Why I Ditched My Credit Cards for Cash

Corporate greed and power has overtaken our political system. Recent Supreme Court rulings chose to empower rich donors over voters.
04/03/2015 07:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017
Woah, *$71.7 million* that's a lot of money.

<b><a href="http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2007-06-11-yahoo-
Woah, *$71.7 million* that's a lot of money. Yahoo CEO Semel faces shareholder grillingThree shareholder advisory firms — Institutional Shareholder Services, Glass, Lewis and Proxy Governance — have all recommended opposing three directors who sit on Yahoo's compensation committee. They are: Bostock, a veteran advertising executive; Burkle, a billionaire best known for his investments in the supermarket industry; and Kern, a former radio broadcast executive. The firms concluded the trio should be punished for richly rewarding Semel despite Yahoo's struggles. In 2006, Semel received a compensation package valued at $71.7 million — more than any other CEO at the 386 publicly held companies covered in an Associated Press analysis of nation's top corporate paychecks. Most of Semel's pay consisted of 6 million stock options given to him in exchange for agreeing to reduce his annual salary from $600,000 to $1. The committee awarded Semel another 800,000 stock options in February as his bonus for 2006 — a year in which Yahoo's stock price plummeted 35%. The latest awards will give Semel an opportunity to build upon the nearly $450 million in gains he has already realized by exercising stock options Yahoo gave him in previous years. "Semel is rewarded when times are good ... and when times are bad," wrote ISS, the largest of the three advisory firms. Yahoo believes Semel's pay package is in the company's best interest because it's structured to give him a strong incentive to boost the stock price. That's because stock options only yield profits when their exercise price is below the underlying shares' market value. For now, at least, the options Semel got last year are worthless because their exercise prices exceed the stock's market value, which was hovering around $27 last week. In its analysis, Proxy Governance questioned whether Semel needed any more incentive to boost Yahoo's stock price. As of April 1, Semel held 17.7 million stock options eligible for exercise and 7.1 million stock options that hadn't fully vested. "Based on his ownership in the company, Semel already should have the proper incentives ... to work toward building long-term shareholder value," Proxy Governance wrote. Yahoo says its confidence in Semel hasn't wavered. "Under Terry's leadership, the company has a clear strategy to create stockholder value, and the company is well-positioned to capitalize on the substantial growth opportunities ahead for the Internet," Yahoo spokeswoman Helena Maus said in a statement. But Semel, 64, may be on a short leash after Yahoo suffered an 11% drop in its first-quarter profit while Google's earnings soared 69%. Many analysts believe Semel will face even greater pressure to surrender the reins unless Yahoo's profits accelerate in the second half this year.

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About three years ago, I gave up my credit cards for cold-hard-cash. And not just any cash, but moola with makeup. That's right, I have started to legally rubber stamp dollar bills with messages like "Not To Be Used For Bribing Politicians" in order to build grassroots demand for common sense reforms to get big money out of politics and restore a government of, for, and by the people.

Using cash over credit cards has double the benefits: it's the choice to renounce the deceitful practices of credit card companies that hurt consumers and small businesses; and, it gives you a chance to turn your money into media against superrich special interest groups meddling in Washington's legislative decisions that act against "We the People."

Corporate greed and power has overtaken our political system. Recent Supreme Court rulings chose to empower rich donors over voters. They opened the floodgates to unlimited corporate money influencing our elections and drowning out our voices.

Credit card companies have spent millions of dollars on lobbyists every year to obtain more profit from their debtors with the help of their paid-off friends in Washington. From unfair overdraft fees to perplexing card agreements, creditors have used this backdoor access to Washington in order to shortchange the regular American consumer.

Citigroup and Bank of America spent a combined total of $8,750,000 on lobbyists in 2014. Through lobbyists, credit card companies are currying favors from our politicians with handsome donations -- it's a decades-old political strategy by many special interest groups to strengthen ties with our government at the expense of voters.

"Washington works for those who can hire armies of lobbyists, armies of lawyers, and get just the rules they want. It doesn't work so well for American families," said Senator Elizabeth Warren to Bill Moyers in an interview describing the unfair access of wealthy groups to our legislators.

On record, according to OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan organization that tracks money in politics, the current number of "revolving door" employees at JP Morgan Chase that once held public service positions amounts to 15 employees and 12 at Citigroup. In 2014, the finance and credit card industry was employing at least 212 lobbyists with prior positions in the federal government.

This conflict of interest is hurting American consumers. The government employees who worked on behalf of the people to regulate special interest groups use their policy expertise and professional networks to support the questionable agenda of credit card companies. In the meantime, corporate-friendly lawmakers get a boost in slush funds in the form of stock portfolio options and more money in their campaign coffers. This is while regular Americans pay the price.

Americans need to take back our greenback and get big money out of politics.
That's why I started StampStampede.org, a grassroots campaign to legally rubber-stamp cash with messages like "Not To Be Used For Bribing Politicians" and "Stamp Money Out Of Politics."

It's a 'petition on steroids.' About 900 people see every dollar bill while in circulation. That means if one person stamps three bills a day for a year, one million people will see the message. With over 30,000 stampers turning their dollars into mini-billboards on behalf of this issue, we're creating a mass visual demonstration demanding common-sense reforms.

We need to get big money out of politics and cash is the two-for-one choice we should all be taking advantage of. If credit card companies want to be tough on debtors, a consumer's secret weapon is using cash as often as they can and stamping every last dollar with messages telling these ill-intentioned corporations to get their money-hungry hands out of Washington.