Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 20, 2010

BEN NELSON NEEDS TO GET OUT MORE.... As part of the ongoing effort to approve Wall Street reform in the Senate, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), among others, has been pushing for restrictions on banks imposing ATM fees.

As Harkin sees it, when a customer uses an ATM, he/she shouldn't be hit with $5 in fees just to take out $20. The senator has characterized the practice as "legal thievery." Republicans, of course, oppose the effort on philosophical grounds. Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) said preventing government price controls is more important than helping consumers.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), however, isn't sure what to think. It's not that the policy is too confusing; it's just that he's never used an ATM. (via Nico Pitney)

The Nebraska Democrat pleaded ignorance when asked this week whether Congress should cap ATM fees. Nelson said that while he's no fan of unnecessary fees, he's unfamiliar with the charges.

"I've never used an ATM, so I don't know what the fees are," Nelson said, adding that he gets his cash from bank tellers, just not automatic ones. "It's true, I don't know how to use one.

"But I could learn how to do it just like I've . . . I swipe to get my own gas, buy groceries. I know about the holograms."

Apparently, Nelson's reference to "holograms" was his way of describing bar-codes on products.

Nelson isn't up for re-election until 2012, but at this point, the "out of touch" campaign ads seem to write themselves.

Steve Benen 11:30 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Holograms>Series of tubes

Posted by: Rafterman on May 20, 2010 at 11:32 AM | PERMALINK

It's possible that Nelson is referring to the Princess Leia hologram in Star Wars--assuming he's seen it, that is.

Posted by: Miki on May 20, 2010 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

not sure about his bank, but my bank charges me for using a teller ...

Posted by: Tang on May 20, 2010 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

I am a really bad mood this morning, and it just got worse. What an asshole. My credit union charges if we go to a human teller more than 4 times / month.

I feel like cashing everything out, trading much of it for gold, finding a cabin somewhere, and stopping all forms of communication regarding these morons.

Posted by: bigtuna on May 20, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

I want a t-shirt with Ben Nelson's picture on it and a caption, "I know about the holograms."

Posted by: Tom Johnson on May 20, 2010 at 11:37 AM | PERMALINK

"I've never used an ATM, so I don't know what the fees are," Nelson said, adding that he gets his cash from bank tellers, just not automatic ones. "It's true, I don't know how to use one."

If that isn't a carved in stone argument for term limits, I don't know what is. I wonder what Nelson would think of that crazy new thing called "rock 'n' roll" all the kids are into nowdays.

Posted by: electrolite on May 20, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

Hologram: possibly he actually does mean the security-feature hologram on the front of the bank card or credit card.

Posted by: Raven on May 20, 2010 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

The only philiosophical grounds Republicans have for opposing this, is the philosophy of "what's good for my corporate contributors is good for me".

Posted by: rip on May 20, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

Raven: That's my guess, too. Although the way it's phrased, he seems to think that the hologram on the card is the part actually being read, rather than the mag strip.

Posted by: Kris on May 20, 2010 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

I've never used an ATM either. Fortunately, my bank doesn't charge for teller use (yet). They do charge us if we deposit too much cash. I'd really like to see congress or the states do a serious look at all of the fees banks charge for just doing their damn jobs.

Posted by: martin on May 20, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if he's ever seen a scanner in a supermarket?

Posted by: KTinOhio on May 20, 2010 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Thievery is OK, as long as they tell you about it beforehand.

Posted by: qwerty on May 20, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

Ben Nelson is 69 years old and modern technology, cash machines have been in general use around since about 1975. But let's say 1980. Which means that at 39 years old he never bothered to inquire about or be interested in new banking technology.

What a tool!

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on May 20, 2010 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

"I know about the holograms." This went straight into my quotes-n-taglines file. Damn. Man's a poet and don't know it.

I know about the holograms.

Posted by: Fleas correct the era on May 20, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

He seems more of a follower of G.H.W. Bush. Anyone else remember the brouhaha when he took a tour of a supermarket and was amazed by the bar code scanners?

