Make Soldiers the Priority, Not Politics

March 19, 2007

Tomorrow, March 20, will be the Four Year Anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. Certainly some progress has been made, such as the removal of Saddam Hussein and his klan from power, and the Iraqis held their first ever free elections. We have also experienced major mistakes in planning for post-Saddam Iraq, and the country has been plagued with widespread sectarian violence as many of the citizens would rather enact tribal revenge than cooperate for the betterment of the region.However, despite ones feelings towards the Iraq War, we ALL need to root for our soldiers and country to succeed. Too many people in this country have a vested interest in seeing the U.S. fail in Iraq so they can rub egg in the face of President Bush. Too many editorials have been published by writers who obviously would rather hope the President’s plans fail so that they can say, “I told you so.”That type of attitude is sickening and ANTI-AMERICAN. That’s right, I said it. If you are hoping that this new plan for a troop surge fails just so Bush has to leave in 2008 in complete shame, then you are anti-American and might as well denounce your citizenship.

Obviously, I’m not talking about all liberals/Democrats/anti-war people. I am talking about those on the far-Left, like at Democratic Underground who actually enjoy seeing Bush’s plans in Iraq fail. I’m talking about those on the far-Right like Fred Phelps and his “church” of inbreds who say our soldiers deserve to die because America accepts gays. I am also talking about reporters for newspapers who enjoy “breaking” stories about American tactics of monitoring overseas bank accounts that have ties to terrorism. If you willingly broadcast information that helps alert terrorists to our strategies, you are anti-American.

When you root for Bush’s Iraq policies to fail, you are rooting against our soldiers. Face it, despite our opinions on what should be done in Iraq, the troop surge is going to happen. I don’t believe we need to send more of our men to the front lines for a nation of people who refuse to help themselves. However, 20,000+ troops are being sent anyway; so I am going to hope and pray that this strategy works to perfection. We should all hope that President Bush’s new plan is overwhelmingly successful, for the safety of our troops and the security of our country.

But this brings to light another issue. The recent findings and reporting of treatment (or lack of) at the Walter Reed hospital is a disgrace. The last Americans who should be receiving shoddy medical treatment is those who are fighting in wars and risking their lives to protect us back home. Therefore, I propose three pieces of legislation that should be enacted ASAP:

1. Any member of the U.S. military who fights in a foreign war for our country should be exempt from federal income taxes, at least up to $100,000 per year.

2. Any member of the U.S. military who fights in a foreign war for our country should be granted the same top-notch, government funded healthcare that our fat-cat D.C. legislators receive. Could someone please explain to me why career politicians who are already making over $100k per year should also receive better taxpayer funded healthcare than those members of the military who have actually fought for the U.S.?

3. Any child of a U.S. soldier who is killed while serving in a war for the U.S. is granted a four-year college scholarship to any public, in-state university.

These three proposals are in no way extreme. Our military is all volunteer, and the incentives and/or benefits should be such that our brave soldiers are treated and compensated in the best regard.

U.S. Representatives Dan Boren (D-OK) and Charles Boustany (R-LA) have teamed up to author and push the STOP Act, H.R. 269. This bill would prohibit the use of any soldier or former soldier’s (after 1917) name for commercial use without express consent from that soldier or his or her family. This legislation is a good start, as it provides protection for our soldiers from those who seek to use their names for monetary gain. This law also needs to include language regarding using a soldier’s name for political gain, as well.

However, we also need a member of our Congress to stand up and propose real reform for veterans’ healthcare and benefits, and I believe the point laid out above are suffice and reasonable. Who will take the lead? Boustany? Boren? Poe? Hunter? McCain? Pelosi? Clinton? Kerry?

Duncan Hunter for President 2008

Paid for by the Conservative Cajun Political Action Committee.


Credit unions fight for right to customers: Banks hope to cash in on court-ordered limits, tighter federal oversight.(Business Times)

The Washington Times (Washington, DC) November 25, 1996 | Marriott, Anne The once-unnoticed battle between the nation’s banks and credit unions for consumers’ hearts – and billions of their dollars – could be headed for the Supreme Court.

