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How Biden is Scamming the American People on “Junk Fees”
The “Nigerian princes” don’t have anything on Biden.
One of the wonderful things about no longer running a news website is that I didn’t have to force myself to sit through Joe Biden’s brain-numbing State of the Union speech last night so that I could punch up 2 to 3 outrage-bait pieces that would run afterward.
It’s a small blessing, but I will take it.
That being said, I did still hear about one minor, but particularly irritating detail of Biden’s speech. That was the part about “junk fees.” If you need a refresher, here’s the relevant text from the speech:
My administration is also taking on junk fees, those hidden surcharges too many companies use to make you pay more.
For example, we’re making airlines show you the full ticket price upfront. Refund your money if your flight is canceled or delayed.
We’ve reduced exorbitant bank overdrafts by saving consumers more than $1 billion a year.
We’re cutting credit card late fees by 75 percent, from $30 to $8.
Look, junk fees may not matter to the very wealthy, but they matter to most other folks in homes like the one I grew up in, like many of you did. They add up to hundreds of dollars a month.
They make it harder for you to pay your bills or afford that family trip.
I know how unfair it feels when a company overcharges you and gets away with it.
We’ve written a bill to stop it all. It’s called the Junk Fee Prevention Act.
We’re going to ban surprise resort fees that hotels charge on your bill. Those fees can cost you up to $90 a night at hotels that aren’t even resorts.
We — the idea that cable, internet, and cellphone companies can charge you $200 or more if you decide to switch to another provider — give me a break.
We can stop service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events and make companies disclose all the fees upfront.
And we’ll prohibit airlines from charging $50 round trip for a family just to be able to sit together.
Baggage fees are bad enough. Airlines can’t treat your child like a piece of baggage.
Americans are tired of being — we’re tired of being played for suckers.
So, pass — pass the Junk Fee Prevention Act so companies stop ripping us off.
Most normal people, who have not been immersed in politics for two decades plus, may think this is something petty for the government to be involved in, but they won’t understand why this is actually a transparent scam from top-to-bottom. So, let’s talk about that.
First of all, let’s start with the obvious. Micromanaging the secondary fees that a wide variety of businesses charge is not something the government should be involved with in the first place. It’s really none of their business, but of course, there must be some polling data that shows these fees really annoy people, so the same politicians who are doing absolutely nothing to fix any of the major challenges confronting our country are supposedly going to step up to “fix” airline baggage fees. Of course, as you’re going to see, that won’t really happen in a meaningful way.
Getting beyond that, this is kind of like buying breakfast, walking outside, and then having a gun stuck in your back in the parking lot. That’s when the thief says, “I just wanted to let you know that they overcharged you 50 cents for your omelet! Now, give me everything in your wallet.” Have people forgotten that we’re paying the government far more in taxes than we’re losing in any “junk fees?” If Joe Biden is so concerned about what everyone is paying credit card companies and airlines, why doesn’t he just cut our taxes by 20%, and then we can pay all of those fees and have huge amounts of money left over? It’s great that America’s bandit king is so concerned that the people he’s looting are getting shafted, but he’s still not concerned enough to take his hand out of your pocket.
He's also not going to REALLY reduce what people are paying in “junk fees.” Why do I say that? Here’s how the next part of this rigged game plays out. Either the Biden administration or his allies in Congress will go to lobbyists for all these industries and tell them that they want to cut these fees.
AT BEST, if the bill passes, the fees will be tacked on somewhere else. So, these “junk fees” will go away and new “junk fees” will replace them. If that won’t work for some reason, then they’ll raise prices. If let’s say, they don’t allow hotels to charge a “resort fee,” which is just an all-purpose, bullsh*t fee for various amenities, maybe the hotel will charge you for having cable TV in the room, make you pay more for Internet or charge you a dollar each time you go up and down in the elevator. When I went to New York last year, believe it or not, the hotel there actually charged me a hefty fee to check into my room early. If it’s none of those things, they’ll just charge more for the rooms, but what they are not going to do is eat the loss of all that money. In other words, if they can’t take money out of your left pocket, they’ll take money out of your right pocket, but they’re still going to end up getting the money – and that’s the “best case scenario” where they pass a law and you don’t really save any money.
The “worst case scenario,” which happens more often than not in DC, is that lobbyists for the big corporations that are involved will happily work with Congress to write the bill in a way that benefits them. Typically, what they will do in that case is deliberately take on greater costs that they will ultimately pass on to you, which seems baffling, until you realize they’re doing it because they can bear those costs much better than their smaller competitors. In other words, they turn it into an opportunity to use the government to get rid of the competition. Do you want an example of how this works in the real world?
When the big toymaker Mattel was caught selling toys that contained lead, its lobbyists got Congress to force all toymakers to do expensive lead testing.
That sounds like they just want to protect children, I tell Carney.
"If you're trying to test 1,000 Barbie dolls," he replies, "that might be fairly efficient. But if you are a grandpa making little wooden handmade toys, you'd have to hire some third-party tester. That could cost you $1,000, and you're not going to sell your wooden toy for $1,000. It effectively outlawed handmade toys."
After small toymakers screamed about that, Congress exempted toymakers that make fewer than 7,500 toys per year. So small toymakers must stay small.
"Maybe what [Mattel] did," says Carney, "is say, 'This is our opportunity through regulation to kill some of our competitors!'"
The suckers hear Joe Biden talking about cutting credit card fees and getting rid of resort fees and they think he’s doing something for them. The people who think that are marks being played by scam artists and year after year, they keep getting bamboozled by variations of the same scam. They never seem to understand why we keep passing so many laws, but nothing gets better. Must be those Republicans somehow. We can point out what’s going on. We can tell people how the scam works. We can do our best to protect you. But, at some point, nothing is going to change until those people go, “Oh! If I send the Nigerian prince this $500 fee, he’s actually not going to send me a million dollars! I probably shouldn’t even talk to that guy, and I definitely shouldn’t send him any money!” If you think Democrats like Biden are helping you with this nonsense, you are sadly mistaken. They think you’re stupid and so nothing ever changes. Break the cycle.