Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Something is Broken

* Stringham high: Spring
* Stringham low: Crazy financiers and politicians
* Stringham super-high: All we need is love, and yes, love does keep us together.

Today I received a notice in the mail from GE Money Bank saying my line of credit account had been closed. They cited my credit report, citing “length of time since last delinquency,” something else about a delinquency of trade, and too large a percent of my credit limit is used. Well, the credit limit percentage used is partly because we closed my Target Visa, we know…the rate was just going too high, and we were tired of the interest rate creeping up over and over again, so we closed it. But delinquencies? I have NO delinquencies. They cited changes on my TransUnion report. Wondering if this was something showing up from the healthcare bills and collection agencies impacting my credit report (but not thinking so because my credit monitoring service hasn’t notified me of any changes yet), I called the number the GE Bank statement gave for TransUnion. It was completely automated. I had to enter information, which basically resulted in the automated system giving me a spiel about how the credit report is great but is nothing compared to the score and how the score is used to determine your creditworthiness, and then it asked if I wanted to purchase my score. I chose the option for No. Then it asked again, as if I had not heard the question properly the first time. I chose No again. Then it told me about how they have a credit watching and reporting service you can purchase. I chose the option for No, just trying and waiting to speak to someone. Then it went on a minute-long spiel about how vital credit monitoring is to protecting your credit, blah, blah, blah, blah. Again I chose No, thank you. Then I was told a copy of my credit report would be in the mail and I could expect to see it in a week or two. Then I was disconnected. Seriously.
What a freaking scam.

So then I called GE Money Bank and asked them what was going on. I was told that GE was doing away with the Lines of Credit. So this is happening to everyone? I asked. Yes, the lovely Indian woman told me. So why, I asked, were things like delinquencies and issues with my credit report cited? Well, she said, they also do use credit reports when doing this.

Seriously? They’re closing all Line of Credit accounts anyway, but they feel the need to do checks into everyone’s credit reports? Sounds fishy. And expensive.
And so now I’m going to have another impact on my credit score—my percent of credit used…Oh, and this was AFTER GE already had lowered my account limit to below the amount I owed on it…seems to me GE has been fucking over my credit on its own initiative so it can say it can drop me because of unfavorable reports on my credit score. Honestly, what the hell is happening in this world?

Our financial lives—hell, even our jobs—are now determined by our credit reports and credit scores, but we now have no control over our credit and those reports. We’ve been dutifully paying down my debt for the past two years, without adding any more, other than the house and the heat pump. The credit cards are never used. And we somehow manage to funnel every spare (and not-so-spare) cent into those debts so they don’t grow. And now, my credit is taking a hit because some douchebag bankers couldn’t properly manage MY money, and they’re laying the blame on me and causing MY credit to suffer for it. All this with the healthcare system (don’t get me started) and people trying to hold me responsible for debts that AREN’T mine?

What the fuck happened to the accountability in this country? I’ve played the game, I’ve played within the system, playing it like I was supposed to, like a dutiful little consumer, and now that I’ve been trying to break out of the system, I’m getting screwed over (just like every other American, I know…right now I just feel like I’m being singled out, what with all these issues converging.)

I’m self-employed and lose basically 45% of my income to taxes. Yep, you read that right…FORTY-FIVE PERCENT…so if I make as much money before taxes as I did as an employee of someone else right now, I’m actually bringing home far less money. Plus I don’t get health insurance. (So no, I don’t feel bad about applying for public aid whenever things are lean right now—I’m now paying double for it.) Mike is now working a factory job, which we’re happy about. He has a job! But he now makes less money there than he did on unemployment. He has to work a 40-hour week plus about 9 hours of overtime just to make before taxes what he got from unemployment. And still no health insurance (nope, he’s got to make it through 6 weeks as a temp, then 60 days as a full employee before he can even HOPE to apply for health insurance). Oh, and that overtime is mandatory. He’s going to have at least 48 hours this week, probably 56. No, he can’t turn it down even if he wanted to…not without getting points.

I know, it’s a challenge millions of Americans have faced through the years. I grew up with parents working in factories and having mandatory overtime. And low wages are a sad reality. But I just have to ponder today…how broken is this economy? A healthcare bill just got passed that’s going to require us to start paying in taxes in 2011 but won’t start providing benefits until 2014. For three years, people are either going to be paying twice for healthcare, or paying and not receiving any. Or they’ll be charged a penalty for “willingly” not paying for health insurance. All this was supposedly to save Americans money in the healthcare system. But instead of controlling costs, all it’s doing is requiring insurance companies to provide benefits to everyone. Gee, thanks, Gov’ment. I already could have found insurance for myself, if I had wanted to pay enough. This isn’t going to help me at all. Way to attack the symptom, and not the problem. It’s like giving penicillin to someone who needs an antibiotic but is allergic to penicillin. Brilliant!

Honestly, why do we have this incredible need to DO SOMETHING! even when we know it’s not the right thing to do. Do we ever stop to consider what’s the right thing or the wrong thing to do? Have we forgotten that choosing to do nothing is still doing something, that sometimes there’s just no bandage big enough, that sometimes bleeding the patient, giving an antibiotic, shooting the lame horse is not the answer? Can’t we just let the body fix itself? We’ve become too dependent on artificial systems, on financial systems and insurance systems that WE’VE created…they’re artificial markets. Instead of trading goods and services for other goods and services, we’re playing with imaginary money and imaginary percentages and the ability of money to triple in value by doing nothing, going nowhere, and not actually being spent. And who has really been hurt? The people who put their money in banks, the people who had to live in a society that runs EVERYTHING based on your credit history—your ability to get an education, a job, a car, a house. Average people.

And the insurance companies that were once created to help spread risk across groups so people who weren’t so healthy could still receive care without having to pay for the cost have been dicked around by health care providers, and then the health care providers got dicked around by insurance companies, and on and on it went in a spiral, until now, there are people who companies won’t insure because they’re too expensive, and those people no longer just have to pay for the high cost of their care—they have to pay for the high cost of care that health care providers can’t recoup from insurance companies because of the dicking-around spiral that’s been going on for decades. And who has really been hurt? Patients.

Average people have been hurt. Over and over again. The system is broken. Beyond any government repair. Government can’t even fix itself. Decision makers, policy makers, rate-setters…people too innumerable to count, and faceless…have broken things…no, CREATED a golem, a broken, ridiculous parody of reality, and we pay the consequences.

But all is not without hope. We aren’t our healthcare or financial systems. We have to live with them, among them, navigating them, as broken and twisted, mangled, smoldering as they are in their ruination, but we have each other, and that makes us, the average people, strong.

No comments:

Post a Comment