Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ask Robert Reich: Loansharking Is Good for Tennessee

Posted By on Tue, Aug 12, 2008 at 5:34 PM

click to enlarge Robert_20Reich.jpg
Due to the weird nature of The Tennessean’s Opinion pages – where multiple people opine on the same subject each day – reading can often be an exercise in repetitiveness. But the strategy also has a built-in mirth factor: The guest columnist who is summoned to defend the indefensible. It’s usually a business guy, better known as a “biz pig” in the genteel lexicon of my Pith colleagues. He’s charged with navigating the landmines that are his stock and trade, convincing lay readers that it’s in their best interest that he make a whole lotta money. But yesterday, Robert Reich created a new benchmark. He’s the president of Tennessee Title Loans, and he was charged with defending his allies in the title loan and payday lending trades, formerly known as The Loanshark Industry. By the miracle of lenient government – Motto: We Last Cared About Consumers in 1983 – Reich can legally charge his customers 264 percent in interest and fees annually. Sadly, governments nationwide have come to consider this an unswell deal for the earnest consumer. So some state legislators are thinking crackdown, including our fine leaders here in Tennessee. This, of course, does not make Robert Reich happy. Which is quite natural, since Robert Reich gets to run a legal loanshark business without the usual felonious concerns tying down his collections division. You’d be pissed too. It all leads to an exquisite dance, in which Robert argues that loansharking is good for us: See Robert worry about his poor customers, 80 percent of whom don’t have credit cards. See Robert bemoan the conventional lending industry, which refuses to cater to broke, desperate people with bad credit. See Robert assert that if he can’t take advantage of said people and make them more broke and desperate, earth as we know it will fall from its axis. It’s a beautiful moment of disingenuousness, courtesy of our friends at The Tennessean.

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