The Independent Community Bankers of America had the right idea not partnering with the big banks in the interchange battle. In a letter to state bank trade associations discovered by Bloomberg, ICBA CEO Camden Fine, more colorfully than I’ll write here, stated that Wall Street doesn’t care about the community banks but “only care[s] about the credibility small banks can wield on Capitol Hill to get them out from under this rock.”

The same holds true for credit unions. Will the big banks be supporting credit unions’ efforts in the coming weeks to push through legislation to expand their member business lending authorities? Heck, no. But credit unions stood arm-in-arm with large banks against debit card interchange fee regulation.

As I have written previously, credit unions’ grass roots were pretty impressive in the interchange battle and it was a necessary war to wage in light of the anticipated income loss. In addition regulating interchange fee income without requiring an equivalent price reduction at retailers is patently anti-consumer; it will result in a double tax when the retailers don’t lower their prices and the card issuers begin charging consumers one way or another on their end. Credit unions were ineffective in reframing the issue from anti-consumer to the retailers just want to lower expenses and increase profits. The powerful retail lobby effectively landed punches early and often, framing the issue as a ‘hidden tax’ on the poor American taxpayers during a recession.

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