Monday, September 14, 2009

Getting Hammered

No, not that kind of hammered.

When I introduced this blog I mentioned that I would occasionally toss a rant into the crockpot. This is such a time

This morning PJ handed me a document she had withheld from me since Friday because she didn’t want to ruin my weekend. Good move. It was an announcement from her deputy district attorney association that healthcare costs were going up again this year, this time by 16%. Not to be outdone, dental care costs are jumping 24%. In the past the County of Los Angeles has paid for such rate increases, without hitting the DDA’s paychecks.

So, we have our own personal context to the current healthcare “debate.” I use quotes because what we have is not a debate.

Earlier this summer my Discover Card interest rate was 8.9%. It is now 13.25%. This was no trigger tied to an introductory rate. I called Discover, knowing I was wasting my time, and knowing I would be talking to someone who just needs a job and cringes over calls like mine. I asked the reason why, also knowing that I have not missed or sent in any late payments. The answer—economic conditions. Let me see, the current Federal Reserve prime rate is 3.25%, the lowest in years. Economic conditions my ass. I’m going way out on a limb here and guess that just maybe the new regulations passed by Congress and signed into law in May of this year allows ample time for the jacking up of rates until the law takes full effect next summer.

Here’s a little tart morsel: penalty fees for the major credit card companies (there are six who control 90% of the business) increased to $18 billion in 2007, up from $10.7 billion in 2002, a 68% increase in five years. Talk about an ROI (return on investment) on ramping up their lobbying and campaign contribution budgets.

Paying the bills is a major duty for domestic engineer guys. I used to pay bills once a month. There was always a grace period. I screwed up and missed a payment maybe once a year, but not due to cash flow issues. It was due to screw-up issues. Now I pay bills throughout the month. Mistakes happen. Their “gotcha” devices are a maze to manage.

Managing a household budget is becoming as challenging as managing a small company. Most of us did not matriculate through college with a business degree.

On another front, I have a bit of a lead foot. Even so, my speeding tickets are few and far between. My recent infraction cost $370, nearly twice as much as the last time. PJ has a bum knee and recently forgot to hang her handicapped parking decal on the mirror, though it was in full view on the dashboard. The fine was $283.

Me thinks more major grumbling should be directed at the healthcare industry, the credit card industry, and the punitive fines from our municipalities, than flapping our jaws over taxes, which at least on the federal level have been holding even or going down for most of us. States are another matter.

These other areas are much more taxing.

Here in lies the end of this rant.

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