Employees, consumers and middle class lose ground in Washington, D.C.
In two unrelated developments this week, America's middle class took additional punches from the Republican majority in Congress and on the Supreme Court. One involved the abusive practices of credit card companies, while the other involved steps to emasculate the Whistleblower Protection Act by the Chamber of Commerce.Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion for a Supreme Court majority that upheld a "credit relief" company's ability to avoid a class action lawsuit. Three Oakland, California consumers sought the latter status in order to make economically viable their effort to seek justice arising out of CompuCredit Corporation of Atlanta's despicable small-print charges. In essence, the company offered consumers a $300.00 credit card, but then, in the fine print, charged them annual service fees totalling $257.00 ($29.00 initial fee; $6.50 monthly fee and $150.00 annual fee--plus any interest the consumers actually incurred--presumably at a typically usurious rate of 19-30 percent). The Court held that Congress' recent Credit Repair Organizations Act--even though it was clearly intended to end similar practices--did not authorize the abused consumers to file a legal action if there was a mandatory arbitration provision also buried in the transgressor's fine print.
In the other situation, the National Journal reported on a Chamber of Commerce campaign that has successfully moved legislation through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The proposed law would require whistleblowers to report their observations internally, rather than directly to legal authorities. Critics of the bill have adroitly identified the obvious motivation and impact of the bill: employees with inside information of illegal activity will be squelched before their revelations can reach law enforcement. Potential whistleblowers will be intimidated, placed at risk and potentially "bought off" if necessary, before fraud and misbehavior see the light of day. At a minimum, the companies will gain time to "cover their tracks" before the legal authorities are alerted to illegal behavior.
The Chamber of Commerce is, in our humble opinion, the single most despicable influence in American public life. While it once represented Main Street America and may have played a beneficial role in domestic public policy, in twenty-first century America, it is simply the most powerful tool of the "one-percenters" who dominate public policy with excessive profits and are squeezing the middle class out of existence with their overwhelming financial power.