Donate to save Haitians, VISA, MasterCard and American Express get rich?

January 16, 2010

E-mail from Daniel Mintz at

As the tragedy in Haiti unfolds, Americans are generously donating millions of dollars to aid organizations.

But when Americans donate to charity with their credit cards, the credit card companies get rich. In some cases they keep 3% of the donation as a “transaction fee,” even though that’s far more than it costs them to process the donation.

It’s outrageous and wrong—and it needs to stop.

Can you sign this petition to the CEOs of the major credit card companies demanding that they waive their processing fees for all charitable donations? Clicking here will add your name:

The petition says: “Credit card companies shouldn’t be getting rich off of Americans’ generosity. They should waive all fees on charitable contributions from today on.”

The credit card companies are trying to get ahead of this story, announcing they will temporarily waive the fees they charge on some Haiti-related charitable contributions for the next 6 weeks. But that’s nowhere near enough. Many emergency donations to Haiti will still get hit with hefty bank fees. (To give a sense of how limited the exemption is, Doctors Without Borders isn’t on any of the publicly available lists of charities that won’t be charged fees.)2

All American credit card companies should announce that they will waive ALL fees on charitable contributions, starting today, and going forward for good. This isn’t about helping political organizations like MoveOn, just helping true charitable organizations.

It’s the right thing to do, and honestly, it’s the least they could do after the role they played in crashing the entire global economy last year.
But they won’t do it unless they know how angry Americans are that they’re profiting off of this terrible tragedy. Click here to sign the petition, which we’ll deliver to the heads of the major credit card companies:
Thanks for all you do.

–Daniel, Kat, Peter, Lenore, and the rest of the team


1. “As Wallets Open For Haiti, Credit Card Companies Take A Big Cut,” The Huffington Post, January 14, 2010

2. “Some Card Fees Waived for Haiti Aid,” The New York Times, January 14, 2010

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Frozen North economics: Where supply, demand and distribution are important problems

September 6, 2008

Especially you economics teachers, look at this very carefully:

Six cans of juice, at a store on Baffin Island - photo from Tales from the Arctic

Six cans of juice, at a store on Baffin Island - photo from Tales from the Arctic

How much do you pay for juice at your local market?

“The High Cost of Northern Living” at Arctic Economics points to Tales from the Arctic and “Believe me now?”

How much per ounce?

Kennie (at Tales from the Arctic) features a bunch of unbelievable prices.  Getting goods to towns in the far north of North America, in Canada and Alaska, is a major production.  Transportation and handling kick prices up a bit.

We’ll find out how alert Sarah Palin is when somebody asks her the price of a gallon of milk . . .

More seriously, economics teachers might find some object lessons in these photos, and a good presentation on supply and demand, and the costs of distribution.

Milk at $8.50 a gallon? Even in Canadian currency, that burns.

I wonder:  Do prices like these make economics any easier to teach to high school kids?  Does the urgency of high prices make the subject more relevant?

Tip of the frozen scrub brush to Arctic Economics, of course.

China hammered by “globalization” – why students should study

May 2, 2008

Economics, history and geography, and “vocational” teachers take note:  David Brooks’ column, “The Cognitive Age,” in the New York Times today should be a warmup in your classes next week.  See why in this excerpt:

The chief force reshaping manufacturing is technological change (hastened by competition with other companies in Canada, Germany or down the street). Thanks to innovation, manufacturing productivity has doubled over two decades. Employers now require fewer but more highly skilled workers. Technological change affects China just as it does the America. William Overholt of the RAND Corporation has noted that between 1994 and 2004 the Chinese shed 25 million manufacturing jobs, 10 times more than the U.S.

The central process driving this is not globalization. It’s the skills revolution. We’re moving into a more demanding cognitive age. In order to thrive, people are compelled to become better at absorbing, processing and combining information. This is happening in localized and globalized sectors, and it would be happening even if you tore up every free trade deal ever inked.

The globalization paradigm emphasizes the fact that information can now travel 15,000 miles in an instant. But the most important part of information’s journey is the last few inches — the space between a person’s eyes or ears and the various regions of the brain. Does the individual have the capacity to understand the information? Does he or she have the training to exploit it? Are there cultural assumptions that distort the way it is perceived?

