The Sorensen Monologues

Archive for June 8th, 2010

This Week’s Cartoon: “Great Moments in Astroturf”

I saw a web ad not too long ago that read something like “Stop big government at the cash register! Tell Congress ‘Hands off my wallet!’” (Alas, I can’t find the actual ad online anymore.) These days, any campaign starting with “Hands off!” tends to mean “Stop laws preventing big business from getting its hands on something,” so out of curiosity, I clicked.

It turns out part of the recent financial reform bill passed by the Senate included a provision protecting small merchants from price-gouging by credit card networks. From Sen. Dick Durbin himself:

An estimated $48 billion in swipe fees were charged by credit and debit card networks in 2008 – this money came out of the bottom line of small businesses and consumers across America, and 80% of this money went to just ten large banks… Currently Visa and MasterCard, which control nearly the entire debit card market, set unreasonably high debit interchange fee rates that bear no relation to costs.

You know those little signs at the cash register that say “Purchases under $10 cash only”? Technically, they’re illegal — even though merchants actually lose money when people use plastic for small items. This law would change that, and the big banks are pissed. So they’ve set up a front group called “Consumers Against Retail Discrimination” — C.A.R.D., of course! — to protest this unfair discrimination against poor li’l plastic. Among these oh-so-altruistic “consumer advocates” are Mastercard, Visa, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, and many more!

For banks to pull this stunt in this crappy economy, after all the damage they’ve done so far, takes real wontons* — and only a few people seem to be talking about it. So I felt compelled to address it in a cartoon, although I’m afraid the comic barely scratches the surface. Some things just require too much explanation. Oh well.

*Intended as a reference to male or female reproductive organs


Jen Sorensen is a nationally-syndicated political cartoonist whose work has appeared in The Progressive, The Nation, Daily Kos, Austin Chronicle, NPR, Ms., Politico, and many other publications. The recipient of the 2014 Herblock Prize and a 2013 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, she tweets at @JenSorensen.

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