It’s Time To Pay Attention!

Heather Cox Richardson

Possibly the biggest story today in terms of its impact on most Americans’ lives is that as part of its war on junk fees, the Biden administration announced an $8 cap on late fees charged by credit card issuers that have more than a million accounts. These companies hold more than 95% of outstanding credit card debt. Currently, fees average $32, and they fall on more than 45 million people. The White House estimates that late fees currently cost Americans about $25 billion a year. The rule change will save Americans about $10 billion a year.

The administration also announced a “strike force” to crack down on “unfair and illegal pricing.” Certain corporations raised prices as strained supply chains made it more expensive to make their products. But after supply chains were fixed and their costs dropped, corporations kept consumer prices high and passed on record profits to their shareholders. The strike force will encourage federal agencies to share information to enable them to identify businesses that are breaking the law. 

Banking organizations and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce came out swinging. Executive vice president Neil Bradley said that such regulation “to micromanage how private businesses set prices will have the same result: shortages, fewer choices for consumers, a weaker economy, and less jobs.” 

And in what perhaps illustrates why voters don’t appear to know much about what the administration is doing, these stories have gotten far less attention today than the primaries and caucuses. 

Today is Super Tuesday, when 15 states and one territory choose their primary candidates for president and for the House of Representatives and the Senate (although in Alaska, only Republicans vote today and in American Samoa, only Democrats vote today). About 36% of Republican delegates will be awarded today, and that’s the side people will be watching because on the Democratic side, Biden has a virtually uncontested lead with the exception of candidate Jason Palmer, who won the Democratic caucuses in American Samoa.

Trump is expected to win today’s Republican contests, but observers are watching to see what percentage of the vote challenger Nikki Haley, former governor of South Carolina, takes from him. As I write this, she appears to have won Vermont and run strongly elsewhere, especially in the suburbs. Three states conducted exit polls and they, too, show warning signs for Trump as 78% of Haley voters in the North Carolina primary, 69% in California, and 68% in Virginia refused to say they would support the party’s nominee no matter who it is. 

It is also notable that polls showed Trump with a much stronger margin over Haley than materialized today. As Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memonotes, it is not yet clear what that means.

Trump is on his way to becoming the Republican presidential nominee. On Friday the Republican National Committee (RNC) will meet in Houston to choose a new chair. The only people running are Trump loyalist Michael Whatley and Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who hope to become co-chairs. Natalie Allison reported today in Politico that the RNC will not vote on a resolution that would have prohibited the RNC from covering Trump’s legal bills. 

Trump is certainly in need of money. Today, his lawyers demanded a new trial in the second E. Jean Carroll case, complaining that the judge limited what he could say, and asked for a judgment figure significantly lower than the $83.3 million the jurors awarded. By the end of Friday, Trump must post either the money or a bond covering it.

This morning, Trump told Brian Kilmeade of Fox & Friends that he was not worried about coming up with the money to pay the $454 million he owes in the New York fraud case, or the interest it is accruing at more than $100,000 a day. “I have a lot of money. I can do what I want to do,” Trump said. “I don’t worry about anything. I don’t worry about the money. I don’t worry about money.”

Yesterday, Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, admitted he lied under oath during his testimony in that case. He will be sentenced in April. 

Super Tuesday is also the day that the 2024 presidential campaign begins in earnest for those who had not previously been paying much attention, and Taylor Swift today urged her 282 million followers on Instagram “to vote the people who most represent YOU into power. If you haven’t already, make a plan to vote today,” she wrote.

The presidential contest is only one of the many contests on the ballot today, but most of those results are not yet in. 

Although the Arizona primary will not be held until March 19, we did learn today that Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) will not run for reelection. Her exit will leave the Arizona senator’s race to election-denying Trump Republican Kari Lake, who lost the Arizona governorship in 2022 (although she continues to insist she won it), and Arizona Democratic representative Ruben Gallego. 

Just as voters don’t appear to know much about what the administration has done to make their lives better, a recent study from a Democratic pollster suggests that voters don’t seem to know much about Trump’s statements attacking democracy. When informed of them, their opinion of Trump falls.

Trump has called for mass deportations of immigrants and foreign-born U.S. citizens; on February 29, he said he would use local police as well as federal troops to round people up and move them to camps for deportation. Asked yesterday by a Newsmax host if he would “order mass deportations if you win the White House,” Trump answered: “Oh, day one. We have no choice. And we’ll start with the bad ones. And you know who knows who they are? Local police. Local police have to be given back their authority, and they have to be given back their respect and immunity.” 

On the one hand, caps to credit card late fees and an attempt to address price gouging; on the other hand, local police with immunity rounding up millions of people and putting them in camps, for deportation. And, in between the two, an election. 

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