Thursday, May 05, 2005

A Shameless Industry

Some industries have no shame when their agenda is on the line. And when lack of shame and cruelly creative tactics (like using the very people you are aiming to screw over to push the legislation that allows you to screw them over) are combined, the result is the sad scenario witnessed by Rep. Sylvester Turner's (D-Houston) Chief of Staff, Mitchell Howie, today.

Howie received a phone call from an elderly woman urging the representative to support Rep. Dan Flynn's (R-Van) CSHB 846, which allows lenders to raise the interest rates for payday loans (short-term, high-interest rate loans that many low-income people use between paychecks). After listening to her well-scripted supporting points, Howie inquired about who requested her to call. The woman, who sounded like she was pushing towards her late 70's, explained that she was at Advance America in Houston where she was told she couldn't receive her loan until she called to support this bill.

Apparently, many payday loan institutions are sending e-mails to their customers, instructing them to call their representatives and support this bill. Since it isn't bad enough that this industry is trying to triple the outrageous interest rate that they are charging now (222% for a $300 loan), they are telling their customers to do the lobbying for these efforts for them. And the worst part about this ordeal is that the majority of the people that get payday loans are those who struggle paycheck to paycheck. This industry already sends their customers in a whirling cycle of debt. Now they just want to make it worse. I guess when you are already at the point of no shame, a step further down that path doesn't make that big of a deal.

The House is scheduled to hear HB 846 tomorrow. While Rep. Turner plans to fight against the bill, we'll just have to wait and see how the others decide.