How's this for gratitude?

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Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown
Jim Hightower's Radio Lowdown

How’s this for gratitude?

Wall Street bankers, whom we’ve propped up with a $12-trillion bailout, are quietly slipping offensive little notes into your and my monthly credit card bills and bank statements. The message is: “Gotcha again, suckers.”

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Their gotcha is a rash of rate hikes and fee increases. In June, for example, Bank of America abruptly raised its fee for a basic checking account by 50 percent, and Citibank jacked up the interest rate on some of its credit cards to an outrageous 29.99 percent.

My favorite fee hike, however, is for bounced checks. This has been a steadily-rising money-maker for the industry, producing about $32 billion for the banks last year. With the current economic collapse, though, folks are taking special care these days not to over-draw their accounts, because banks hit you with a fee of up to $35 for each overdraft. As a result, bankers are collecting less money from this charge. So, to make up for their revenue shortfall, banks have merrily cranked up their bounced-check fees, which now run as high as $39 – thus socking it to some of their customers who’re under the worst financial strain.

Why have the big banks become such fee-grubbers? Because they’ve failed at the core business of banking, which is to make good loans. So they are inventing new ways to extract money from their existing customers without doing anything to earn it. Astonishingly, the fees they charge you and me now total 53 percent of the industry’s annual income!

The biggest banks charge the most, earning them the new slogan: “Fees R Us.” Meanwhile, they are lobbying frantically in Washington to kill legislation that would protect consumers from their unbridled greed. For more information, contact Americans for Financial Reform at www.ourfinancialsecurity.org.

“How High Can They Go?” The New York Times, July 2, 2009.

“Lucrative fees at risk, banks balk at consumer agency plan,” Austin American Statesman, June 27, 2009.

“Credit card issuers clamp down as new laws approach,” Austin American Statesman, July 2, 2009.

“Big Bankers Mounting Sneak Attack On Consumers, Creators Syndicate, July 7, 2009.

I’m making moves!

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