Magazine November 28, 2011, Issue

Letters

The Friedman-Durbin Amendment?

In The Week (October 31), the Editors write that the Durbin amendment’s cap on the fees that merchants pay for debit-card transactions prompted banks to “transfer the fee from merchants to their customers” in the form of a $5 monthly charge for debit-card users. But I think it was Milton Friedman who noted that the final consumer pays all costs: The fees were already being paid by consumers. I own a retail store. When you raise credit- or debit-card fees, I raise my prices. (And incidentally, Bank of America has since killed the $5 fee.)

The piece also calls the measure “a special favor to retailers” that Durbin inserted “having been lobbied by one of the nation’s biggest retailers, Walgreens.” However, the law is a boon for retailers of all sizes, and rightly so: Previously, according to the contracts they had to sign to accept cards, retailers often had to socialize the cost of interchange fees, raising prices for everyone regardless of how they paid. Now, under a Durbin-amendment provision your piece doesn’t mention, businesses may offer a discount for customers who pay in cash — charging each customer for the services he uses. I believe you will see many small businesses doing so in the new year.

George Ackerman

Newport News, Va.

 

The Editors reply: How much power businesses have to pass on costs to consumers is the subject of some dispute among economists. Extra costs can raise prices; they can also reduce profits, reduce quality, reduce choices, or reduce wages, depending on the particulars of the market in question. Why anybody would think that Senator Durbin is better positioned to manage relations between merchants and service providers than are the merchants and service providers themselves suggests at the very least an unfamiliarity with the career of Dick Durbin.

 

Beyond Art History

Kudos to Andrew Kelly for his excellent piece extolling the virtues of vocational training (“Beyond Home Ec,” October 31). For the past half century, and much to our eventual disadvantage, America’s educational cadre has sniffed at the nation’s tool and die makers to concentrate on baccalaureate-seeking theorists. Skilled workers in the utilities and manufacturing trades now command a fairly healthy salary owing to this bias and their relatively low numbers.

The “taxi driver with a master’s degree in art history” conundrum that leads the article requires no explanation for those with a basic knowledge of supply and demand. Almost irrespective of where we are in the business cycle, engineers and other such applied-science-trained individuals generally suffer few disappointments in seeking employment. So while I would not advocate a math-and-science diet for all collegians, I would suggest that all research their post-graduation employment prospects. At least that way, should they still press on for a doctorate in art history, they will do so with full knowledge that the corporate world regards their discipline as essentially without value.

K. O. Randel

Via e-mail

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

Cristina’s Whirl

If you want to understand why Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner triumphed quite so conclusively (with 54 percent of the vote against 17 percent for her nearest challenger) in October’s ...
Politics & Policy

A Hero of Us All

Last month, there were reports that Chen Guangcheng was dead. That they had at last killed him. “They”? China’s ruling Communists, who have tormented Chen for years. Other reports said, ...

Features

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Mid-Century Mind

Dwight Macdonald (1906–82) was a clamorous figure in 20th-century New York intellectual circles. Simply living here, one absorbed anecdotes about him, by osmosis: that an annoyed Trotsky said he favored ...
Politics & Policy

Religious Rights

This book is indispensable for anyone seeking to understand the degree to which the freedoms of religion and expression are being violated in Muslim-majority countries, and why this development has ...
Politics & Policy

The Fall

Prosperity has a thousand fathers; economic ruin is an orphan. Few liberals want to acknowledge that our Great Recession was made, in part, in Washington, D.C., by the well-meaning politicians ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

The Friedman-Durbin Amendment? In The Week (October 31), the Editors write that the Durbin amendment’s cap on the fees that merchants pay for debit-card transactions prompted banks to “transfer the fee ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐  The headline above an Associated Press story on the 2012 election read, “Obama’s team banks on his ‘regular guy’ appeal.” We’re not in the habit of giving advice to ...
The Long View

NSA Surveillance Transcript

Document Extract: 11.08.11 GMT 08.93 Begin Extract UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE:   Hello? UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE #2:   Who is this, please? UNIDENTIFIED MALE VOICE:   Herman? Herman Cain? This is Bill Clinton. HERMAN CAIN:   Bill Clinton? The Bill Clinton? BILL ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

GHOST AND GUEST Collapsing on a sleeping friend Upon the couch, I fell Sincerely sorry to offend This guest in my “hotel.” Our customary schedules changed, He lay as if in pitch, No boundaries, his form estranged From ...
Happy Warrior

Treadmarks

Whenever I write in these pages about the corrosive effect of Big Government upon the citizenry in Britain, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere and note that this republic is fairly well ...

Most Popular

Elections

Trouble in the Workers’ Paradise

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is precisely the sort of campaign surrogate you want, especially if you are Bernie Sanders: She is young, energetic, charismatic, popular (with the people she needs to be popular with, anyway), and, happily, currently ineligible to run for the presidency ... Read More
Elections

Trouble in the Workers’ Paradise

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is precisely the sort of campaign surrogate you want, especially if you are Bernie Sanders: She is young, energetic, charismatic, popular (with the people she needs to be popular with, anyway), and, happily, currently ineligible to run for the presidency ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Bill Barr Derangement Syndrome

Can the republic survive Attorney General William Barr? That’s the question that has seized the media and center-left, which have worked themselves into a full-blown panic over an attorney general who is, inarguably, a serious legal figure and one of the adults in the room late in President Trump’s first ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Bill Barr Derangement Syndrome

Can the republic survive Attorney General William Barr? That’s the question that has seized the media and center-left, which have worked themselves into a full-blown panic over an attorney general who is, inarguably, a serious legal figure and one of the adults in the room late in President Trump’s first ... Read More
Elections

RIP Bloomberg 2020

I thought that Bloomberg’s confused half-defense of stop-and-frisk was going to be his low point. Well. His torturous response on his lawsuits and NDAs was truly awful -- beyond incompetent. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the end of Bloomberg 2020. Read More
Elections

RIP Bloomberg 2020

I thought that Bloomberg’s confused half-defense of stop-and-frisk was going to be his low point. Well. His torturous response on his lawsuits and NDAs was truly awful -- beyond incompetent. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the end of Bloomberg 2020. Read More
Elections

Revenge against the Deplorables

One of the theories behind the Bernie Sanders campaign, one often shared by his more devoted fans in the media, is that Democrats lost voters to Donald Trump in 2016 because they had ceased to talk about the economic issues that matter to those voters. Hadn’t Obama also shared his concern about trade deals and ... Read More
Elections

Revenge against the Deplorables

One of the theories behind the Bernie Sanders campaign, one often shared by his more devoted fans in the media, is that Democrats lost voters to Donald Trump in 2016 because they had ceased to talk about the economic issues that matter to those voters. Hadn’t Obama also shared his concern about trade deals and ... Read More