Credit unions a good option for anyone, even NBA stars

The recent op-ed by the leader of the American Bankers Association (ABA), former Gov. Frank Keating “Should taxpayers subsidize sports stars’ checking accounts?” June 24), is correct in pointing out that the Federal Credit Union Act passed in 1934, but that’s about all it got right. 

Credit unions are tax-exempt based on their structure as not-for-profit, volunteer-led cooperatives with a special mission to promote thrift and provide access to credit for provident purposes. The tax status is not based on the size of credit unions or the products and services that they offer. In fact, this rationale for the tax-exempt status has been ratified several times by Congress. 

But Keating and others like him continue to bleat that the tax exemption is conferred only so that credit unions may serve “low-income individuals who don’t have other financial options.” 

That’s just nonsense. Credit unions are for everyone, offering financial services solely for the purpose of providing services — not returning profits to shareholders. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But profit-driven banks make decisions solely for making money. At credit unions, decisions are made in the interests of the members. 

And that includes NBA players and their families. Our understanding is that the new credit union referred to by the leader of the trade group for big banks would provide financial management resources to athletes and their families, and serve a number of organizations focused primarily on professional and amateur sports. Their membership would include associations and businesses, and would serve both active and retired athletes.  

Most pro athletes are not millionaires. Also on the list are minor league baseball, basketball and soccer players, many of whom have quite low incomes. A much greater portion of these lower-income athletes are likely to avail themselves of a credit union than would the high-paid superstars, most of whom are probably served by private bankers. A credit union makes sense for everyone, offering a place for the members to pool their resources and save for their futures and help their colleagues meet their own financial challenges in the meantime. That’s what credit unions do — for anyone. 

Is the ABA suggesting that high-paid, high-profile athletes and others should only be allowed to obtain financial services from banks? Hmm. Not much of an image builder for the banking industry, desperate to rid itself of the rap that it doesn’t care much for everyday people. 

Throughout the years, as big Wall Street banks grew more distant from their customers, credit unions have offered a smarter choice by practicing values-based decisionmaking for members — all of them. Credit unions earn their tax exemption every single day by their very structure and their actions.

From Bill Hampel, president and CEO, Credit Union National Association, Washington, D.C.


Protecting America’s waters is patriotic

Opponents of protecting America’s waters seem to be a tad confused: We’ve just celebrated Independence Day, not April Fool’s (“GOP to EPA: Don’t douse Fourth of July fireworks,” July 1). 

The latest salvo in the ongoing assault against the administration’s proposal to protect small streams and wetlands is the ludicrous claim that this rule would somehow put Fourth of July fireworks in jeopardy. Reality check: Thousands of communities across the country have been staging fireworks displays over lakes and rivers — water bodies unambiguously protected by the Clean Water Act — for four decades without problems. 

The rest of the campaign against the clean water proposal has been similarly unencumbered by the facts. The truth? This rule will simply restore protections to smaller streams and wetlands that were covered by the Clean Water Act for 30 years. During those decades, farming, ranching, homebuilding and mining continued apace while water quality improved steadily nationwide.  

But a decade ago, the Supreme Court introduced ambiguity as to how the Clean Water Act should be implemented. Immediately after the confusing Supreme Court rulings, the rate of wetlands destruction shot up by 140 percent. Drinking water supplies for more than one-third of Americans remain at risk today. 

Poll after poll has shown that large majorities of Americans support protecting these types of wetlands and streams. Millions of Americans will have spent this July 4 weekend enjoying our nation’s waters by swimming, fishing, camping, boating and — yes — watching riverside firework displays. Nothing could be more patriotic than making sure we keep our waters clean for this and future generations.

From Adam Kolton, executive director, National Wildlife Federation’s National Advocacy Center, Washington, D.C.

Law Center: We aren’t affiliated with Bartmann

We at the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) welcome efforts to highlight the problems of student loan debt and abusive debt collection, including those by Bill Bartmann (“Requiem for the Great Recession,” The Hill’s Congress Blog, April 28). But for the record, the NCLC has no connection to Mr. Bartmann, has returned his only donation and will accept no future donations. We have taken these steps simply so that it is clear that Mr. Bartmann and the NCLC are independent voices on student loan issues and debt collection reform.

From Lauren Saunders, associate director, National Consumer Law Center, Washington, D.C.