As Congress moves to rein in Wall Street, measure will eliminate banks' double-dipping

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced an amendment to help consumers facing rising fees at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).  The amendment came as the Senate began debate on the financial reform bill.

"In recent years, Congress has acted to protect consumers by setting appropriate limits on the types of fees that financial institutions can charge consumers. However, one area that lacks these sensible restrictions is the fees charged to consumers for using Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).  Consumers are being charged ATM fees that are well in excess of the cost of providing services, in some instances, as much as $5 per withdrawal.  These fees are outrageous, are anti-consumer, and they need to be reigned in," said Harkin.

Senator Harkin's amendment would require the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to ensure that fees charged to consumers at ATMs bear a reasonable relation to the cost of processing the transaction. The best data available suggests that the cost of processing a transaction is no more than 36 cents today. For this reason, the amendment also sets a reasonable upper limit of 50 cents per transaction - ensuring that banks can continue to offer this service while protecting consumers from unfair fees.

"Under the current structure, banks charge consumers fees for using ATMs while also collecting fees from other banks.  This amendment restricts the double-dipping that benefits banks and costs consumers," said Harkin.  "Our mission in financial reform is to level the playing field for the average Joe.  My amendment goes to the heart of that mission, ensuring consumers are no longer victimized by unfair fees."

Prior to 1996 some card networks actually prohibited financial institutions from charging consumers a fee for using an ATM.  Instead, the costs associated with ATM transactions were paid between banks and the processing networks. However, those restrictions were removed in 1996, and the Federal Reserve now estimates that nationwide, consumers pay an average of $2.66 to use ATMs.

The amendment is particularly relevant to Harkin's home state of Iowa.  Prior to 2002, Iowans did not pay fees for using ATMs.  But in 2002, this law was pre-empted by federal banking regulators, who have since not put any restrictions on the amount of fees that banks can charge.

The amendment is cosponsored by Senators Schumer and Sanders and is supported by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumer Action, Consumers Union and the National Consumer Law Center on behalf of its low-income clients.

Prepared Floor Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Extension of the Biodiesel Tax Credit

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mr. President,

Last Tuesday, President Obama traveled to Iowa.  He visited counties and towns that have been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn.

While Iowa's average unemployment rate stands at 6.8 percent, Lee County's unemployment rate stands near 11 percent.  Wapello County's unemployment rate is at 9.5 percent.

Over 1,000 jobs have been lost in each of the three counties he visited since the recession began.

The visit to Iowa was billed as an effort to highlight the steps taken to achieve long-term growth and prosperity by creating a new, clean energy economy.  During his trip, the President visited a Siemens wind blade manufacturing facility in Ft. Madison.

The President touted Iowa's leadership in the production of wind energy.  I've had an opportunity to visit and tour the facility myself.  It's a great facility.

I recall just a few years ago speaking to the Siemens management when they were looking for a site for their first wind production facility in the United States.

I told the executives at Siemens they wouldn't be disappointed if they chose Ft. Madison for their facility, because Iowans are some of the hardest working and honest people in the county.

I'm particularly proud of the second-in-the-nation status of Iowa's wind production.

I first authored and won enactment of the Wind Production Tax Credit in 1992.  This incentive has led to the exponential growth in the production of wind across the country.

It has also helped Iowa to become a leader in the production of wind energy component manufacturing.

The emerging wind industry has created thousands of jobs in recent years in Newton, West Branch, Cedar Rapids, and Ft. Madison.

So, when President Obama says that energy security should be a top priority, I agree with him.

When he says we need to rely more on homegrown fuels and clean energy, I agree with him.

When he says our security and our economy depend on making America more energy independent, I couldn't agree more.

During a subsequent visit to an ethanol facility in Missouri, President Obama stated unequivocally that his administration would ensure the domestic biofuels industry would be successful.

The President and I are in strong agreement that renewable biofuels are a key part of our future.

Unfortunately, I believe President Obama missed an important opportunity to make a push for passage of the biodiesel tax credit.

While the President was in Iowa touting green jobs, this Democratic Congress has in effect sent pink slips to about 18,000 people who depend on the production of biodiesel for their livelihood.

On December 31, 2009, the biodiesel tax credit, which is essential in keeping a young biodiesel industry competitive, expired.

In anticipation of the expiration of the tax credit, Senator Cantwell and I introduced a long-term extension in August of 2009.  That bill was never considered last year.

In December, as the expiration loomed, I came to the Senate floor to implore my colleagues to put partisan politics aside and pass a clean extension of the biodiesel tax credit. Without an extension, I knew the industry would come to a grinding halt.

