Thank goodness Schumer is taking charge of the airlines

(Regarding article, “Schumer introduces bill banning airline carry-on fee,” April 14, and related coverage.)

Dear Sen. Schumer:

I am writing to you about your courageous stand against Spirit Airlines. I know that some people might believe that ending wars and bringing our troops home in a timely way is a more important issue, and I am sure other people might think that healthcare or the economy is more pressing, but the frequent flyer will be pleased to have you on his side.

Your speedy condemnation of this airline’s a la carte pricing shows your conviction in this matter and I feel compelled to make you aware of yet another offender. There is a restaurant in my neighborhood, several actually, that do exactly the same thing. One is even bold enough to emblazon upon their menu that offending term (French, I think it is), a la carte.

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I am assuming that you are unacquainted with this practice, although it is evidently being deployed among some of our very fine eateries here in New York state. Permit me to explain how it works.

Let us suppose that you and I arrive at an establishment at the same time. Perhaps we are even dining together; the pleasure, in this case, would be all mine, I assure you. Now, suppose that you, wisely, order the Happy Chef’s Platter while I order a meal consisting entirely of individually selected items.

I’m in the mood for a shrimp roll, prawns, spicy cold cabbage, snow peas and brown rice. Individually my items total $10.85 while your platter, which consists of exactly the same components, is only $9.95 — and, you get a can of soda of choice while I am entitled only to tea. I can attest to the fact that the food portions are roughly equal.

Unfortunately, this is not where the story ends. If you decide that you want extra rice with your platter, like the person who brings an extra bag on the airplane, you are assessed an additional $2 fee. Senator, this crosses the line because, I’m sure you will agree, brown rice is part and parcel of eating prawns and snow peas. It is, in addition, a slap in the face to Atkins dieters everywhere.

Now some will say that we could simply dine elsewhere for lunch, just as air travelers can take their business to whichever carrier offers the best rates.

But, I ask you, is this how the marketplace is intended to work?

From Tim Rossi, Pleasantville, N.Y.

Payday lenders aim to stymie reform

Payday lenders seem to have a persecution complex about the proposed establishment of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency with the assignment to strictly enforce federal credit laws and closely monitor credit products on the market (The Hill Congress Blog, “Why a consumer financial protection agency will hurt consumers,” by Consumer Rights Coalition Executive Director Gerri Guzman, April 14).  They seem to have leaped to the conclusion that having an agency that actually protected consumers from predatory credit products translates to banning the payday loan product.

Perhaps the payday lenders and their front groups are onto something. We would expect a new CFPA to closely examine any credit product premised on getting cash-strapped consumers to write unfunded checks to be held until the next payday. Or, to consider whether loans secured by first claim on deposit of the borrower’s next paycheck or Social Security check is the modern equivalent of an unfair wage assignment. Balloon payment loans that trap most borrowers in an endless cycle of debt at 400 percent A.P.R. and loans made to consumers without determining their ability to repay the loan might strike this new agency as risky lending…just the sort of irresponsible lending that led to the worst recession in modern history.

Ms. Guzman makes the oft-repeated claim of payday lenders that their loans are “cheaper” than not paying bills or overdrawing a bank account. All of these options are very expensive. The typical payday loan is $350 and costs $52.50 for one two-week period. Banks typically charge $35 for an overdraft or to bounce a check. The average payday loan borrower has nine loans per year, mostly because they can’t afford to repay the initial loan out of one paycheck, costing $472.50 to use $350 for four-and-a-half months. This doesn’t sound like the “cheapest” option for dealing with hard times to us.

The new CFPA will enforce federal credit laws that already apply to payday lenders. It will also examine unfair, abusive and deceptive credit practices to protect consumers. Apparently the payday lenders think they fit the latter category. If so, it is understandable that the industry is spending millions to defeat the CFPA.

From Jean Ann Fox, directorof financial services, Consumer Federation of America, Washington

Palin’s appeal stems from Dem, GOP failure

Sarah Palin’s Tea Party popularity stems from the disappointment Americans feel toward the Democrat and Republican parties. Corrupted by cronyism and lobbyists, the Democrats and Republicans are so distorted that most of us cannot identify with either party.

With Americans fearing a Greater Depression and the escalation of the protracted war on terror, Palin’s pleasant appearance and plain speeches give people sanctuary from the empty promises and impotent policies created by the White House and Congress.

… [Palin is] a person who hears the fear and anger in America’s collective voice and calms it by restoring Americans’ individual right to pursue happiness through industriousness that is not hampered by Washington’s autocratic rules, regulations and taxes.

From Helen Tackett, Fullerton, Calif.