Pierson, Vic 2015 cropped                     Vic Pierson

Last month marked the fifth anniversary of the federal Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform and consumer protection act. At that time, July, 2010, there were 7,830 commercial banks and savings institutions covered by the federal deposit insurance corporation in the United States. According to the most recent FDIC data, that number has now declined to 6,419.
In evaluating this pronounced decline, it should be kept in mind that the years covered are after the height of the financial crisis that began in 2008, so these numbers are not heavily weighted by bank failures. For example, there were only five bank failures in 2014 and four to date this year.
In other words, the vast majority of banks – and, to be more precise, community banks – have voluntarily decided to find a merger partner rather than staying in business as local and independent depository institutions.
During that same five-year period, there have been less than five new bank charters filed and approved by federal or state authorities.
No one is ascribing this development solely to the regulatory overreach of the Dodd-Frank Act but these are unprecedented numbers. There can likewise be no doubt that the consumer financial protection bureau, which was created by the Dodd-Frank act, has been the most prolific in terms of issuing an excess of new obstacles to the delivery of retail customer service by community banks.
The residential mortgage marketplace has seen an exodus of community banks from all three of its aspects, namely origination, servicing and securitization. Just last month, the bureau had to adopt – thankfully – an emergency delay in a new mortgage-disclosure rule threatening to turn a lackluster market further south.
Last month, it was discovered that CFPB had sent out an information “request” to the nation’s major check-processing companies for overdraft-protection information on all their bank clients. This only became known when one of the companies informed its bank customers that they would be receiving an add-on charge for the “significant expense” involved in the data production.
When Dodd-Frank was being enacted, community banks were told that, while they would be subject to CFPB rules, supervision would remain with the FDIC or other existing bank regulatory agency. That has not been the case, which was certainly a surprise to community banks, as I am sure it was to these outside service contractors.
Vic Pierson is president of Moody National Bank and a former long-serving mayor of Jamaica Beach.

Mollette, Glenn New                Glenn Mollette

Medical care is a lifelong necessity to a happy normal life.
Here are my solutions to the healthcare crisis in our country.
Put the very poor and disabled on Medicaid. Essentially, that is where they are now.
Allow those with preexisting conditions to buy into Medicare. If they are making just above the poverty rate, then give them a financial break. Most people with a preexisting condition do not mind paying. They simply want some health insurance.
Next, allow working people to have their insurance through their employers or to buy insurance from any state in America.  We need more competitive insurance carriers in the market.
The cost of prescription drugs is killing some Americans faster than their diseases. We commonly hear television stories about people going bankrupt because of cancer treatments. It’s time for us to partner with Canada in ani prescription agreement. With Canada’s partnership, our food and drug administration could authorize safe drug houses for us to purchase our prescriptions. If you don’t mind traveling to Mexico you can already walk into their pharmacies and buy what you want. We need some type of “North American drug deal” that helps sick people buy medicine cost-effectively and safely.
Emphasize and fund our county health clinics. Keep nurses on staff who can treat people with basic issues such as viruses and hand out birth-control items to women and men. Provide care for pregnant women by offering free ultrasound scans.
The health clinics must have access to our public schools. Representatives should be visiting schools teaching prevention to at least all elementary and junior-high students. One of the main solutions to the medical crisis in our country is teaching our children about good health habits at an early age.
In simple terms, children need to hear about what is good and what is bad to eat. They need to hear about exercise, sleep, food portions and the importance of flossing and brushing their teeth.
Warn them about the dangers of smoking and overdrinking with more than just saying something is bad for you. Show pictures of what a smoker’s lungs look like. Show pictures of what fat looks like in our bellies.
Obviously, our children are not being given this information in their current health classes. They are getting fatter and fatter and becoming very obese Americans. So they are dealing with diabetes and heart issues at very young ages.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. We must press the health information on the minds of American people and make the care available and affordable.
If we live long enough we will all die from some health-related issue. However, good medical care is an integral part of living a happy normal life.
Glenn Mollette is an American author whose syndicated column is read in all 50 states.

