Congress is finally trying to rein in some of the worst abuses of the credit-card industry. Will the new Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act help consumers? To understand the new regulations, first we have to see how credit cards actually work.

Congress is finally trying to rein in some of the worst abuses of the credit-card industry. Will the new Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act help consumers? To understand the new regulations, first we have to see how credit cards actually work.

Let's say you'd like a TV and you head down to some appliance store and they've got a very reasonable 26-inch LCD for $289. It's playing an episode of "Dora" and it's very clear it will get the job done.

But it happens to be sitting next to a 62-inch plasma screen blaring a Blu-ray of "Gladiator" with full Dolby reach-around technology. The thing is mint!

So your first question is, "Is that one Energy Star qualified?"

Of course, the second question is, "How does a gentleman living in his parents' basement with only part-time employment justify spending $3,000 on this technology?"

Well that's the beauty of it - you don't have to, because you've got a credit card!

It's a lot of money, but your minimum payment is only going to be $90 a month. You can handle it. You'll pay it off over a couple of years.

Except you're forgetting about the 14-percent interest rate, which means you'll actually pay it off - and this is true - in 11 years.

Unless you decide to buy something else during those 11 years. Or your bank changes your billing due date without warning, which they can do, so you'll incur late fees and a penalty interest-rate hike up to 30 percent.

Or maybe they just give you a rate hike for no reason at all. Why? F--- you, that's why!

Let's say your purchase is paid off. Let's say you go pro at Wii Sports, and with your sponsorship money you're able to crawl out from under your credit burden, finally freeing yourself.

The credit card company's response to that would be to raise your credit limit - daring you to fly higher.

Well, no more! I'm happy to say that as of Feb. 22 that scenario is no longer possible, thanks to Congress' new credit-card regulations.

Banks generally can no longer raise interest rates on your existing balance, and they must give you 45 days notice before raising the rate on anything you buy going forward. By law, your bank must now spell out how long it will take to pay off your balance.

See, all we needed was the information. It's like when they put up the calorie charts at McDonald's and you knew exactly how many calories were in the Big Mac and the large fries ... which you continued to eat, no matter what.

So everything is going to be on the up-and-up. Unless the banks are run by sentient beings who saw this coming.

"Congress gave the banks nine months to comply with these rules, and they used that time to raise interest rates almost across the board," MSNBC reported. "Look for all kinds of new fees, even fees if you don't use your card enough."

A fee for not using your credit card? Let me see if I can reenact the meeting where they came up with that:

It's not like we can charge people for not buying things. What, why is everyone kissing me? Whoa, let go of my penis!