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Down In The Front Row

WASHINGTON-Credit unions know how to stack the decks...most of the time.

When Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) took to the GAC stage, he was treated to a resounding ovation even before he said the "magic words" about the CU tax exemption. That's because the Maine credit union contingent took great pains to make it so, taking up most of the front row just before Michaud was due to speak.

In fact, someone put a Michaud campaign sticker on the front of the podium, so every speaker who came after Michaud was stumping from behind a podium with the Maine Democrat's name on it.

In contrast, when CUNA Chairman Juri Valdov wanted to recognize the CUNA board, they were nowhere to be found. Valdov had been told the board would be seated in the front row, but they weren't there.

I Love You 98.34%

WASHINGTON-CUNA Chairman Juri Valdov summed up one of the primary reasons that credit unions have a hard time showing Congress just how much they contribute to the well-being of their members and their communities.

"It's the same as if someone asked me, 'Do you love Louise,'" Valdov related, referring to his wife of 10 years. "And I would answer, 'Yes, I do.' 'Prove it!' The problem is, it's awfully hard to prove you love someone through statistics."

Now Speaking, Sen. Paul Sarbox

WASHINGTON-When Sen. Paul Sarbanes followed Rep. Mike Oxley to the stage, he said he was happy to follow the man with whom he worked to craft the bill that has come to be known by their two names: Sarbanes-Oxley.

But he also noted the name of the bill has caused a certain amount of confusion in both lawmakers' districts.

"People in Ohio are wondering why Mike has changed his first name to Sarbanes, and the people in Maryland are wondering why I now have a hyphenated last name, Sarbanes-Oxley," he quipped.

The longest-serving senator from Maryland, Sarbanes added that he is like "Cal Ripken. Every day I show up for work, I set another record."

Heaven Can Wait

WASHINGTON-Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Mike Oxley likened the banks' attacks on credit unions to the typical love-hate relationship many American businesses have with the idea of competition. "Everyone loves competition, but no one want to compete," he said. "It's just like everyone wants to go to heaven, but no one wants to die."

Shared Branches Surge

WASHINGTON-The shared branching network Credit Union Service Centers is reporting it has added 75 credit unions to its Next Generation Network, at least 25 of which are the direct result of last year's hurricanes. The reason: disaster recovery. Craig Beach, VP-business development, said CUs are seeking to take advantage of a new ability to send a daily file to Atlanta-based CUSC of accounts with positive balances in the event the credit union and its data center are destroyed by a storm. The positive balance information significantly reduces the likelihood a member making a withdrawal is doing so despite a lack of funds. There is a minimum fee to participate for CUs that already are part of CUSC, but non-CUSC CUs can also participate. Beach said about 63% of CUSC's 475 member CUs have converted to its updated NGN solution.

Singing For Money

WASHINGTON-The Capitol Steps comedy troupe entertained at the Late Night at GAC fundraiser. Among the songs: "Mr. Greenspan," sung to "Mr. Sandman," and "Osama Will Come Out Tomorrow," sung to "The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow" from "Annie."

Where There's A George Will, There's Something To Say

WASHINGTON-Not surprisingly, political pundit and noted conservative George Will had some of the sharpest observations made during the GAC on a host of politics-related subjects. Among them:

* America is stricken by cognitive dissonance, that is it holds opposing ideas in its mind. "We don't know what we want."

* Eighty-four cents of every dollar that arrives in Washington is already committed to entitlement programs, with the country spending $125 million per hour on entitlements. "The first-ever recipient of Social Security paid $24 into the system. She collected more than $20,000." Many people now spend one-third and even one-half of their life on Social Security, he added.

* "Social Security is easy to fix. The difficult one is Medicare. For the first time, this year the states will spend more on Medicaid than on schools."

* Election years always spur "an epidemic of financial illiteracy."

* In 1900, 45% of Americans worked in agriculture. Today it is less than 2%, and "still we feed half the world."

* "Economic hypochondria," Will's term for seeing bad news in all numbers, "is part of a rising welfare state and gives rise to the entitlement mentality." Will noted that the Constitution says nothing about "cheap gas" and that Americans continue to drive their Lincoln Navigators "barely making it from one gas station to the next while drinking designer water that costs more than the gas."

* "The politics of envy is something that worries me. But envy, fortunately, is not applicable to Americans. We are an aspirational people. Envy is the only one of the seven deadly sins that does not give the sinner even a moment of pleasure."

* "Americans saved $50 billion on groceries at Wal-Mart. That's more than returned in the Earned Income Tax Credit. It's absolutely inexplicable to me that Wal Mart is seen as a problem."

* Will referred to the problems of Iraq and nation-building as "building an orchid," because nation building is just as impossible. It's important to understand that when we changed regimes we bit off more than we could chew. Our government can't run Amtrak, how are we going to run the Middle East?"


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