Ian White                Ian White

And so, on Thursday, the first seven Republican Party candidates for the 2017-2020 presidency to be granted a televised public debate lined up to tell us why they should be their party’s nominee in next year’s election.
The event was dubbed the Happy Hour debate but I’m sure the runners and riders would rather have been involved in the main event beginning three hours and 50 minutes later.
That “suberbowl” debate featured 10 more candidates – the front runners, apparently, if you believe Fox News’ latest ratings poll. I’m not that certain because political polls are notoriously inaccurate. Error margins of plus or minus three percentage points are common, which is huge for candidates who, like former Texas governor Rick Perry, was credited with less than three per cent of the poll total.
Because this particular poll is actually an average of five including four conducted by other organizations – Bloomberg, CBS News, Monmouth University and Quinnipiac University – I wonder whether the margin of error is exacerbated rather than diminished when it comes to the final analysis.
But hey ho – no one in the race is complaining about the math, so let’s move on. The point of the two debates was for the candidates to boost their ratings in the next poll, so who were the winners and losers?
The pundits awarded the Happy Hour debate to former Hewlett Packard boss Carly Fiorina by a considerable margin, presenting Mr Perry with a tough battle to break into the next Top Ten. On top of that, my guess is that the rest of America would rather not have a man who once threatened to secede Texas from the Union succeed the nation’s 44th commander in chief.
Of Thursday’s Top Ten, I thought Wisconsin governor Scott Walker put in the least convincing performance in comparison with his third place in the qualification poll. Not enough to sink his chances for the next round, perhaps, but sufficient to suggest he’ll have to sharpen up if he’s to last the distance.
I loved neurosurgeon Ben Carson but not just for his brilliant closing speech, although it will be long remembered. As a Johnny-come-lately politician joining a pack of wolves baying for the blood of the piggie in the middle, his only chance was to adopt a presidential air – and he did so impeccably.
As the latest shining star of a revered Republican dynasty, former Florida governor Jeb Bush was surely entitled to do the same. Alas, I think it was a mistake at this stage of the race. Next week, we’ll all remember Dr Carson’s measured style, but what will we be able to recall of young Jeb’s contribution to a debate that included verbal fisticuffs between New Jersey governor Chris Christie and Kentucky senator Rand Paul?
Add to that Paul’s attempt to kill off the piggie, alias Donald Trump, and Master Bush looked positively bland and not the larger-than-life character the Republican electorate apparently wants to take on the Democrats’ nominee in November next year.
Trump, irrepressible as ever and with a huge polling lead going into the evening, was like the curate’s egg in the debate – good in parts but horribly bad in others. Can he survive to the next round? Not if the studio focus group has its way, but there’s a lot more polling to be done before we find out.
Of the other four in the main event, Florida senator Marco Rubio looked solid and Texas senator Ted Cruz impressed with his passion for the truth until he told a whopper about Iran’s nuclear-bomb-making capability. Cut that out, Ted!
All this, I reckon, leaves former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and Ohio governor John Kasich looking over their shoulders at the fast-rising Fiorina. Not because either of them was bad – quite the contrary – but because, for all the virtues they both displayed as a potential president, they each seemed rather too “nice” to excite a majority of voters from outside their own states.
Ian White is editor of The Post. Contact him at ian@thepostnewspaper.net

Mollette, Glenn New               Glenn Mollette

Most Americans cannot tell you how many Republicans are running for president. If they are like me at this point, they don’t care. I suppose that, if 10 more people announce their candidacy, we would just nod our heads sort of like Linda Blair did in the movie The Exorcist. If you didn’t see the movie, it wasn’t pretty.
There is not much pretty right now about all the political rhetoric in our country. I guess we shrug our shoulders and say: “That’s politics in America.”
Actually, it’s entertaining and will become more so. We have Lindsey Graham shattering his cell phone after Donald Trump gave out his phone number. Rand Paul tried to become theatrical by sawing up a copy of the tax code. Ted Cruz recently called Mitch McConnell a liar and Mike Huckabee has Jews at the door of a furnace if the Iran nuclear-arms deal goes through.
Personally, I don’t like the idea of trusting anything to Iran either. If they get a bomb, we will be the second people they will drop one on, right after Israel.
All the while, Trump’s hairdo has not changed. If I had $10 billion, I would at least get a different haircut.
While the Republicans get louder, Hillary Clinton is still dealing with her e-mail problems and fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders is turning up the chase just a bit.
Trying to answer the question of who will be our next president is a little scary. Just exactly who will be our next commander in chief? Who really has the best ideas and the leadership ability to pull this country together and save us from going the way of Greece?
While politicians slug it out, ordinary Americans are dealing with their own worries. How long will we have social security for retirement? How will Medicare ever pay all the growing medical bills? My wife recently had three tests done in one of our esteemed clinics and the bill was more than $10,000! Fortunately our insurance paid $7,700 but that left us with a nice balance.
In my opinion, the three tests were worth about $2,300.00. I suspect we paid the bill and our insurance company was slammed for $7,700 of gravy money.
Stuff like this is happening all around. We have university presidents in this nation making close to $1m a year while 22-year-old kids try to pay back their $60,000 college loans. All the while, many of the corporations and unions that promised to pay their employees generous lifelong retirements plus all their medical bills are trying to renege on the deals or at least edit what they promised.
Many Americans watch the news and know that Islamic State and terrorism are growing. They know our jobs are leaving America. They know education is expensive. Even with Obamacare, going to the doctor is often cost-prohibitive. They know our country is being flooded with illegal immigrants and they realize that, in many cases, our kids might not have the American life that our parents did.
In the midst of all this, many Americans are depressed and feel hopeless and many don’t give an iota about who is a Democrat or a Republican. They want somebody that gives them a feeling of hope. The man or woman who for the next 16 months can convince the average American that he or she can pull this country together and truly make us a leading and prosperous nation again will be our next president.
Glenn Mollette is an American author whose syndicated column is read in all 50 states.