But, for whatever reason, the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate has never considered this extension a priority, and now the industry is experiencing the dire situation that I predicted.

On January 1st of this year, about 23,000 people were employed in the biodiesel industry. Because of the lapse in the credit, nearly every biodiesel facility in the country is idled or operating at a fraction of their capacity.

Nearly all of Iowa's 15 biodiesel refineries have completely halted their operations.  This has led to the loss of about 2,000 jobs in Iowa alone.

So, the thousands of jobs created by the wind industry in Iowa have essentially been offset by the thousands of jobs lost in the biodiesel industry.

You don't have to take my word for the dire state of the industry.  A $50 million biodiesel facility in Farley, Iowa, announced that they just laid off 23 workers and cut the pay for the rest of the staff.

Renewable Energy Group laid off 9 employees at a facility in Ralston, Iowa, and 13 in Newton, Iowa.

Ironically, the Newton biodiesel facility is a mile down the road from a wind manufacturing facility that President Obama visited on Earth Day last year.

And, during President Obama's trip to Iowa, he was within a few miles of three biodiesel facilities that are idled -- one in Keokuk, one in Washington, and another in Crawfordsville.

According to a press release from the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association, an Iowan affiliated with the biodiesel industry was able to speak to President Obama very briefly following the town hall session in Ottumwa.

Mr. Albin, a vice president with Renewable Energy Group, told President Obama that plants are idled and 90 percent of the biodiesel employees have been laid off as a result of the tax credit lapse.

According to Mr. Albin, President Obama assured him that he would not let the biodiesel industry die.  He recalls him saying, "I'm the President and I promise I'll do whatever I can.  Look, I'm on your side, but I've got a Congress to deal with."

It seems that even President Obama is frustrated by the lack of action by the Democratic Congressional leadership on this issue.

I'd ask unanimous consent to place the press release in the record at the conclusion of my remarks.

The board president of Western Iowa Energy in Wall Lake, Iowa, recently stated:

"Due to the continued lapse of the biodiesel tax credit, Western Iowa Energy continues to suffer from significantly limited sales and reduced sales forecasts.  Due to these market conditions, we have made the difficult decision to idle our facility. Today we are laying off 15 full-time employees. This represents more than 50 percent of our staff."

On February 10th, Senator Baucus and I worked in a bipartisan fashion to develop an $84 billion jobs package that included a one-year extension of several energy tax credits, including the biodiesel tax incentive.

Before the ink was even dry on the paper, Majority Leader Reid scuttled our bipartisan package in favor of a partisan approach.  That delayed passage of an extension in the Senate until March.

Now, it's been languishing for six weeks. Where is the urgency?

This Congress jammed through a stimulus bill that spent $800 billion to keep the unemployment rate below 8 percent.

Yet, we can't find the time to pass a simple tax extension that will likely reinstate 20,000 jobs overnight?

We're four months delinquent on our obligation to these biofuels producers, with no endgame in sight.  The lack of action on this issue defies logic or common sense.

So, while the Democratic leadership talks about creating green jobs, their action has led to job cuts.  Americans are unemployed today because of the action, or more aptly inaction, of the Democratic Congressional leadership.

The United States is more dependent on foreign oil because of the inaction of the Democratic Congress.

Automobiles are producing more pollution because we've essentially eliminated this renewable, cleaner burning biofuel.

Rural economies are being stripped of the economic gain of this value added product.

I urge the Senate to take immediate action to extend this tax incentive and reduce our dependence on foreign oil and save these green jobs.

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MOLINE, ILLINOIS - WQPT's annual on-line auction begins May 28th and concludes June 8th at 10:00 p.m.

The WQPT on-line auction can be accessed at www.wqpt.org. It features a variety of trips, restaurant gift certificates, services and PBS items.

"We're really excited about our wide variety of trips to Chicago. They make great weekend getaways" said Special Project Coordinator, Bea Brasel.

On June 7 at 7:00 p.m. WQPT will air a preview program that will give potential bidders a sneak peek at many of the items up for bid.  The auction is a fundraising event for WQPT.

Auction items include : a Lobster Feast for two with the Lobsters flown in from Maine; Chicago Cubs Pitcher Randy Wells Autographed baseball; a wide variety of trips to Chicago; gift certificates to Lunardi's Restaurant, Farradays' Restaurant and a dinner/dance on the Celebration Belle. There are passes to Brew Ha Ha and the Quad City Air Show along with tickets to the Daniel O'Donnell Concert at the i wireless Center, spa treatments at John Taylor Salon & Day Spa and tickets to the Quad Cities River Bandits. With nearly 100 items to choose from the auction is a great way for people to find a wonderful gift item and support WQPT, all at the same time.

