Even Theriault Knows That Taxation is Not a Certainty!
Once again, I find myself compelled to respond to the propaganda being put out by Alan Theriault (which usually shows up thinly disguised in the writings of Marvin Umholtz and Lee Bettis) in his letter to the editor, titled "Even Trade Associations Know Taxation is Coming for Some CUs" (CU Times, Nov. 30). The most significant information in that letter was the editor's note that informs us of Mr. Theriault's connection to a firm that makes its living assisting credit unions to convert to mutual savings banks. Incredibly, Mr.Theriault persists in weaving his fabrication that credit union trade associations are somehow detached from representing the best interests of their memberships...which happen to be credit unions like mine. My purpose in writing is to categorically reject Mr. Theriault's assertion that the credit union tax-exemption is on its way to extinction. Banks have been trying for over 50 years to get the exemption removed and on every occasion where the matter starts to attract serious debate in Washington, credit unions and their members make it clear how much this significant consumer benefit matters to voters. There have been many portrayals about what took place at the recent Ways and Means Committee Hearing, but even Chairman Bill Thomas acknowledges that removing the tax-exemption is not a political option. Mr. Theriault's assertion that the trade associations "know" that taxation is coming falls into the category of absurd utterance. What the trade associations do know is that 100% of the conversions to mutual savings banks result in the immediate elimination of the tax-exemption. Mr. Theriault's fallback will, of course, be that the credit union charter remains too confining for progressive, undercapitalized credit unions. It is true that banks oppose removing limitations on FOM, business lending and PCA. But, they also opposed credit unions getting involved with checking accounts, credit cards and mortgage loans. Trade associations "know" that with the application of credit union collaboration, the present limitations will be relaxed in law or in practice as well. Most credit union leaders realize that the credit union charter is best-suited for cost-effective delivery of financial services to people. And, the major reason is not the tax-exemption...it is because the credit union charter enables the elevation of service to a higher priority than simply harvesting profits. Mr. Theriault's latest attempt to drum up business could be better captioned, "Get it now, before it's too late" or "FDIC waiting room, NCUSIF exit fee...poor market for IPOs." He is clearly appealing to the only element of the credit union charter that cannot be "fixed" in the foreseeable future - the ability for insiders to reap personal benefit beyond the reaches of the credit union wage-scale. And, of course, the absence of panic significantly diminishes the opportunity for Mr. Theriault to provide "consulting assistance". For my effort, I will certainly be branded as part of the trade association immune system and Theriault will self indulgently drape himself in the pontifications of Jack Welch or some other consumer-friendly capitalists. Hopefully, credit union leaders will continue to frame thinking around what is in the best interest of their members. It is hard to picture voluntarily paying taxes and subjecting oneself to the relentless bottom line pressures emanating from Wall Street as being good for any consumer. America's Credit Unions: we don't harvest profits from the people we serve...we do serve people of modest means...and our tax-exemption will remain intact. Marshall Boutwell President Gwinnett FCU Lawrenceville, Ga.