No More Carte Blanche

Look out.  My dander is way up.  And Frank Rich is totally responsible for my ire bubbling over:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/opinion/14rich.html?ref=todayspaper

How correct is Rich?  Totally and entirely.   There has been no personal responsibility in this country so,  of course, there has been  no public  and corporate responsibility in our country’s leadership.  In fact,  the term “leadership” is an oxymoron.  In my own trivial little life, I now take a vow to fight the lack of responsiveness, the arrogance, the downright self-serving antics of whomever it is I may have dealings with.

First off the bat is Citibank, or, as I have dubbed them many years ago, Shittibank.  Over ten years ago, I needed to refinance our home.  After doing my research, I went to talk with my local Citibank office.  After quoting me, firmly,  the fees involved, I gave them my credit card to seal the deal.  The next day, they called me back to confirm the transaction and I asked them, once again, to go over all the fees involved.  Every single charge was exorbitantly more than they had quoted me on the day before.  They lied.  Well, they had my credit card, so I had no recourse.  Wait —– someone was smiling down on me that day.  Not an hour later, Citi called me back and said that my credit card was not going through.  After they read back to me my account number, I realized they had copied down the wrong number.  I did not offer them any correction and the deal was off.  What goes around, comes around.  But in this case, it was just sheer luck that saved me.

So then I actually did refinance the house through ABN-AMRO.  Years passed but unfortunately, Citi came roaring back into my life when they bought out ABN-AMRO.  So Citi was now the holder of my mortgage.  The first month that Citi billed me for my mortgage, attached to that bill was a $75 late fee.  I phoned them, got connected to a very polite, but totally incompetent person with zero authorization to effect any decisions, in India.  Finally I was put through to an individual who actually had some authority.  It seems that this “late fee” was not due to any late payments I had made;  I knew I had always paid on time.  This charge stemmed from the bank not receiving verification of my home insurance from my private insurance company —– five years before!  So in all their gluttony, Citi tried to maneuver out of me this erroneous $75 late fee on the first statement they sent me.  I told them that I would not be paying this fee and they promptly removed it from my account.

Talk about caring to make your clientele satisfied!  How dare they try to gouge me for a fee that was ridiculous!  Furthermore, their shield of protection for their corporate officers, or anyone of authority, was blatant.  This inner protection of  corporate officers is rampant today.  Let me ask you:  has your power company removed the “fuel surcharges”, instituted when gasoline was over $4 a gallon, from your monthly bill?  I am sure the answer is “no.”  Gasoline prices are currently at a five year low, but every company I deal with, from the utility company to the lawn service  to the plumber, has not removed their fuel surcharges.  This is pure gluttony and theft.  And then try to get through to someone who has decision-making power, like the corporate officers, and you are totally shut down.  Paralysis.

This denial of access to a viable solution plus the initial unethical continuation of the outdated fee is very typical in our country today.  I will not stand for this anymore.  The hell with politeness;  I want things to be made fair and right again.  My anger is symptomatic of an imposed paralysis. i.e. that’s the way things are and I just have to accept them.  No way, no more.

Six years ago, right after the 9/11 attacks, I made a donation to the Red Cross.  The next day, that organization announced that a good part of the funds given in response to the catastrophe would be set aside in a “general fund” to be used for subsequent emergencies.  Imagine my outrage that my money was NOT going to be used to help those in misery from these attacks.  To make a long story short, I appeared on Dan Rather’s evening broadcast.  When the reporters asked me if this incident would effect my future charitable giving, I responded “No more carte blanche.”  I would never give any more to a red- tape -laden or Lucy-goosey “organized” charity.  And I have, since that time, done exactly that.  I donate charity only to those organizations, or better yet, to specific individuals, who will get a first-hand benefit .  I no longer subscribe to or participate in associations that pay huge salaries to non-profit officers, or have burdensome, wasteful  bureaucratic organizations to support.   No more carte blanche.

It is very uncomfortable, not to mention just plain unhealthy, to live with this anger.  It is an anger that is anonymous.  Thus a feeling of paralysis overcomes me.  This week I will start small to fight this paralysis.  I have my once-every-two-year appointment with my eye doctor.  Simple right?  Whatever could an eye doctor contribute to this stinking paralysis?  When I was at his office two years ago, his nurse assistant gave me an “eye exam.”  Then the doctor came in and did his thing and he did it fully and well.   Stupid as I am, it didn’t hit me until I got home that the nurse’s  eye exam was actually no such thing.  It took all of ten seconds.  So I called the doctor’s office, asking to speak with him.  No go.  The nurse insisted she had given me a complete exam.  My only alternative was to reschedule an appointment with the doctor —– in two months.  So I did.

