Sure, sure, everyone was focused on whether Ohio would go for Obama or McCain in November 2008 but the question that drew me to the state a couple of times that fall was whether voters there would side with the payday lenders, who were seeking the right to continue charging fees that worked out to an annual interest rate of 391 percent, or with payday's critics, who supported a reinstatement of the 28 percent rate cap that had been the law until thirteen years earlier. I spoke to people on all sides of the argument and was having a hard time deciding how I would vote if I actually lived in Ohio. I'd speak with someone like Chris Browning, who had run a payday store for ten years, and be a full-throated supporter of a 28 percent cap, but then I'd spend a few hours with a payday lender and be reminded that no one was putting a gun to a borrower's 's head. These were transparent interactions and people were adults who could make up their own minds about adult matters.
Even now I would have said I'm ambivalent on the issue of payday loans -- but then I read this review of BROKE in the Washington Post this past Sunday (6/27/10). Reviewer Justin Moyer writes, "Rivlin, a former New York Times reporter ...tries to remain objective as he interviews the usurious architects of payday-lending (one, who operates 1,300 outlets, complains that making $10,000 an hour isn't enough) and the activists trying to protect impoverished communities from their influence. Eventually, however, he must take a side. 'I began to liken the entire Poverty, Inc. industry to those energy companies whose strip-mining destroyed vast tracts of wilderness areas,' Rivlin writes. 'Short of government intervention, the consumer advocacy side didn't stand a chance.'" Interesting to be reminded of my own words.
I don't think payday should be outlawed. But there need to be serious restrictions placed on the business. And for that reason it was hard to write with much objectivity this piece appearing in today's Huffington Post. Legislative bodies have made their wishes clear. The voters have spoken in several states. And basically the industry flips everybody the bird.