Sunday, February 17, 2008

Loan Sharks

The Wall Street Journal: High-Interest Lenders
Tap Elderly, Disabled

DOTHAN, Ala. -- One recent morning, dozens of elderly and disabled people, some propped on walkers and canes, gathered at Small Loans Inc. Many had borrowed money from Small Loans and turned over their Social Security benefits to pay back the high-interest lender. Now they were waiting for their "allowance" -- their monthly check, minus Small Loans' cut.

The crowd represents the newest twist for a fast-growing industry -- lenders that make high-interest loans, often called "payday" loans, that are secured by upcoming paychecks. Such lenders are increasingly targeting recipients of Social Security and other government benefits, including disability and veteran's benefits. "These people always get paid, rain or shine," says William Harrod, a former manager of payday loan stores in suburban Virginia and Washington, D.C. Government beneficiaries "will always have money, every 30 days."

What's sad is these groups use "partner agreements" with banks to skirt the prohibition on creditors receiving direct deposits of Social Security checks. In an administration that was focused on making government work, there'd be a revision of the rules when this came to light and after 6-9 months (allowing for comment periods and so on) the problem would be solved. This administration chooses to actively avoid performing its regulatory duties, hence the subprime debacle and the ongoing Mexican trucks and Hours of Service fiascoes.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Big Brother is Watching

CNN: FBI wants palm prints, eye scans, tattoo mapping
The FBI is gearing up to create a massive computer database of people's physical characteristics, all part of an effort the bureau says to better identify criminals and terrorists.

But it's an issue that raises major privacy concerns -- what one civil liberties expert says should concern all Americans.

The bureau is expected to announce in coming days the awarding of a $1 billion, 10-year contract to help create the database that will compile an array of biometric information -- from palm prints to eye scans.

The never ending expansion of the Surveillance State under Bush is one of his most unfortunate legacies. I never have understood the belief that as long as government isn't helping someone then it's not big government. The same conservatives who carp about the "Nanny State" are the ones pushing for the "Enforcer State" where big government will spare no right, commit any atrocity, do pretty much anything to keep us safe from any threat. There's a reason our founding generation, surrounded by enemies and riven with sedition, insisted on a bill of rights and why in hindsight we have always looked with regret on those moments in our history when we chose to abridge those rights.