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Capping Off the Financial News Week

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It’s been a doozy of a week for American consumers. From the new unemployment numbers a few hours ago that reveal an uptick in unemployment claims to the bombshells that are dropping about the American government collecting untold numbers of datasets that reveal who we call, who emails us, and perhaps most alarming, what we’re doing with our credit cards, it’s been a tough a week for all things financial news.

WSJ Financial News

On late Thursday, the Wall Street Journal revealed that there exists a third so-called secret program that allows NSA to tap into our credit card transactions. All of our credit card transactions. It’s not clear what, if anything, the government is looking for nor is it known how long this program has been in place. The White House has yet to respond to questions, either.

Hours after news broke that Verizon had been ordered to hand over its records, the jokes began hitting Facebook. Especially taunting (and funny) was the “Can you hear me now?” question followed by an image of the president on the phone, feet on his desk and smiling with the caption, “Why yes, I can hear you just fine”. While it was a brief comical interlude, it doesn’t lessen the seriousness of the revelation. Along with news of the third program that collects financial data and credit card transactions, we also learned that not only was Verizon ordered to hand over its documentation, but other communication companies as well, including ATT, Sprint and ISP providers. They too have been ordered to hand over financial data. Finally, this morning, it’s learned that these programs, according to Congress, has been “ongoing for several years and is renewed every three months by Congress”.

It’s a difficult realization to swallow, no doubt. It’s also one of those financial news facts that are going to be around for awhile and if you’re feeling as though you’ve been violated, you’re not alone. Most Americans understand the Patriot Act was designed to protect us in a post-9/11 society; what no one really considered was that we’d be the targets of the government seeking to uncover terrorism.

What YOU Think

We made an impromptu effort of seeing what some of our readers thought. Interestingly enough, their thoughts ran the gamut. Here’s what they had to say:

I don’t see what the big deal is. Think about it: our lives are documented, nearly in their entirety, through some kind of digital effort. We weren’t griping when cameras were used to catch the bombers in Boston. And we’re not griping when we upload our pictures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Hell, we put more out there about ourselves than the government can even begin to collect. – Tim, Houston Texas

Uhm, well, here’s the truth – if they were trying to get information on how to fix the economy or get a better number on unemployment or other data that they usually ‘guesstimate’, I guess I wouldn’t be so bothered. But I don’t like feeling as though they think I’m a terrorist or something. – Melinda, Atlanta, Georgia

Tyranny at its best. Next thing you know, they’re going to be telling me I drink too many Dr Peppers cause they saw it on my Visa bill. Yeah, they better back off now because the longer this goes on, the worse it’s gonna be. I wonder if Bloomberg has his hands in? – Bill, Brooklyn New York

Student Loans

Meanwhile, on Thursday, another story broke but was eclipsed by the Verizon dataset scandal. The Senate was unable to reach an agreement that would prevent the doubling of an interest rate on the subsidized Stafford student loans. Remember, this is the same problem we faced one year ago when it was agreed to extend the lower interest rate for another year. Now, we’re nearing that same July 1 deadline. And, if you’re a betting person, we’re thinking it’s going to go right up to the deadline once again.

Student loans and credit card debt are the two biggest concerns for Americans. The higher unemployment number isn’t helping, either. What will be interesting is breaking those numbers down later in the month to see just how well college students are coping with those two energy-drains: their credit card balances and their student loan balances. With $1 trillion in student debt, a lot is at stake.

Still, for now, this proposal defeat is bound to result in bickering back and forth, which is rarely breaking financial news. Even Obama has already begun his repeat of the same tired arguments: “Force them to find a solution” and “Call your senators” on Twitter. This morning, the White House Friday officially launched its “Don’t Double My Rate” (#dontdoublemyrate) social media campaign to rally students and their parents. It mirrors last year’s efforts, almost exactly. Obama said,

Last year, you convinced 186 Republicans in the House and 24 Republicans in the Senate to work with Democrats to keep student loan rates low. You made something bipartisan happen in this town that is – that’s a powerful thing. You guys were able to get Democrats and Republicans to vote for something that was important.

While the president was hitting the social networking avenues, a Republican plan that would establish market-based rates tied to Treasury notes, along with a Democratic bill that was designed to extend the current lower rates for another two years each failed to get the 60 votes needed to advance. If the current rate expires, the immediate increase will be sharp, affecting more than 7 million student borrowers. Since most of today’s college students were born, both the fees and tuition at public universities have more than doubled with the average student who takes out loans to pay for four years of college graduates owing more than $26,000. That’s not even counting the credit card debt they take with them.

So as we get ready to a much needed weekend break, what will be on your mind mostly in the coming days? Unemployment? The credit card data being collected by the government? Student loans and the growing credit card debt today’s college students must shoulder? Share your thoughts with us. We’d like to hear your story.

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