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Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Moral Issue: Usury

Beast Issue #74 - Super Whores: "Except that this bill goes out of its way to stick you even if the debts aren't your fault. In amendment after amendment leading up to the final vote on this bill, Republicans—with the help of a dependable group of contribution-rich Democrats—shot down every conceivable legitimate exemption to means testing. This included proposed exemptions for women whose debts were incurred due to non-payment of alimony and child support, for the dependent spouses of servicemen killed in action, and for people whose debts came about as a result of catastrophic medical problems. But my absolute favorite is the amendment, proposed by Bill Nelson of Florida, to exempt from means testing individuals whose debts were incurred as a result of identity fraud. It would be hard to imagine any legitimate objection to this amendment. The only rational objection to this amendment would be that your tongue is so far up the ass of MBNA that you can't possibly vote for it. Which says something about the Senate; the amendment was crushed, 61-37."
I think this is an issue that gets much less coverage and much less attention than it deserves. The wanton lending and vicious recovery of debts incurred at abusive interest rates is more likely to damage our society than any personal moral act of any minority group. We allow our banks to offer loans to individuals whose ability to pay is clearly in question, and then offer them an income tax break when the inevitable default comes in. Then the bank sells the debt to a company that attempts to recover said debt. The individual, usually in dire straights at this point, is then not allowed any protection in the form of bankruptcy. Yes, I would say you should not borrow what you cannot pay. I myself am debt-free. It should also be the case, however, that you should not lend what you do not expect to have returned. Of course, you could if you didn't need to have it returned. I often do this with books. Banks are doing it with credit cards. We should look again at the wisdom found in the ancient injunctions against usury. While one would not want to return to the days of a lendor seeking a pound of flesh, there must be a middle ground to the ethical vacuum in which we currently live.

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