Monday, June 11, 2018

1956 Cheques and Balances

This never happens.  You get to the head of the checkout line and realize you’ve left your wallet at home.  But all is not lost because you have your checkbook with you.

So you write a check. Then, several things happen.  If the clerk is of a certain age, she looks at it curiously and calls a manager who asks for your identification which, of course, is in your wallet.  But the manager thinks he’s seen you before and will risk accepting the paper because it’s only a few bucks.  End of transaction.

Here’s the alternative:  You give the check to the clerk. She puts in a machine, it endorses the back, spits it back out and she gives it back to you “for your records.”  That is… if the check clears.

Okay, you say, how likely are you to not have your wallet at hand but have a checkbook in your pocket?  Not very.  Not these days.  But the days of checks may be on their way back.

Since everything you do on the internet is recorded by someone somewhere, and since every account is subject to hacking, you may be paying by check more often these days than you did a year or two ago.

Debit cards linked to your checking account are much faster and more convenient than paper. And your account balance changes the instant the sale is approved. So, checks and balances.

But checks get lost in the mail because the post office is operating at 12% of expected efficiency and in its prime (say, 1948) wasn’t all that much better.

You pay your bills on the internet.  Even worse, you don’t keep track of them, so you don’t know until the next statement that no one has siphoned your tank, that you’re up to date on your bills and that everything is or isn’t more or less in the condition you expect.

Still, somehow checks and snail mail seem safer these days than debit cards and on line banking.  Are they? There are no known studies.

Time was, there was one sure way to make sure everything you paid for really was paid for.  It’s called “cash.” You know, that paper and those coins the government issues and that are guaranteed.  And that, too may be making a comeback.  Just remember, Bitcoins are not cash, and you can’t pay most department stores in person anymore.

The grocer is another story.  He or she will take it gladly.  But if the bills are greater than 20 bucks, they’ll inspect each one carefully.  And that’s okay for you.  But probably not for the eight angry impatient people on line behind you.

A statement from Charles Koch, CEO of Koch Industries and a major behind the scenes crusader and contributor to conservative political causes:

Let me say at the outset that despite the story in the New Yorker Magazine, that I did not force my kid brother David out of the business.  He has retired because he’s in poor health.  But he still holds about half the stock in our company and therefore cannot be bypassed in making the important decisions here in Kansas, our headquarters.

I want you to know I love the kid and respect him. I value his contributions to our company across the years and welcome his input on any subject he chooses at any time he chooses.

Notice, that while the rest of us are here in Kansas, David lives in New York where he is known for his works of charity and support of the arts.  I do not know whether his friends at the New Yorker were influenced by those factors, but they’re dead wrong about what happened.

My own feeling is that David was reluctant to strengthen his role and beliefs in defending and building our political heritage; that he was beginning to lag the curve in our massive effort to bolster the incomes of select Americans.

We believe his charity work, laudable as it may be, has distracted him somewhat from our central ideas. But I categorically deny that I gave him an exploding cigar for a recent birthday, that I put sugar in the gas tank of his Silver Cloud the most recent time he was driven here to headquarters. Those Rolls Royces aren’t what they used to be. Also: I most certainly will accept his invitation to “visit my museum and concert hall at Lincoln Center.”

You can be sure there is no sibling rivalry between the Koch Brothers, not even with Bill, the one you never hear about and Freddie, the other one you never hear about.  Bill’s the one who goes sailing all the time.  I worry about him, too. You never know when those boats develop engine trouble and holes in the hull.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
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© WJR 2018

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