Big cable is at it again.
Comcast — the only cable company in town — slyly announced on its December billing statements that beginning January 1, a $1.99 “convenience fee” will be charged to customers who pay in person.
I was outraged when I saw this. Ever since I’ve had cable three companies ago, when it was Rogers, then Paragon, then Time Warner and now the Philadelphia-based mega-company, I have handed over my hard-earned bucks to a customer service person each month.
Comcast, the only cable game in town, has no competition, so we consumers have no leverage. A “convenience fee” will be enforced no matter what fuss I make, which I did while in their North Minneapolis office last week. When they learned the news, other bill-paying customers did as well.
Now I have two least desired options — insert my money into some ATM-like machine now installed in Comcast’s offices, or use a check or money order, lick a stamp and mail it in (online pay option didn’t even make the cut) to choose from.
If I continue paying in person, now with $2 tacked onto an ever-increasing monthly cable bill, that’s an extra $24 Comcast is getting for their convenience — not mine. I now wonder how much of that will go to Congressional members.
I recently learned that Big Comcast gave Washington lawmakers over $2 million over a two-year period from January 2009 through June 2011 in support of H.R. 3261, says MapLight, a nonpartisan research group. The group’s report adds that cable and satellite services, music companies, entertainment firms, television and radio stations, motion pictures companies and others have given four times as much to House members than those entities, mainly online computer services, who are against the bill.
The report also revealed that all but three members of the current U.S. Congress have received financial contributions in relation to The Stop Online Piracy Act. It would allow the U.S. government to shut down online sites without due process if its content is found to infringe on copyright or intellectual property rights.
Furthermore, in too many cases in fact, there are many congressmen and congresswomen who got money from both sides. It’s reminiscent of a scene in the movie The Distinguished Gentleman where a lobbyist tell Eddie Murphy that whatever side he’s on, he can get paid.
So while Congress blocks payroll tax holiday bills and job-creation legislation, beating their ideological chests and digging in their heels in drawing lines in the legislative sand, they also are filling up their wallets and purses in green. As compromises these days are exceptions rather than rules in governance or working for the public good, we instead got lawmakers from coast to coast literally holding up cardboard signs — “Will vote for money.”
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who’s running for president, is the Minnesota congressional delegation’s double-dipping leader: She got almost $650,000 from interest groups who support the measure, and over $28,000 from those who are against it. John Kline got $204,850 from bill-supporting groups and $22,550 from against-the-bill groups.
Betty McCollum received over $68,000 (for) and $19,500 (against); and Erik Paulsen: $254,210 (for) and $58,000-plus (against).
Collin Peterson received $81,800 from groups who support the bill and $21,500 from those who don’t. Tim Walz got $143,700 and $8,600 from the yeas and nays respectively.
The state’s only Black House member, Keith Ellison received $86,185 from the bill-supporting groups and $4,260 from those against the bill. However, House Speaker John Boehner is by far the leader of the greedy: $1.1 million from the yea groups, and $104, 015 from the nays.
And on the Senate side, Senator John McCain is his side’s leader in the influential-bucks game. McCain have received nearly a million dollars from online computer services, television and radio stations, and cable and satellite operations in contributions for bills supported and opposed over a six-year period (2005-2011).
How much did President Barack Obama get? Absolutely nothing. Comcast and the others don’t have any interest slipping any money to the White House because the president never makes any laws — but Congress does.
It makes you wonder whose side Congress is really on. It gives you a clearer understanding why we the people don’t see anything getting done, but the congressmen and women get paid.
I guess I should invest in the U.S. Postal Service, since I now will need more stamps to send in my cable payments.
Happy New Year!
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.