Posted by: Michael W on May 20, 2010 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

There Benen goes again trying to purge his party of a common creature otherwise known to scientists as: Turncoatus Leftus

In a year marked by Democrats forcing things down my throat, how refreshing it was that a sensible senator would actually work across the aisle to delay and defeat his party's agenda. Stop radicalizing your party Mr. Benen. Leave Nelson alone.

Posted by: MynameisAL on May 20, 2010 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

I've been using ATMs long enough that I remember the days before banks realized they could charge fees for non-members. Of course, there was also a time when certain ATMs would not accept your card; you had to find a machine within your approved network. Once the networks were unified, there was a brief golden age before the imposition of fees.

We didn't realize how good we had it.

Posted by: Grumpy on May 20, 2010 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

I think people are missing the real point of Nelson's admission. If he's never used an ATM, he has not used cash very much if at all for the last 30 years. He's a U.S. Senator who's never picked up a tab. This leads one to wonder who pays for Nelson when he's out and about. Is some lobbying buying the guy's groceries? His gasoline?

Posted by: JMG on May 20, 2010 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

I want a t-shirt with Ben Nelson's picture on it and a caption, "I know about the holograms."

Posted by: Tom Johnson on May 20, 2010 at 11:37 AM

I do too. Done!

Posted by: electrolite on May 20, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, wait a minute, before we all pile on the guy, a lot of credit and debit cards do use hologram images because they're difficult for forgers to duplicate. I'm not sure just how Nelson meant "holograms" here, but it's not totally out of the ballpark.

Is there something wrong with preferring to deal with a human being who holds a job and earns a wage than with a machine? My husband refuses to use the automatic check-outs at the grocery store as a matter of principle, because there are too many people who need jobs right now. I also prefer to deal with the humans, although for more selfish reasons -- they, unlike the auto-checkout machines, have functional cognitive faculties. If I try to use my own eco-friendly shopping bag, for example, the checkout machine keeps barking at me "Put the item in the bag! Put the item in the bag!" after I've already done so, because it doesn't recognize the existence of my cloth bag. Those things don't really save any time, and they cause infinite aggravation.

Posted by: T-Rex on May 20, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

This is stupid. My parents, who are about Ben Nelson's age have probably used an ATM twice in their lives. This is not unusual if you generally know how much cash you need, carry a credit card, and have a local bank branch you can use.

In fact, while I use ATMs, 90% of the time it is the one right across the hall from 3 tellers with few if any customers. It would be almost as easy for me to show my license and get the money I want. See, like Ben Nelson I'm fortunate enough to have a branch of my credit union on the bottom floor of the building I work in.

Finally, who's the idiot, some 70 year old guy who's not used an ATM card or the person paying $5 to take out $20 to buy their latte?

Posted by: Vondo on May 20, 2010 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Who needs an ATM when you have a briefcase full of cash from WellPoint Inc.

For the record, the first ATM was used in Brittan in 1967, Ben Nelson was 26.

Posted by: ScottW714 on May 20, 2010 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

I quit using banks because I was tired of paying a fee for a statement every three months, a fee for a copy of my checks, a fee for using checks, etc., etc., etc., fees, fees and more fees.
Then came the fees for using an atm and even for using a debit card at the store by the stores themselves. So banks and credit unions aren't the only ones getting into hidden fees in the atm business. What a racket!

Posted by: Schtick on May 20, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see too much problem here either, but the larger issue is that politicians many times have no idea what people face in their everyday lives, especially those who have been in office a long time. I think they should all be required to spend at least a few days each year in their home districts, not just at town halls, but shadowing some of their constituents, to work, on errands, to the doctor, picking up kids, dealing with school issues, etc. I remember that Obama did this as he campaigned, one I specifically remember: he went to work with a woman who was an elder caregiver and not only observed and listened but participated in giving care.

Posted by: Hmmmmm on May 20, 2010 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know about these newfangled "Hollow-Grams."

