You gotta punch your weight

Economic populism just can’t seem to get a head of steam going and maybe its because most people take consumer protection for granted. Conservatives in philosophy, though seldom in actual practice cry let the market decide, with a small background echo from economic libertarians. While the phrase “let the market decide” is somewhat appealing, most of us know a marketing gimmick when we hear one. Though the ones that would be the best spokespeople for a populist regulated economy, one that looks out for the average Jane or Joe are the ones that bought that pumped up stock or got burned on the miracle program that said you could lose fifty pounds by watching TV and eating chocolate chip cookies. When people are taken for a ride they’re generally not keen on announcing the fact on tomorrow’s evening news. At least most people feel that way. Sure an economy that is structured on free market concepts is great, but also guarantees that there is a shoddy product or unethical service waiting around every corner. Why anyone thinks thinks that simply squawking let the buyer beware is enough protection for consumers or investors has never been faced with financial ruin because they trusted someone. Yes the greedy are sometimes easy targets and maybe even deserving targets, but more often then not in everyday economics for millions of Americans where a hundred bucks can make the difference between buying groceries or living on peanut butter, consumer protection is not a luxury its an imperative and in some cases even conservatives have been forced to come to terms with that, Economic Populism Proves Popular

Payday loans are short-term, high-interest loans. Borrowers receive an immediate cash payment and, in exchange, write a post-dated check that can be cashed once they receive their next paycheck. The interest rates are far, far higher than loans through commercial banks, up to 500 percent (and in some cases, as high as 900 percent). Most perniciously, the loans can be rolled over for additional fees, which means customers can end up paying more interest than the principal they’d originally borrowed. In the last few years the industry has exploded: From 2000 to 2003, the number of payday lenders more than doubled, and the industry’s sales quadrupled to $40 billion.

In response, states from Florida to Arkansas to Illinois have been cracking down on payday lenders, imposing strict disclosure regulations, limits on the number of rollovers and interest caps. Until recently, Oregon was one of only seven states with no such caps, and the lack of regulation served as a magnet for the industry, with out-of-state companies flocking in to set up shop.

As payday lending exploded, so too did horror stories about cyclical debt and eye-popping interest rates. Portland resident Maryann Olson, a 58-year old retired nurse on disability, didn’t have the $150 she needed to buy orthopedic shoes, so she took out a payday loan. Several months later, she owed $1,900 to six different lenders. After housing and medical costs, she had so little money left over to pay down her debt, she says she “was going out to other payday loaners, trying to rob from Peter to pay Paul.”

Social service agencies around the state began noticing more and more of their clients in situations like Olson’s. Angela Martin, Our Oregon’s director of economic-fairness campaigns, says that at the Oregon Food Bank, where she previously worked, the fastest-growing type of clientele was working families. “They couldn’t make room for the grocery bill,” she says, “because they had to pay the payday lender.”

What I really learned from the
Charlie Debacle is that you gotta
punch your weight. Charlie was out
of my Class: too pretty, too smart,
too witty, too much. What am I?
Average. A middleweight. Not the
smartest guy in the world, but
certainly not the dumbest. I’ve
read books like The Unbearable
Lightness of Being, Angela’s Ashes,
and Love in the Time of Cholera,
and understood them, I think —
they’re about girls, right? — just
kidding — but I don’t like them
very much. My all time top five
favorite books are Johnny Cash’s
autobiography, Snow Crash by Neil
Stevenson, Zen and the Art of
Motorcycle Maintenance, The Trouser
Press Guides to Rock, and, I don’t
know, probably something by Kurt
Vonnegut. I look through the New
Yorker when my neighbor’s done with
it, and I’m not averse to going
down to the Fine Arts to watch
subtitles films, although on the
whole I prefer American films.
Top five being Blade Runner, Cool
Hand Luke, the first two Godfathers
which we’ll count as one, Taxi
Driver, and The Shining. I’m okay
looking, average height, not
skinny, not fat. My genius, if I
can call it that, is to combine a
whole load of averageness into one
compact frame.
from the screenplay HIGH FIDELITY by D.V. De Vincentis, Steve Pink, & John Cusack, based on the novel by Nick Hornby