Heading to Washington to be a Citizen Lobbyist for Credit Card Reform

smith_goesConsumers Union called Friday afternoon to offer me the opportunity to join them in the Capitol this week to lobby for passage of S. 414, the Credit Card Accountability and Responsibility Act. It seems that my participation in advocating for passage via http://creditcardreform.org caught their attention. My story was “one of the more credible ones” they’ve gathered and they want me to be a citizen lobbyist on Monday and Tuesday (May 4-5). They are covering the cost of the trip thanks to the support of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

I’m stoked, because Sen. Mary Landrieu is one of only 2 Democrats sitting on the fence regarding S. 414. She unfortunately voted to defeat the mortgage relief bill last week, saying that “my community bankers could be hurt.” Uh, Sen. Landrieu, your community is being hurt and we are the ones who elect you–by very slim margins each election–not the bankers.

FYI, Bank of America recently raised the rate on my credit card to 28% for no other reason than I have a fairly high balance. I have not missed a payment on any of the many cards I have and my credit is good. I’ve been quite outraged about this and sent emails to all my elected officials in Washington via the Consumers Union site. That’s what produced the phone call.

I’m going to be part of a team of citizen lobbyists working with Consumers Union this week. We’ll be calling on senators (the bill already passed the House) and their staffers, telling our stories and demanding passage of S. 414.

If you don’t already know, S. 414 protects consumers from unreasonable rate increase, bans marketing credit cards to people under age 21, sets clearer guidelines for gift cards (not allowing fees or expiration) and provides for higher deposit insurance levels–a component that also helps banks. The banking industry is squealing because the card limits hit their profit margins. But, had these despicable, greedy institutions done a better job of running fair businesses, they wouldn’t be complaining and we wouldn’t be rebelling against their usurious and unreasonable rates. What banks are doing to customers, young and old, is morally reprehensible.

You cannot escape from credit card debt, thanks to a bill passed by a bipartisan Congress during the Bush years. And now, there is blood on their hands. People are comitting suicide and murder over their indebtedness. (See Maxed Out, the 2006 documentary that exposes how banks and government created this mess.) We have to do something.

So, my advice to you is to become a member of Consumers Union, the nonprofit arm of Consumer Reports, and any other reputable organization fighting for the rights of the people. You never know, you might get to go to Washington, too.


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