Carnival Catch-up: Personal Finance

April 24, 2008

Behind on our carnivaling again . . . alas, not because we’ve been soaking in the tub, either.

Texas teachers, take note of the 149th Carnival of Personal Finance hosted by The Happy Rock. If you can’t find material there to bolster your personal finance curriculum, you need a lot more coffee.  Lots of posts on saving and investing and how to make it work on limited budgets, good stuff for the classroom.  Some are rather curious though — this one, from Squawkfox, suggests women should go around virtually naked in a sense, keeping no important documents or items in their purses.  Where should a lady carry her check book, seriously?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Don’t Mess with Taxes

Econ teachers: Have you registered?

November 7, 2007

Have you Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana economics teachers registered for Evening at the Fed?

Evening at the Fed
Dinner and Discussion for High School Teachers
Dallas, November 29, 2007
Houston, December 4, 2007
San Antonio, December 11, 2007
El Paso, December 13, 2007

Financial Markets: Innovations and Challenges

The 2007 Evening at the Fed series will feature Jeffery Gunther, assistant vice president and senior economist in the Dallas Fed’s Financial Industry Studies Department. Gunther will speak on factors leading up to the recent financial market turmoil, in particular the role of nontraditional financial instruments. He will address such questions as:

  • Are financial innovations, such as hedge funds, forever changing the financial landscape?
  • What happened in the U.S. sub prime real estate market?
  • What does the consumer need to understand about nontraditional financial instruments?
  • What impact do these new financial instruments have on the US economy?

Join us at a location convenient for you. The fee to attend is $15, which includes dinner and materials. Space is limited and the registration fee must be received by the cut-off date.

This would probably be a good session for government and U.S. history teachers, too.

Registration details after the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

Can China sink the U.S. economy quickly?

August 9, 2007

Don’t panic. But pay attention.

Here’s something students in economics courses should be discussing, from London’s

The Chinese government has begun a concerted campaign of economic threats against the United States, hinting that it may liquidate its vast holding of US treasuries if Washington imposes trade sanctions to force a yuan revaluation.

On so many levels, that discussion offers opportunities for students of economics to understand how markets, finance, and borrowing work. This news report alone could be the foundation for a couple of weeks of lesson plans on international finance, the Federal Reserve system, government spending, and general operation of markets.

Two officials at leading Communist Party bodies have given interviews in recent days warning – for the first time – that Beijing may use its $1.33 trillion (£658bn) of foreign reserves as a political weapon to counter pressure from the US Congress.

Shifts in Chinese policy are often announced through key think tanks and academies.

Described as China’s “nuclear option” in the state media, such action could trigger a dollar crash at a time when the US currency is already breaking down through historic support levels.

It would also cause a spike in US bond yields, hammering the US housing market and perhaps tipping the economy into recession. It is estimated that China holds over $900bn in a mix of US bonds.

Xia Bin, finance chief at the Development Research Centre (which has cabinet rank), kicked off what now appears to be government policy with a comment last week that Beijing’s foreign reserves should be used as a “bargaining chip” in talks with the US.

Could China afford to try such a move? Would it sink their economy, too? How could the U.S. try to mitigate such a move? Does this mean the U.S. needs to seriously control trade with China, or would that kind of interference in free markets do more damage by itself?

The Dow dropped 387 points in trading on the New York Stock Exchange today. News analysts ascribe it to concerns over sub-prime mortgage lender troubles, which caused a panic in French markets today. The credit-crunch “ripples around the world,” according to a PBS reporter.

One blogger at says not to worry; Ambrose Evans-Pritchard says the dollar will not collapse:

Disregard all hysteria. The ailing Greenback will not collapse this year, not in ten years, not in twenty years, not in half a century. There is no credible currency against which it can collapse. (Unless you count gold). None of the world’s rival power blocs have the economic and demographic depth to challenge American dominance.

That view is shared by a lot of the more pragmatic and successful investment advisors.

What do your local newspapers say? How can you use this to weave together a coherent narrative for your economics curriculum, starting in a week or two?

Sources to beef up your classroom presentations:

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