One of the benefits of America’s unusually stingy welfare system is that it allows our domestic payday-loan industry to thrive. Since the safety net is too threadbare to catch the working poor when they fall on troubled times, payday lenders are able to charge them exorbitant interest on subsistence loans. Nationally, the average interest rate on a payday loan is a stellar 390 percent.
But Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is dead set on sapping all of the dynamism out of the payday-loan industry. The CFPB is about to issue new regulations on payday lenders that are aimed at preventing borrowers from falling into a vicious (or viciously profitable) cycle where they take out high-interest loans just to make the interest payments on their previous high-interest loans. Fortunately, DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is co-sponsoring a bill that would gut the CFPB’s regulations and allow payday lenders to keep profiting off the desperation of the impoverished.
According to a memo obtained by the Huffington Post, Wasserman Schultz is trying to rally congressional Democrats around a bill that would delay the CFPB’s new rules for two years and nullify those rules in any state that adopts its own payday-lending law, like the DNC chair’s own home state of Florida.
The key thing about such state laws is that they’re likely to be much kinder to the profits of payday lenders than what the CFPB is crafting. In Florida, the average interest rate on a payday loan is still 304 percent, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. What’s more, 76 percent of all payday loans in the state are turned loans — loans taken out to pay back another loan — according to Americans for Financial Reform. Thus, Florida’s law has left the highly profitable vicious cycle of payday borrowing intact.
Of course, Big Consumer is lining up to oppose Wasserman Schultz’s legislation. The Consumer Federation of America, the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and hundreds of others have signed a letter to Congress condemning the bill. But the DNC chair is taking a principled stand against those lobbyists.
“The Congresswoman wants to work with the CFPB on the way forward, and believes the Florida law is an example of how to achieve their shared goals of balancing strong consumer protections with preserving access to credit in underserved communities," Wasserman Schultz’s spokesperson, Sean Bartlett, told the Huffington Post.
With such brave legislators leading the Democratic Party, it’s difficult to understand how Bernie Sanders can get so mad at the “Establishment.”