Stupid Gallup Poll (of the day)

Okay, Gallup does some good work, but in trying to have some daily relevance, they sure do some pretty pointless polls.  The latest:

2005-2011 trend: In general, do you think the current Supreme Court is too liberal, too conservative, or just about right?

Don’t Know category anybody?  Seriously, the American public, of which maybe 15% could even name Chief Justice John Roberts is supposed to have useful opinions on whether the SC is too liberal or too conservative?  So pointless.   Nonetheless, the following chart is interesting:

Views of Supreme Court Ideology, by Political Party, September 2011

You see that– Half of Republicans think the Supreme Court is too liberal.  Welcome to planet earth.

Debit Card Fees

There’s been a lot written about Bank of America’s plan to charge $5(!) a month for account holders to use their debit cards.  First, as a BOFA customer, this is nuts, I am so gone.  Second, of the many takes I’ve seen, I like Drum’s the best:

Unfortunately, it’s hard to explain why this is, nonetheless, a good thing. But here’s the nickel version: the old fees were largely hidden. The new ones aren’t. Overdraft fees were deliberately designed to be unpredictable, unforeseen, and primarily aimed at low-income users. Swipe fees were invisible because the credit card industry is effectively a duopoly and prohibits merchants from adding swipe fees to credit card bills. After all, if they did that, consumers might actually see what they were really paying for the privilege of using credit and debit cards.

All along, banks have had the option of reforming overdraft fees to make them fairer and more transparent. They had the option of allowing merchants to charge customers for swipe fees or not as they preferred. But they didn’t. That’s because hidden fees, on average, are more lucrative. Hidden or not, though, we’re all still paying them.

So yes: the new fees are annoying. But that’s a feature, not a bug, because now they’re right up front in black and white, which means that consumers will see them and can be properly outraged (or not) by them. This in turn means that the free market has a chance to actually work: consumers will abandon Bank of America if their fees are too high and force them to charge less. Likewise, other banks will compete openly on the size of their fees. In the end, this competition will force fees down to the lowest possible profitable level, which is exactly what competition is supposed to.

Exactly.  I was not one falling prey to hidden fees, but I can guarantee you I will find a better deal in the open and transparent marketplace than $5/month.  And so will lots of other BOFA customers.  I really have to wonder what they’re thinking– this is surely so far beyond what it costs to cover their costs and is sure to drive many customers away in a manner that $1 or $2 a month might not.  And why would anybody actually stay when there will surely be better deals out there?  Because it’s a pain to switch banks.  From a nice piece in the Times:

The first factor is the perceived pain involved with switching. And it is a pain, though not as much as you may think. It shouldn’t take much more than 90 minutes to reboot direct deposit of your paycheck and move all the automated payments from one account to another.

There may be a few hiccups over the next couple of months, but they shouldn’t take more than a few minutes each to fix. Try to leave some money behind in the old account for a few months just in case it takes billers a few cycles to make the switch.

Much depends, then, on how much you value that 90 minutes, versus the $60 in savings you might achieve in Year 1 with your new financial institution. Then you need to weigh the value of your time against the good feeling that would come from rewarding a checking account provider that wasn’t so fee-happy.

For me, there’s a lot of psychic value in not so much rewarding a new provider, but punishing BofA.  Definitely worth the 90 minutes.

Speaks for itself

The latest on Rick Perry (in one sense, small potatoes, in another, just jaw-dropping):

Paint Creek, Tex. — In the early years of his political career, Rick Perry began hosting fellow lawmakers, friends and supporters at his family’s secluded West Texas hunting camp, a place known by the name painted in block letters across a large, flat rock standing upright at its gated entrance.

“Niggerhead,” it read.


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