this time for security reasons.  However, I believe that I know the general place.  When the product is google-searched, the result comes up CENSORED. 

Dang.

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Published in: on April 7, 2010 at 10:03 pm  Comments (1)  
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