WQPT is a broadcast service of Western Illinois University and has been the local public television station serving western Illinois and eastern Iowa since 1983.

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Supporters can vote online now through May 31, 2010 at www.refresheverything.com/missionmoneycontrol

Des Moines, IA., May, 4, 2010 - The Iowa College Student Aid Commission (Iowa College Aid) is in the running for a Pepsi Refresh Grant that would help fund an interactive, web-based financial literacy curriculum to empower teenagers and young adults with the knowledge to make smart financial decisions.

Iowa College Aid's financial literacy program, "Mission: Money Control", is just one of many projects in the running for a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant during the month of May. The 10 projects with the most votes in this category at the end of the month will receive funding.  If Iowa College Aid's project is funded, the grant will be used to expand the Mission Money Control program to include an online financial literacy resource. Over 150,000 students and families in Iowa would have free access to the program through the statewide community web portal, www.IHaveaPlanIowa.gov.

"Too many young adults graduate from high school and college unprepared to take control of their financial futures," stated Karen Misjak, executive director of Iowa College Aid. "We hope to change that  by incorporating an online financial literacy curriculum into the www.IHaveaPlanIowa.gov web portal," Misjak said.  "Students in Iowa middle and high schools already use the web portal to create high school course plans and explore career and college programs best suited to their interests, values and strengths.  Incorporating financial literacy curriculum into the web portal makes sense.  We can impact the future of nearly every Iowa student if we receive this grant, but we need to get the word out to make that happen."

The Pepsi Refresh Project is an open voting system, so public involvement is needed to receive the grant.

What you can do to help:

  1. Register at www.refresheverything.com
  2. Vote daily during May at: www.refresheverything.com/missionmoneycontrol
  3. Spread the word to your family, friends, co-workers, colleagues, and, of course, your social networking groups.

For more information about the Mission: Money Control project, contact Iowa College Aid's Information Service Center at 877-272-4456.  More information about financial aid and products and services that help Iowa families plan, prepare and pay for college is available on Iowa College Aid's website at www.IowaCollegeAid.gov.

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Taps nearly $200 Million in Federal Funds, Protects Consumer's Rights

CHICAGO - May 4, 2010. Governor Pat Quinn today announced legislation that will expand insurance coverage for uninsured people with pre-existing conditions by tapping into nearly $200 million in federal funds. As part of this legislative push, Governor Quinn is also introducing a measure to create a Health Consumer's Bill of Rights.
Both bills will help Illinois to quickly implement significant aspects of the recently-passed federal health insurance reform law.
"We must act now to increase health insurance protections for Illinois families and ensure that the state receives nearly $200 million in federal funds to help cover those who are uninsured and have pre-existing conditions," said Governor Quinn. "The state is committed to meeting President Obama's vision of expanding health coverage, making it more affordable and ensuring health insurance companies are more accountable."
The first bill allows the Illinois Comprehensive Health Insurance Plan to form an expanded high-risk pool with approximately $200 million in federal funds that will be made available starting this summer. The high-risk pool will provide affordable coverage for uninsured persons with pre-existing conditions and is required under the federal health insurance reforms.
The second bill creates the Health Insurance Consumer's Bill of Rights. That bill will:
  • Guarantee coverage for children with pre-existing conditions;
  • Guarantee residents the ability to have health insurance rescissions reviewed by the state - the same  protection available now for home and automotive insurance policyholders;
  • Guarantee women's access to obstetrical and gynecological care;
  • Ensure that all dependents under the age of 26 are eligible to remain covered under a parent's plan;
  • Require insurance companies to cover wellness and prevention benefits such as immunizations and screenings at no cost to the policyholder;
  • Require health insurers to publicly disclose important information about premiums, health care costs, enrollment and claims information.
"Illinois families and businesses invest hard-earned dollars into health insurance premiums and reasonably expect financial security in exchange," said Michael McRaith, Director of the Illinois Department of Insurance. "As health insurers impose unrestrained premium increases and more frequently deny coverage, Illinois families and businesses deserve enhanced protection from abusive practices."
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One of America's largest grassroots organizations fighting against illegal immigration has used their national network and existing state legislation campaigns to help quickly carry Arizona's SB 1070 to twelve other states!

