Grinding down the public
A recent commentary in American Thinker reminded me of yet another example of seemingly minor abuse of citizens by the government – minor until one considers the overall accumulation of these unjust burdens. The regulators who are supposed to proctect the public mostly protect the interests they are supposed to regulate. Nobel Prize-winning economist George Stigler calls it "regulatory capture."
I had thought the practice that victimized me to be too minor to complain about at any great length, although I did file a report with the NCUA, the National Credit Union Administration. The response I got was the typical stonewall we citizens have come to expect, and sadly to accept, from the lords and masters who make the rules – rules to benefit themselves, and not the people who pay their salaries through taxes.
Describing the incident briefly, I accepted a check as payment of a debt from a credit union account holder. Because I did not wish to wait for the check to clear, I decided to cash it in person at the local branch office. Once there, I was told I would have to pay a six-dollar fee to cash the check unless I deposited it in my bank and waited for it to clear.
I protested to the teller that nothing on the check warned me of any such fee. Had I been informed of the fee, I would have had the payor add it to the amount on the check. A credit union supervisor haughtily advised me that “this is our policy.” I left the credit union and deposited the check at my bank.
One of the things I included in my complaint to the NCUA was a request that the NCUA describe to me exactly how this ruling, justifying the undisclosed fee, benefits the public. Of course, it does not, and the NCUA ignored me. We peasants can be so annoying.
Again, I did not at first decide to make the proverbial federal case out of this. Six dollars is not enough to break me, and I chalked it up to a lesson learned, to be applied the next time I am offered a credit union check as payment.
But the article cited above, referencing a Post Office ruling, made entirely for its own convenience, not the customer’s, alerted me to the general phenomenon of the many and unjust ways in which we the citizens have become accustomed to being snubbed by our overlords. There is a pernicious cumulative effect when we allow things like this to be steamrolled over us, no matter how minor the incident seems.
I intend to ask my congressperson, if I can ever get a face-to-face meeting, to make a law that requires federal regulators to explain (not explain away) exactly how each rule they pass benefits not only the institution they are regulating, but the general public. Clearly, the six-dollar fee was not the idea of the NCUA; rather, it was written by the credit unions themselves for their own benefit at our expense. I emphasize that I am objecting not necessarily to the fee itself, but to the nondisclosure of it on the check in the endorsement field.
There are much greater ways in which federal regulators take the side of the entity being regulated against the rest of us. Perhaps if the government can learn to be faithful in the smaller things, it might eventually decide to apply the law to benefit not the special interests, but the public.