Sunday, March 20, 2005

What's next: debtor prison?

I'm not against banks making money but the rates banks are charging on credit cards and other unsecured loans are too high. This comes at a time when interesting rates charged by the Fed. are near record lows. Some people are being charged rates over 20% on credit cards debt. Banks can raise rates by sending you a notice in the mail, and there is nothing you can do, but try to pay the principle to avoid paying the interest. Now that the Republicans in Congress have had their way and gutted bankruptcy bill, there is no protection for the consumer.

The Rev. AKMA points out that "...Jesus explicitly repudiated the practice of lending at interest."
The people of Israel set distinct limits to the scope of interest (including the jubilee year, a sort of pre-market-economy form of bankruptcy protection), and Jesus explicitly repudiated the practice of lending at interest. The church institutionalized laws against lending at interest, and only relatively recently has the topic dropped away from the church’s social agenda. Fred surveys the history of usury, then turns his attention to the exploitation of greed bill bankruptcy bill weapon of mass expropriation of wealth that the Republican Congress and the Bush administration have deployed.

Fred’s nauseated by the spectacle of lawmakers who proclaim their allegiance to “family values” and “biblical morality” rolling over to strip away the small borrower’s protection. Me too — but I’m simultaneously intrigued by the ways that some forms of “tradition” become old-fashioned and mutable, whereas others reflect timeless morality and must be upheld at all costs. The phenomenon gets even more intriguing when — as so often happens — someone takes the pains to explain what I obviously haven’t yet understood: that there’s a perfectly transparent premise in the light of which these differences are revealed to be natural and necessary. Oh, right!


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