Americans for Legal Immigration PAC has focused a lot of lobbying efforts into passing immigration enforcement legislation on the state level and has assisted in the passage of enforcement legislation in over 30 states. ALIPAC is also accredited with helping defeat state legislation to provide taxpayer benefits such as licenses and in-state tuition rates to illegal aliens.

ALIPAC has documented efforts by state lawmakers to file SB 1070 in 12 states already including Arkansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

For full details on each state that is or will be filing copies of Arizona's SB 1070, please see the list at this link...
http://www.alipac.us/ftopict-196989.html

"We are excited to see so many Americans who represent the 60-81% of US Citizens who support Arizona's SB 1070 contacting their state lawmakers to ask for similar legislation," said William Gheen of ALIPAC. "Our network of over 30,000 supporters started asking other states to follow Arizona weeks before Governor Brewer signed the bill. We will not stop until we have SB 1070 protecting American jobs, wages, health, and lives in all 50 states!"

ALIPAC activists from across America lobbied lawmakers in Arizona to help pass SB 1070. They also called to lobby Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to sign the bill, when the national illegal alien supporting groups tried to block the legislation.

Citizens who are interested in supporting SB 1070 legislation in the 12 new states taking up the bill or who would like to get the bill filed in their state are encouraged to join ALIPAC's national network via e-mail alerts at www.alipac.us ALIPAC's communications network is also available to citizens via Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

For more information or to get involved, please visit www.alipac.us

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WASHINGTON, D.C. - May 4, 2010 - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today issued the following statement as the United States Senate began debate on a financial services reform bill.  Consideration of the measure comes after Senate Republicans obstructed the bill for a full week by voting three times to block the bill from coming up for debate.

"Over the last decade, our economy has fundamentally failed to serve the hard-working families on Main Street, while Wall Street has rewarded itself with multi-million dollar bonuses.  For far too long, their mentality has been 'heads we win and tails the whole nation loses.'  Well, the nation lost.  Those giant institutions and their allies are now claiming they learned their lesson and asking that we trust them.  But we must not risk the nation's economic health again. 

"Millions of taxpayers have seen their retirement savings washed away, their homes foreclosed and many small businesses have had to close their doors.  According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the financial meltdown and recession have cost the average American family $100,000 in lost wealth and income.

"The financial regulatory reform bill is a strong proposal that will help make our financial system work for all Americans - not just Wall Street.  These reforms will help to put our economy back on solid ground by creating a stable financial sector by helping families and business owners, rather than speculating and gambling with taxpayer money.  It will also provide protection for consumers and will restore a fair playing field for community banks in Iowa. 

"Specifically, the legislation includes a number of provisions that will help make sure we never find ourselves in this situation again.  Among others, it includes the creation of a systemic risk overseer to provide comprehensive oversight to our financial sector; much higher capital standards on the largest financial institutions; strong regulation that would restore transparency and integrity to the derivatives market; the creation of a resolution process akin to bankruptcy that will wind-down the largest financial institutions without the use of taxpayer funds; consolidation of banking regulators to prevent institutions from shopping for the weakest regulation; and a consumer protection bureau devoted to protecting consumers from unfair and abusive practices.

"As this debate moves forward, I will work to ensure that this legislation is not watered down with special carve-outs or weakened in ways that will make taxpayer bailouts more likely in the future.  I will also work to further strengthen the measure by providing additional consumer protections from excessive bank and credit card charges.  Iowans deserve strong reform that protects consumer and holds big banks accountable for their actions, and I will work to make sure that Congress delivers that reform."

WHEN: 5-15-10

TIME: 1-4 p.m.

WHERE: Barnes & Noble at North Park Mall, 320 W. Kimberly Rd., Davenport, IA 52806

WHAT: Louise will be available to sign copies of her Christian Living book, Longing for Wholeness.

When you look in the mirror, who do you see–what do you see? Are you living the desires of your heart? Do you long to awaken with a joy and feel so alive? Longing For Wholeness is a compassionate and conclusive work written in a fresh style. You will stay engaged as Linda Louise fits the bits and pieces of her life together to fill the emptiness that yearns for worth and loving acceptance. In her compelling story, she reveals the dynamics of a life riddled with shame and contempt. Inside this book, Linda shares her experiences to inspire hope and how she found the freedom to express who she believes she was born to be. You will never question the hope that fills the words written here.

For more information, contact Terry Cordingley at 888-361-9473 or terry@tatepublishing.com

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Statement of Senator Chuck Grassley

Hearing of the Committee on Finance

The President's Proposed Fee on Financial Institutions Regarding TARP:  Part 2
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

I want to thank two Iowans who will be testifying on our second panel today.  They are John Sorensen, the president and CEO of the Iowa Bankers Association, and Pat Baird, the chairman of AEGON USA and the last chairman of the American Council of Life Insurers.

