Swiss banking: BNA reports that the Swiss president expects parliament to approve the August 2009 US-Swiss agreement on UBS accounts, which is necessary to prevent the US from reopening the John Doe proceedings against the bank and seek details on all 45,000 accounts under threat of taking away the license permitting UBS to operate in the United States. Given the alternative, Swiss president Leuthard noted, "I have difficulties understanding why parliament would not accept ratifying the agreement." BNA, Mar. 25, 2010.
Refund Anticipation Loans: A New York court has required H&R Block to respond to the state human rights division subpoena for information on H&R's targeting of RALs to minorities and military families. NY State Division of Human Rights v. H&R Block Tax Services Inc., NY App. Div. No. 4237N 1726/07 (Mar. 23, 2010).
Health Reform scare tactics: The House and Senate passed the reconciliation bill (HR 4872) on March 25, and signing is planned for March 30. BNA has two updated CRS reports about the reconciliation bill, here and here (for BNA subscribers).
Noting the near culmination of the long process of passing a health reform bill, Carl Levin states (in a release available here):
These months of debate have been difficult. They have too often been filled with too much heat and too little light, with exaggeration, half-truth, untruth and innuendo designed to obscure rather than to inform. That’s no different in many ways from some previous debates on major reforms. When Congress approved Social Security in 1935, one Republican senator warned it would “end the progress of a great country.” When Medicare was debated in 1965, one critic charged that cooperating with the plan would be “complicity in evil.”
That these scare tactics of the past proved absurd is demonstrated by the fact that, today, as we debate this legislation, our Republican colleagues continue to claim that their opposition is in part a defense of Medicare. Not too long ago Ronald Reagan declared Medicare a threat to our very freedom. He did so in a recording distributed by the American Medical Association, which opposed Medicare. Today, the AMA endorses our health care plan. So do AARP, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Physicians and the American Hospital Association. Perhaps these groups have all suddenly become exponents of a government take-over of health care. No, in fact, the claims that this bill represents a government take-over of health care are just another round of the scare tactics we have seen so often before.
What's the common thread to these three items? For me, it is the fact that institutions must be constantly vigilant. Congress--and the American people--can't afford to waste time arguing about misleading statements and distortions of fact. We shouldn't be disserved by banks trying to corrupt our tax system, by tax return preparers using client information to push client's into accepting loans at obscenely high rates, by politicians misinforming us about what a bill's provisions would do. One example of the distortive "scare tactics" used during the health reform debate should be sufficient. Sarah Pallin's "death panel" nonsense was a scare tactic intended to make it impossible to pass any critically needed health care reform by frightening people into thinking that a benefit that we all would welcome (being entitled to have, once every five years, a discussion with our medical care provider about services available at end of life and what kind of care and decisions we would like made at that point) was instead something we would all condemn (the farcical rouse that the bill created "death panels" that would have yay or nay votes on an individual's continuing to get health care).
People need to work together to keep politicians, banks and private companies more accountable. We cannot ensure perfection, but certainly we should heap so much scorn on those politicians who consistently lie and mislead that they start to realize that they can't get away with it.