Political Battle

Hamilton, Lee             Lee Hamilton

MEMBERS OF the US congress are categorized in all sorts of ways. They’re liberal or conservative, Republican or Democrat, interested in domestic affairs or specialists in foreign policy.
There’s one important category, though, that I never hear discussed – whether a member wants to be an inside player or an outside player. Yet where members fall on the continuum helps to shape the institution of congress.
Insiders focus on making the institution work. They give fewer speeches on the floor, issue fewer press releases and spend less time considering how to play the public-relations game or how to raise money. Instead, they put in long, tedious hours on developing legislation, attending hearings, listening to experts, exploring policy options and working on building consensus. They’re the ones who do the necessary work of legislating.
Outsiders pass through the institution of congress but many of them are using the organization – and especially its house of representatives – as a stepping stone to another office, the senate, a governorship, the presidency.
On Capitol Hill, these people behave very differently from insiders. They raise money aggressively, put a lot of effort into developing a public persona and are consumed with public relations.
They travel a lot. They churn out press releases and speak on the floor on every topic they can find to deliver an opinion about. They miss votes more frequently than insiders and often do not attend committee hearings. They’re often impatient with house and senate traditions and are impatient with the democratic process.
You have to have members reaching out to the broader public, talking about the big issues and engaging Americans in the issues of the day. And you need people on the inside who are dedicated to resolving those issues by attending to the legislation that will make resolution possible.
Congress wouldn’t work if everyone were an outside player. Yet, if everyone were an insider, the country would be deprived of the dialogue, debate and sheer spectacle that give Americans a sense of stake and participation in the policy-making process.

Why run for national office?

I SPEND a fair amount of time talking to young people about congress and politics and I’ve noticed something. I was once regularly asked how one runs for office. Nowadays, that rarely happens.
A lot of young people are repelled by politics. But look. If you don’t have people who are willing to run for office, you don’t have a representative democracy.
As the leading edge of the millennial generation reaches the age at which running for office is a realistic possibility, I hope they’ll consider a few things.
First, it’s hard to find a more challenging job. The number, complexity and diversity of the problems we face are astounding. It’s intellectually as challenging an occupation as anything I can imagine.
Second, I don’t know of another profession that puts you in touch with more people of more different types, ages and views – liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, religious believers and secular humanists alike. This splendid array of individuals and convictions is one of the great attractions of the job.
Finally, and perhaps most important, the work can be immensely satisfying. Whether it’s for the school board or for the nation’s president, you’re doing it to try to make things work.
In my first year in congress, in 1965, I voted for Medicare. I’d had no role in drafting it. I played no substantive part in its passage. Yet I still remember that vote and still derive deep satisfaction from it because I know I voted for legislation that has helped millions and will continue to do so.
That’s the thing about holding public office – you have a chance to contribute to the direction and success of a free society. In the scheme of things, this chance isn’t given to all that many people.
There is no America without democracy, no democracy without politics and no politics without elected politicians. There are many satisfying professions but I consider politics chief among them.

Lee Hamilton is director of The Center On Congress At Indiana University and was a member of the US house of representatives for 34 years.