Back in '32, when I was in college, I got money with a "Tele-Gram":

"Dad: Broke. Stop. Send money. Stop."

Posted by: DAY on May 20, 2010 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Why lend (= deposit) your money to a bank if you have to pay to get it back? It's like "Whose money is it anyway?", and it's not as if they're paying you tons of interest (these days). Why does something so simple always seem to become so complicated in the Senate?

Posted by: Goldilocks on May 20, 2010 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

It looks like he want to cap fees a 50 cents, which is less than the current other bank average of $2.60 or so. In general caps on fees/interest rates cause the fee/interest rate to increase to the cap, since all the market vendors know how high then can go and they stop competing on price, and use the cap as a form of collusion.

So watch to see if the cap ends up a greater than the bank average.

Posted by: BottyGuy on May 20, 2010 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

My bank charges for ATM use, but not for getting cash from a teller, so I've never used an ATM either, so I give him a pass on that. And I also assume that he meant the security holograms on credit cards (which he probably wanted to mention as evidence of being with it, although it does come off along the lines of "yes, my grandkids are all over those internets things"). Still, I now really want to be able to send him a Princess-Leia-type message starring Nancy Pelosi, pleading with him to vote with the Dems on Health Care or some such.

Posted by: N.Wells on May 20, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

"I've never used an ATM, so I don't know what the fees are,"

He doesn't use private health insurance either, that didn't stop him from helping to prevent the rest of us from recieving the same public option he and his fammily enjoy.

If you are a member of Congress, charged with voting on issues that impact the lives of every day Americans, you should have a fucking clue about the lives of every day Americans.

Maybe it's ok for your 75-year old grandma to not know what an ATM is, or how to work it, but this guy gets a vote on how they're regulated. WTF?

Posted by: Winkandanod on May 20, 2010 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

The issue is how he votes on the fees, not whether uses an ATM.

This guy is in our party. He cast the sixtieth vote for health care at great personal risk to his reelection chances.

Better to make sure he knows that the cost of ATM processing to the bank is near zero than to waste time ridiculing him.

Posted by: Steve High on May 20, 2010 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

I want to know what he swipes to get his gas and groceries. And dont be too sure, he may know something we dont know when it comes to the holograms.

Posted by: ComradeAnon on May 20, 2010 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

"I've never used an ATM..."

What planet is this guy from?? Oh, yeah. Nebraska.

I'm okay with a 69-year-old individual not having ever used an ATM, even though my 86-year-old mother uses one regularly. I'm not okay with an elected official who represents hundreds of thousands of people not knowing about something that most of those people have to deal with daily.

I remember when ATM's first started getting pushed by the banks. They encouraged their customers to use the ATM's because they were "more efficient" and "economical" and would allow the banks to pass on cost savings to their customers. Bwahahahaha.

Posted by: josef on May 20, 2010 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK


Try putting your bags in the bag zone BEFORE you start scanning items. At the stores I go to, the machine will then ask "Are you using your own bags?" and if you press the "Yes" key, will then start checking you out without any further problems.

I always had to wait for "assistance" to clear the auto-check machine until one of the attendants told me about that little trick. They also showed me how to do produce. I'm saddened by the fact that these machines have cost a lot of jobs for checkers, but at certain times of the day, THERE ARE NO CHECKERS on duty at this particular store.

Posted by: Zandru on May 20, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, my senator.......

Posted by: 2Manchu on May 20, 2010 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

Next, we'll tackle convenience store milk because it's too much bother to know where the grocery stores are.

Who gets nailed by these fees more than once before they know to become VERY familiar with the locations of their bank? Between GPS and cell phone internet access, many can find one in places they've never been. Finally, call a friend who's at a computer to look up where a nearby branch is if $5 is killing you.

Populist crap, and I'm a fan of populism.

Sorry, you can't legislate stupid away.

Posted by: toowearyforoutrage on May 26, 2010 at 7:25 PM | PERMALINK



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