No taming this wily columnist’s focus on Orange County – Orange County Register
Some of you may remember me as the genius keeper of the old OC Watchdog column; other than “shrew” or “nagger”. I’ve been likened to a snake, accused of “pension jealousy” and attacked for participating in mass murder (for writing about COVID-19 vaccines through the lens of evidence and not delusional paranoia).
“I enjoy your articles,” a man who had landed in hot water once told me. “I’m not sure if I’m happy or horrified that I’m actually speaking to you.”
I hope readers will be more happy than shocked as I focus again on Orange County’s local governments and how they spend your money (the water district manager earns What?!), consumer issues hurting your wallet ($35 for each overdraft?!), and public pension schemes and nonprofits, as well as smart donations and scammers.
I’ll be keeping an eye on cool research from UC Irvine and other universities (sorry to report that just one or two alcoholic beverages a day is linked to a reduction in total brain volume) and add a long-standing passion on the subject Stall: How well do our schools educate our children (31% good at math?!).
A few things won’t change much: We’ve done a lot of work over the last five years to report deaths and fraud at California’s woefully underregulated private addiction treatment centers, and we will continue to do so, although I will be more free, to share my thoughts. (That is, if you or your child is struggling with an addiction, for the sake of good in heaven and earth, please start with a local doctor who specializes in addiction addiction medicine and then find a local public or established nonprofit Program that knows how to use it drug-assisted treatmentwhich helps a lot more than traveling thousands of miles from home on a “sober vacation” to pet horses for $3,000 a day.)
I will continue to report on the federal fiasco that has allowed millions of pounds of highly radioactive nuclear waste to accumulate in dozens of commercial reactors like San Onofre over the last 40 years. Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money” was a hit in 1983 when the Nuclear Waste Policy Act was signed, directing the US Department of Energy to begin accepting waste for permanent disposal in 1998. We lost Summer a decade ago, and the DOE still hasn’t accepted an ounce of waste, at a tremendous cost to taxpayers.
Other things that might be important: I have two daughters who fight a lot. This is me in the Cookie Monster onesie helping my 11 year old Falcon Girl Scout make cookies. That’s me tearing my hair out as my 17-year-old decides between UC Irvine and UC Davis for college. I’m an ardent fan of South Coast Repertory’s A Christmas Carol and documentaries and all theatre, so you’ll occasionally be exposed to human interest stories as well.
tell me something interesting Send us tips. Send us documents. Send us copies of your outrageous healthcare bills. We want to bring light into the darkness and help to correct wrongs where we can. So let’s start with nasty “garbage fees”.
Have you ever had a string of payments that took your bank account into negative territory, generating $35 overdraft fee after $35 overdraft fee? Have you ever used an off-network ATM to find that it triggers not one, but two fees – one from your own bank and one from the bank that owns the ATM – which can cost $5 or $6 or $7, just to withdraw $20?
“When shopping, it is common and useful to compare prices. But what we often don’t consider are the hidden or junk fees that businesses — including banks and other financial services providers — add to the actual cost of a product or service,” says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is poised to take action about that. “These fees can take many different forms, including fees for late penalties, overdrafts, returns, using an off-network ATM, money transfers, inactivity and more. Junk fees take tens of billions of dollars out of American households every year.”
Everyone hates junk fees, and to that end, the CFPB wants to hear your horror stories (and so do we). Lend him an ear by submitting your story online by March 31st https://bit.ly/36Iol9E.
The CFPB – formed after the Great Recession to protect the little guy from big bad banks – will use its findings “to inform our use of rulemaking, governance and enforcement tools to tackle junk fees.”
Almost 2,000 comments have already been received. A taster: “It’s $95 a year just to have a credit card. Why?” asked Woodland Hills’ Darlene Miller.
“Overdraft fees do nothing but punish people for not having money by charging them for not having money,” Aliesha Wallach wrote. “They should be illegal.”
“I absolutely agree that all companies need to be more transparent about fees,” wrote one anonymous commenter. “Banks, car rental companies and hotels are among the worst offenders. … Banks need to have some sort of grace period before an overdraft charge kicks in, especially when it’s just a few cents or a dollar at stake. Why even $35 for the fee? That’s a hefty fee for what is usually a small overdraft. It’s a different way people get hit when they’re already down. I’ve been in the position in the past where five bucks could make or break my day. It’s not easy and our system is designed to hurt people in this financial situation.”
Consider: Banks reported $279.1 billion in profits in 2021, up $132 billion from 2020, the FDIC said. all by itself, JPMorgan, the country’s largest bank by assets, reported record profits of $48.3 billion.
fees helped. “Financially vulnerable and financially able” Americans paid nearly $12 billion in overdraft fees in 2020 alone, according to the Financial Health Network Report 2021.
Joel Schwartz, founder and co-CEO of DoubleCheck Solutions – which offers technology to help consumers stay on top of overdrafts – said action is essential to eliminate “predatory behavior in the financial market”.
“As the Bureau considers increased consumer protections…it is critical that any new rules in this area give consumers the right to choose, in real time, how to manage transactions that would overdraw their accounts,” he wrote. “It is critical that any new regulations enable bank and credit union customers to take control of their finances as early, transparently and fairly as possible. To do this, financial institutions need to look beyond overdraft fee revisions to re-examine the value these programs offer and ensure consumers truly understand what they are getting.”
Or, really, what they lose.