Now I shall return to this office.  When Nurse Ratchet comes in and starts asking me questions about my health with the intention of giving me an “eye exam”, I will tell her that I will wait for the doctor.  Obviously, her prior behavior does not instill in me any confidence about the exam or her “filtering” role in presenting my current problems to the doctor.  The first time, shame on you.  This second time, if I allow it to pass, shame on me.  No more carte blanche, whether it be for the sake of civility or not.

Frank Rich is correct:  personal irresponsibility poisons public responsibility which, in turn, goes on to further intoxicate individuals who think if  the big shots can get away with it, so can they.  It is a vicious circle of toxicity.

If Obama plans to stop this destruction, he must first address the crisis of confidence in this country.  Above all, he must set the example for honesty and transparency.  I believe he is on the right path.  Our actual problems, mostly financial, will take years to sort out.  The confidence agenda will help to make the actual, long-term problem solving process smoother, more palatable.  It is imperative that our corporate and public leaders subscribe to ethical behavior now.  Without that committment, the whole pyramid will crash and burn.

I do not believe that a leader has to be a rocket scientist to figure this one out.  Each company or agency that is given a share of the federal bailout funds should be assigned a carefully vetted government overseer.  That person must involve himself in the everyday workings of that company, a job which should include reviewing every corporate check written.  These watchdogs should not have a hand in the actual running of the companies, but just immerse themselves in reviewing those actions.  If unsavory or inappropriate actions are noted, the company should have to pay a large penalty.  Perhaps malfeasance should be accompanied by a percentage return of the bailout funds.  How dare AIG continue to fund their corporate outings, parties and bonuses with our public funds?  How can our government, an entity defined by the people and for the people, just hand over our tax dollars to such irresponsible players?  And that is precisely why we Americans have no confidence in our government.  That is also why many of us are very dubious about a bailout for the automobile industry.

So on with it President-elect Obama.  Set the stage for a real revolution in this country.  If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do is pay off my mortgage with Shittibank and be done with them.   In lieu of that, I will assert myself at the eye doctor’s on Thursday.  Trivial?  Probably.   Displacement behavior for larger wrongs?  Perhaps.   But definitely a starting point for assertive personal responsibility.

Frank Rich, damn you —– and bless you —– for making me angry.  No more carte blanche.

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2 Responses to “No More Carte Blanche”

  1. Natalie Rosen Says:

    This is one of the BEST editorial comments I have EVER read. I am going to forward this on. Read and heed America. Just when I think it is hopeless, a ray of sunshine appears in the window. EXCELLENT ADVICE you give and EXCELLENT advice for EVERYONE to follow as many of us every day have experiences with corporate black holes where we simply want to tear our hair out at best or commit suicide at worst. I had one of those fabulous experiences recently with RCN! Not only did they charge me a late fee for a human error that they should have excused, they robo called me twice the day the payment was late and sent me a letter threatening to turn off my cable. I, who pay my bills the MINUTE they arrive, was furious. Sure, it finally was resolved but the service continues to be shall we say SHITTY and their equipment shall we say SHODDY.

    The WORST though happened to my partner who had to get a routine colonoscopy. Sure they paid for the doctor performing the colonoscopy BUT my partner had to pay ONE THOUSAND bucks for the hospital where it was performed and another $200 bucks to the doctor for a copayment!!! Where the *&^% did they expect her to get the GD colonosocpy at the town dump??? I told her to fight it but she didn’t. She just paid it. The moral of the story is make SURE DAMN WELL SURE wehn you are due to get ANY procedure that you find out ALL the costs and if your, putrid of all corporations, the health insurance company will pay for it. Who would have thought to ask if the insurance would pay for the accepted doctor as to WHERE she performed the procedure? My partner SHOULD have asked the gastroenterologist doing the colonosocpy to make a house call. She could have done it in the bedroom!!

    Just as you suggest, do not just throw up our hands and say what can we do. Do something … SCREAM I’M MAD AS HELL AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANYMORE. They may think I’m crazy but not any crazier or pathological than the schemes they cook up in their board rooms to make the little guy pay and then parachute away to paradise. Screw them back if you can!

  2. Natalie Rosen Says:

    Just read the Frank Rich article. Please forward that article to EVERYONE you know. It is BRILLIANT and SOME of the things in it I have been articulating right along. I feel my comments go nowhere. Maybe Frank Rich will have more success!

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