The question: Should credit unions be required to tighten membership requirements?

If credit unions lose before the high court, they fear losing as many as 20 million of their 68 million customers nationwide. In turn, those people would lose the typically more generous loan terms and higher savings rates offered by credit unions.

Banks argue that if credit unions expand their memberships to include groups other than those mentioned in their charters, the federal government should level the playing field by lifting the credit unions’ tax-exempt status and regulating them more like banks.

But credit unions insist that the bankers want the courts to uphold strict interpretations of the 1930s legislation that created them because community banks can’t stand the competition.

“The relationship is adversarial to say the least,” said Lesia Bullock, a spokeswoman for the D.C.-based National Credit Union Administration, the federal agency that regulates credit unions.

Bankers claim little responsibility for the fight. “The credit unions have put [themselves] into this position, not the banks,” said Virginia Stafford McGuire, a spokeswoman for the American Bankers Association.

The battle between banks and credit unions has been building as the financial-services industry has evolved.

Banks argue that credit unions have become more like banks – without the same strict government regulation. If a credit union wants to open a branch, it simply secures the real estate. In contrast, if a bank wants to put an automated teller machine at a grocery store, it must get approval from the federal government.

Furthermore, the banks argue, credit unions generally can offer higher interest rates and lower loan rates because their tax-exempt status gives them a lower overhead.

But the NCUA says credit unions must prove the need for any new branches and present a strong business plan.

Credit union officials also argue that banks’ costs would be lower if they didn’t pay such big corporate salaries.

Federal credit unions were formed during the Great Depression under the Federal Credit Union Act of 1934 to provide groups with a community alternative to banks and savings and loans. Membership was limited to employment and professional affiliations until 1982, when the NCUA decided that credit unions weakened by the recession could merge with more solvent – and unrelated – institutions and expand their membership base.

Six years ago, the bankers said enough. Since 1990, bankers have sued credit unions for unauthorized membership extensions in 11 states, including North Carolina, Maine, Nebraska, Utah, Michigan, Montana and Tennessee. The most recent case was filed seven weeks ago against a Texas credit union, according to the D.C.-based Credit Union National Association (CUNA).

“The fight is not between the big banks – the Citibanks and the Chase Manhattans,” said Ed Roberts, a CUNA spokesman. “It’s the community banks that compete with credit unions that are worried about this.” In 1990, the American Bankers Association and several small North Carolina banks sued the AT&T Family Federal Credit Union. The banks challenged the North Carolina-based financial institution’s decision to extend membership to small groups other than AT&T employees. Those groups are mostly small businesses in North Carolina and Virginia that have fewer than 200 workers and cannot sustain a credit union alone. go to site citibanks ignon

Although the U.S. District Court in Washington sided with the credit unions in 1994, bankers tasted victory in July when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed that decision. The court ruled that under the Federal Credit Union Act, credit union members must share a bond such as the same employer or profession.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Thomas Jackson issued an injunction banning federal credit unions from adding new groups or members from outside their charters. The NCUA estimates that credit unions have turned away 1,200 people nationwide since the Oct. 25 ruling.

“We are looking to examine why [the credit unions] were formed and where they are now,” said Pattie Cinelli, a spokeswoman for the D.C.-based American Bankers Association (ABA). “If they are no longer doing what they were chartered to do back in the ’30s, then they should be taxed.” The CUNA hopes the Supreme Court will hear the AT&T case early next year. The most favorable ruling would allow the NCUA to more loosely interpret the Federal Credit Union Act because of the changing financial market, Mr. Roberts said.

Nearly 68 million people belong to the nation’s 12,000 credit unions. Twenty million could be forced to close their accounts in 3,586 federal credit unions if the Supreme Court does not reverse the AT&T ruling, the NCUA said.

Two weeks ago, the NCUA’s board approved an interim rule that broadens who may join a credit union. The group’s directors said credit unions may add members who belong to the same profession.

