Friday, March 14, 2008

Congress fouls consumers for corporate fairness

By Libby

Congress just held a hearing on credit card tricks and traps. The corporations and their lobbyists were allowed to speak for hours and dish out reams of statistics without disclosing the source of their data. Four citizen panelists that were supposed to testify in rebuttal didn't end up speaking because of an eleventh hour requirement that was conjured up in order "to be fair" to the corporations.
The people who had been invited to testify had flown in from around the country with their credit card bills in hand, only to learn that they couldn't talk unless they would sign a waiver that would permit the credit card companies to make public anything they wanted to tell about their financial records, their credit histories, their purchases, and so on. The Republicans and Democrats had worked out a deal "to be fair to the credit card lenders." These people couldn't say anything unless they were willing to let the credit card companies strip them naked in public.
Is there anybody who doubts these people would be subjected to worst sort of disclosures about their personal lives if they had signed the waiver? This brings to mind a story I didn't get around to blogging a couple of weeks ago about how Comcast blocked the public from attending a public hearing.

There was huge turnout at today’s public hearing in Boston on the future of the Internet. Hundreds of concerned citizens arrived to speak out on the importance of an open Internet. Many took the day off from work — standing outside in the Boston cold — to see the FCC Commissioners. But when they reach the door, they’re told they couldn’t come in.

Comcast — or someone who really, really likes Comcast — evidently bused in its own crowd. These seat-warmers, were paid to fill the room, a move that kept others from taking part.

They arrived en masse some 90 minutes before the hearing began and occupied almost every available seat, upon which many promptly fell asleep (picture above). One told us that he was “just getting paid to hold someone’s seat.” He added that he had no idea what the meeting was about.
Comcast later admitted they had stacked the room in their favor.
A number of people in the audience wore yellow highlighter marking pens on their shirts or jackets; Karr said that was to identify them to Comcast employees coordinating the company's appearance at the event. Khoury acknowledged that Comcast coordinated the employees that it brought to the hearing.
Which reminds me of this post at Cabdrollery that I never got around to flagging that reminds us what really sucked about the bankruptcy bill is that it punished ordinary people but allowed corporations to get away with passing their debts and responsibilities onto the taxpayers.

And the Libertarians wonder why I sneer when they speak of the free market? The only thing free about it is the free pass the corporations get for their relentless malfeasance.

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