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Welfare bankcards aren't associated with any specific bank, so in order for families to withdraw money without incurring ATM fees, they have to find a fee-less ATM — a rarity these days. At a regular ATM, families can expect to pay up to $4 per transaction in order to access their cash benefits. These fees quickly add up, especially when considering that an average welfare benefit to a Bay Area family is only $670 per month. Last year, Bank of America took in $3.6 million from welfare transaction fees, Chase earned $2.8 million, and Wells Fargo pocketed $2.3 million.
Collectively, Bank of America, Chase, and Wells Fargo earned $49.7 billion last year. A family on welfare in the Bay Area earns an average of $8,040 per year. Nineteen million dollars is a drop in the bucket for major banking institutions, but consider what $19 million looks like when compared to welfare benefits: Last year, major banks earned enough money off of welfare transaction fees to support the equivalent of more than 2,300 of our poorest families.
Individuals should not have to bear the burden of unnecessary bank fees when accessing their benefits, and it is disgraceful that banks are making a profit on the backs of families in need. The welfare system in California is funded by taxpayer dollars — taxpayers who are not expecting their hard-earned money to be lining the pockets of wildly profitable banks.
If banks truly cared about our communities, they would waive transaction fees for our welfare recipients. Given their billions in earnings last year, they certainly won't miss the money. The US government bailed out banks when they were at their neediest. It's high time that banks extend the same consideration to California poorest families.
Anna Salomone, Albany
'A Riot Is the Language of the Unheard'
Are you in support of Black Lives Matter, stopping the war on drugs, stopping mass incarceration, and ending the prison industrial complex, but a part of you is outraged by the violence at the protests in Baltimore and Ferguson and think that nonviolence is the only way forward for African Americans living in the modern racial caste system? If that's you, I'd encourage you to first take a close look at the civil rights struggle in the Sixties and compare them to the tactics of protests today. Specifically, look at Martin Luther King's national integration struggle, the Black Panthers, Black Nationalism, the Nation of Islam, and Malcolm X's Muslim Mosque Inc. after he left the Nation of Islam.
Looking at the history, it's easy to see that the civil rights struggle was successful in large part by having these diverse yet powerful radical elements pushing the debate. Obviously, looking back on the history of America, no one could blame African Americans in the Sixties for radicalism. They were responding to a situation that was radical. Yet the same types of criticism you see today of protests in Ferguson and Baltimore were being used back then. White America accused Malcolm X of preaching hate. The hypocrisy of that is mind-blowing. These "radical" elements pushed legislators to take MLK's nonviolent radicalism way more seriously and eventually pass laws. It was either make deals with MLK or the Panthers. It was either MLKs "I have a dream" or Malcolm X's "the ballot or the bullet."
Since the Sixties, mainstream America has been trying to whitewash the legacy of the civil rights struggle by focusing on colorblindness and building up MLK's nonviolent tactics. If you didn't live through the Sixties, or don't do your own research, you may never even know who the Black Panthers and Malcolm X truly were and how their tactics influenced the entire Civil Rights Movement.
Fast-forward to today, and I'd say African Americans are in arguably as deep a problem as they were in the Sixties. If you want more info, read The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Era of Colorblindness. In a nutshell, Michelle Alexander discusses how the War on Drugs was a racist conspiracy created by the Reagan Administration in the Eighties to create a new caste system. This was to be done without racist words because that was no longer acceptable to do out in the open. Their ultimate goal was to subjugate African Americans using the built-up resentment by White America against Black gains made in the Civil Rights Movement.
Alexander is the first to admit there has been collateral damage in the War on Drugs that cut across racial lines, but the War on Drugs disproportionately targets African Americans. Ever since, the Eighties, the US has been putting people behind bars by the millions with laws on the books enforced by the US Supreme Court. And once a person is in prison, they become part of a forgotten underclass. They are forced to check off the felon box every time they look for a job, and in some cases, lose the right to vote. This has devastated Black communities all over America for the past thirty years.