“We are concerned about the impact of the injunction on the credit unions and low-to-moderate-income consumers,” NCUA Chairman Norman D’Amours said. “The interim policy will help some federal credit unions and their members, but it is not intended to provide a fix for all.” If the AT&T decision stands, some 70 federal credit unions in the area could be affected, including two of the nation’s largest: the Vienna-based Navy Federal Credit Union, with $8.97 billion in assets, and the Alexandria-based Pentagon Federal Credit Union, with $2.37 billion in assets.

Although both Navy Federal, with 570,000 members, and Pentagon Federal, with 395,000 members, are made up mainly of Navy and Army employees, both absorbed some smaller institutions in the recession of the early 1980s.

In response to the court-ordered membership restriction on federal credit unions, Virginia regulators last week said they are preventing state-chartered credit unions from adding members outside their charters.

The Virginia Credit Union League said it plans to appeal the decision.

“For a long time now, the banks have targeted credit unions for their attention,” said Ken Robinson, the president of the National Association of Federal Credit Unions. “There are a couple of things they want to do; they call it leveling the playing field.” Mr. Robinson insists that the banks are punishing credit unions for competitive reasons, that they want the smaller financial institutions to lose their tax exemption because credit unions offer better interest rates.

Most credit unions are offering 2 percent to 3 percent interest on checking accounts and 3 percent to 4 percent on savings accounts. Certificates of deposit generally yield 5 percent to 6 percent. go to web site citibanks ignon

By contrast, banks offer 2 percent to 3 percent on money-market deposit accounts and 4 percent to 6 percent on certificates of deposits.

Mr. Robinson offered one explanation for the credit unions’ higher rates: They don’t pay the high corporate salaries that banks do.

The banks, in turn, have attacked the credit unions’ customer base.

“Was the tax subsidy originally meant for the affluent? Because that’s who it’s going to now,” the ABA’s Miss McGuire said. The average credit union customer has a higher income than his bank counterpart.

Only one in six credit union members has a household income of less than $20,000, according to the ABA. A 1994 study by the CUNA showed that 60 percent of credit union members had annual incomes of $30,000 to $75,000.

Bankers also note that the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 requires all federal depository institutions – except credit unions – to serve the entire community regardless of professional affiliation or income level.

As of June, the credit union industry had total assets of $320 billion – slightly more than the nation’s largest bank, Chase Manhattan, which boasts $315 billion in assets. Last year, the banking industry gained $300 billion in assets and posted record profits of $49 billion.

But the bankers aren’t satisfied by those numbers, Mr. Roberts said.

“What they want to do is eliminate competition,” he said. “The fact is that we have less than a tenth of [the assets of] the entire banking industry.” Ms. Cinelli of the ABA replied: “Would you tell Sears not to worry about J.C. Penney because they already have enough business?” The ABA notes that as bank profits have soared, credit unions also have thrived. Credit union assets rose from $69 billion in 1980 to $290 billion in 1994.

ABA officials are quick to point out that the credit unions didn’t have to pay taxes on any of that money. At the same time, banks in the District, Virginia and Maryland have paid $2.94 billion in taxes the past five years, according to the ABA.

Bankers also complain that looser membership restrictions are allowing the credit unions to lure bank customers with promises of higher interest rates and lower loan rates.

“They’re actively soliciting the same customers,” Ms. Cinelli said. “They’re actually telling people to `leave your bank and come to us.’ They’re basically free to cherry-pick customers.” Such defections barely make a ripple in banks’ money pool, credit union officials say.

“A number of people are already members of a bank and a credit union,” Mr. Robinson said. “I don’t think the bankers can just arbitrarily say that a member of a credit union is a stolen customer of a bank.” Barbara Davis Blum, the president and chief executive of Abigail Adams National Bank in downtown Washington, said that during her 14 years in banking, credit unions have had little effect on her business.

At most, she said, they take some consumer deposits that the four-branch bank might otherwise have, or prevent Abigail Adams from putting an ATM in a federal building because a credit union machine is there.

“If they’re regulated as closely as banks are regulated, then they have a right to do business too,” Ms. Blum said.

But the fact remains, she said, that credit unions are not as closely regulated as the banking industry.

Forget about the competitive issues, Ms. Blum said. “They need to be regulated just for the safety of the deposits and business and federal employees who use them.” Marriott, Anne

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