Democrats Mean Well

Bank of America last week announced new $5-per-month debit-card fees. Other banks will surely follow the leader. It wasn’t supposed to go down like this. Senator Dick Durbin insisted that “the reforms called for by my amendment will save retailers, charities and consumers up to $10 billion each year.” But, if you’re a Bank of America customer, they may cost you $60 next year.

Never trust a man who goes into a PR battle without an Oxford comma.

The Illinois senator’s press release responding to the consequences of his rule was not as cheery as the earlier one outlining its good intentions. “Old habits die hard for Bank of America,” grumbled Durbin. “After years of raking in excess profits off an unfair and anti-competitive interchange system, Bank of America is trying to find new ways to pad their profits by sticking it to its customers.”

Did the senator really think BofA would just absorb losses when he amended the Dodd-Frank legislation to limit debit-card transaction fees that banks charge merchants?

He stuck it to the banks. Then the banks stuck it to us. This was eminently predictable. 

Don’t blame Dick Durbin. He meant well. Take it from him: it’s not his fault.

It never is, is it? 

In any endeavor besides politics, meaning well doesn’t cut it. We don’t care that the interception was supposed to be a touchdown, the diuretic a delicious meal, or the bar bill the bookie’s IOU. But in government, good intentions strangely count for something.

Are we such suckers for hope that we don’t evaluate the change?

America hasn’t recovered from the American Recovery Act. Nearly a trillion dollars in stimulus worked instead as a soporific. Now the president pushes Stimulus II, euphemistically called a “jobs” bill because “stimulus” has become a dirty word. But even some Senate Democrats sense that injecting more money from the private economy into the government economy will kill instead of create jobs. Like the economy, the president’s latest plan to rescue, has stalled.

In March, President Obama assured that America’s intervention in Libya would last “days, not weeks.” It’s September. We’re still there. “We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya,” the president claimed. But the mission quickly shifted to regime change. In ousting one terrorist the administration may have installed other terrorists in his place. Next door in Egypt, the Obama administration pressured Hosni Mubarak to abdicate. He did, and a reliable ally became a potential enemy. Egyptians attack the embassy of our Israeli allies and our diplomats meet with the Muslim Brotherhood. That wasn’t the shift we wished to affect.

The president told Congress two years ago that his health care plan would “slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.” The Affordable Care Act has instead made care more expensive. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that family premiums have increased by almost ten percent in 2011. The reasonable reaction to the enacted and looming mandates of ObamaCare by insurance companies has been to jack up premiums by levels not seen in almost a decade. What did the architects of the policy think would happen when they ordered companies to cover 26-year-old “children” and ignore preexisting conditions?

And that’s perhaps the point. The more burdens the government places on the private sector, the worse the private sector performs, the greater the demand for more government intervention. If that consequence is unintended, it certainly is welcome by politicians partial to government control.

Political control freaks intervene in the economy, in the affairs of nations halfway round the world, and in the relationships between doctors and patients because they think they know best. Unintended consequences show that they don’t know much.