Are You a Danger to Yourself?

Some consumer advocates and some law makers seem to think you are. They seem to think you need a federal “consumer financial protection agency” to watch you, to watch the way you spend your money and how you borrow money, just in case you made a financial decision that they don’t particularly thing is wise.

What’s really screwed up about this is that, according to the L.A. Times, the agency wouldn’t even apply to some of the most controversial financial businesses in the country: payday lenders.

This is another example of lawmakers assuming that you’re a moron, suggesting that they can fix the problem, and then ignoring some of the most important and obvious parts of the problem.

We all know that payday lenders charge seriously high rates. Their rates are usually about ten times what any other form of credit has. Very few people who walk through the doors of a payday loan business do so under any illusion that they’re not going to be paying through the nose in interest.

Yet, they still do it. They want or need a quick way to get cash, and payday loans offer that kind of service. They offer that service to customers who have largely been forgotten by the major financial institutions and structures, which is why they can and do charge such high rates of interest.

At stake, as well, is the current way that payday lenders are regulated. Today, payday loans are governed under state law. That means that Arizona, for example, can take steps to essentially rid their state of payday lenders if they don’t want them. Another state can make it easier for them to operate.

Whether or not Washington ought to have a say in the matter is part of the bigger question. Folks who are opposed to payday loans, however, usually believe that they ought to be done away with everywhere, and so push for the kind of federal financial regulation and meddling we’re talking about here.

The issue surely isn’t going away, and it will be interesting to see what kind of progress, if any, payday loan opponents are able to make at a federal level. If they can’t seem to get the job done in Washington, they will most certainly head back to state capitals to try to get individual states to shut down payday loan businesses.

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