The statute that created TARP said that the President is supposed to propose a plan in 2013 to repay taxpayers for any losses from TARP.  However, earlier this year, three years before he was supposed to under the statute, the President proposed what he called a Financial Crisis Responsibility Fee. The President's top tax official, the Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy, admitted that the President's proposal is actually an excise tax, and not a fee. Obviously, in 2013 we will have a much better estimate of projected TARP losses than we have now in 2010.

The President said that one of the purposes of the TARP tax is to repay taxpayers for any losses from TARP.  I completely agree that taxpayers should be paid back every penny of TARP losses. Any losses that result from TARP will increase the deficit, which has ballooned under President Obama.  Therefore, to pay back taxpayers for any TARP losses, any money raised from the TARP tax would have to be used to pay down the deficit.  Let me repeat that, any money raised from a TARP tax would have to be used to pay down the deficit in order to pay back taxpayers.

If a TARP tax is imposed and the money is simply spent, that doesn't repay taxpayers one cent for any TARP losses.  It's just more tax-and-spend big government, while the taxpayers foot the bill for Washington's out-of-control spending.  I've heard that some of my friends on the other side of the aisle are already looking to use the money raised from a TARP tax to spend it under their arbitrary pay-go rules.

These are the same pay-go rules that say expiring spending provisions don't need to be paid for, but expiring tax provisions do need to be paid for.  That's inconsistent, until you realize that it leads to more taxing and more spending, which results in bigger government.

I hope that Secretary Geithner will assure us that the President means what he says about repaying taxpayers, and that the President will veto any TARP tax that simply spends the TARP tax money without paying down the deficit.

In looking at the President's TARP tax proposal, which I understand the President has already felt the need to change, I find it interesting that GM and Chrysler, which are responsible for about 30 billion of projected losses in TARP, are not subject to the President's proposed tax.

Also, Fannie and Freddie are not subject to the tax.  And hedge funds, like John Paulson's that is involved in the recent Goldman scandal, are not subject to the President's proposed tax.  Meanwhile, companies that did not take any TARP money are subject to the proposed tax. Also, companies that weren't eligible to take any TARP money are subject to the proposed tax. So, it's a questionable design that has been proposed by the President.

When I asked CBO to tell me who would bear the burden of the TARP tax, they said that one of the groups that would bear the burden of the tax would be consumers. I ask unanimous consent that the CBO letter, and a letter from the Independent Community Bankers Association in opposition to the TARP tax be printed in the record.

One of the purposes stated by the President was to reduce risky behavior by financial institutions.  However, CBO stated in their letter to me that the TARP tax "would not have a significant impact on the stability of financial institutions or significantly alter the risk that government outlays will be needed to cover future losses."

One area I'm concerned about is the effect of the tax on small business lending.  CBO stated in their letter to me that it will reduce small business lending.  This comes at a time when the President and my friends on the other side of the aisle are trying to increase the tax rates on small businesses at the end of this year.

The nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation has written that 47 percent of all flow-through business income will be hit with the President's proposed tax rate hikes.  This hits small businesses especially hard, because most small businesses are operated as flow-through entities.  I have yet to hear Administration officials even acknowledge this fact.  Instead, Administration officials choose to use the misleading talking point that the tax increases will only affect 2 or 3 percent of small businesses.  I look forward to hearing the testimony of Secretary Geithner and the other witnesses on the President's proposed TARP tax.

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Washington, DC - May 4, 2010 - Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) today signed onto legislation promoting transparency and openness in government in response to the Citizen's United Supreme Court decision in January. The DISCLOSE (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections) Act will require campaigns to release financial information to the public. The legislation was introduced by Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mike Castle (R-DE), Walter Jones (R-NC), and Robert A. Brady (D-PA).

"We have an obligation to be open and honest with our constituents throughout the political process," Braley said. "This Supreme Court decision allows big corporations to spend unlimited treasury funds to advocate for or against candidates. I believe Iowans deserve to know who is financing their elected officials. This bill provides that transparency and access to information."

The key directives of the bill are:

  • Enhance requirements for disclosure of political spending
  • Require sponsors and funders of political ads to identify themselves
  • Strengthen prohibition on coordination of political activities
  • Prevent foreign influence on U.S. elections
  • Ban pay-to-play
    • Prevent government contractors from spending money on elections
    • Prevent corporate beneficiaries of TARP from spending money on elections

 

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