Over the past few days, many have tried to disable John Bolton’s worldview, to get a sense of how he might shape the foreign policy of the Trump administration as he takes up the post of national-security adviser. His detractors have paid particular attention to his bellicose statements about North Korea, arguably the country’s most pressing security challenge, and his forceful critics of the Iran deal, which has been on the verge of unraveling for months. They’ve drawn the conclusion that Bolton has an unslakeable appetite for armed intervention that will lead the country to ruin. But although Bolton is often described as a rigid ideologist, he sees himself as a ruthless pragmatist who is more willing to use diplomatic means to advance U.S. interests. And if Bolton the pragmatist wines out, he will be well-placed to steer the Trump White House in a more coherent and constructive direction.
Consumer Notice: Payday loans are intended for short-term financial needs only, and should
DUBNER: Let’s say you have a one-on-one audience with President Obama. We know that the President understands economics pretty well or, I would argue that at least. What’s your pitch to the President for how this industry should be treated and not eliminated?
The Military Lending Act Five Years Later: The High-Cost Small Dollar Loan Market, and the Campaign against Predatory Lending, by Jean Ann Fox, Consumer Federation of America (May, 2012).
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Azlinah Tambu, a twenty-two-year-old single mother who lives in Oakland, California, recently found herself in a tough spot. Her car had broken down, and she needed to drop her off at work and to get to work. Tambu, an upbeat woman with glossy black hair and dazzling eyes, did not have the money for the repairs. She had no savings and credit card; she had no family or friends who could help her. So she took out five payday loans from five different payday lenders ranging from fifty to five dollars to three hundred dollars each. The fee to get the loan was fifteen dollars for each hundred dollars borrowed.
Under government fire, this appears, based on the business model, to be true-not only would the regulations eliminate the very loans from which the industry makes its money, but they would also introduce significant new underwriting expenses on every loan.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau does not have the power to ban payday lending outright, or to set a nationwide interest-rate cap, but it can act to prevent deemed “unfair, abusive, or deceptive” practices. In March 2015, it announced that it was considered a set of rules for most small-dollar loans (up to $ 500) that consumers are required to repay within 45 days. The goal is to put an end to payday-lending debt traps.
As it happens, Tambu and I met while we were working at the Check Center, check-in casher and payday lender in a low-income neighborhood in downtown Oakland. As a part of a research project designed to better understand why an increasing number of Americans use payday lenders and check cashers, I spent two weeks in October working as a teller and collections agent, calling delinquent borrowers at Check Center. Before that, I spent four months as a teller at a casher in the South Bronx, and one month staffing the Predatory Loan Help Hotline at the Virginia Poverty Law Center.
WERTH: So, what did Fusaro do when he set up a randomzed control trial where he gave a group of borrowers a traditional high-interest-rate payday loan and then gave another group of borrowers no interest rates on their loans and then he compared the Two and he found out that both groups were just as likely to roll over their loans again. And we should say, again, the research was financed by CCRF.
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To date, the debates about payday loans have been focused solely on the supply side of the issue-the payday lending-and not on the demand side-the borrowers. Lately, however, the body of research in the latter has been growing. A recent report by the Center for Financial Services Innovation highlights several categories of small-dollar credit borrowers. Tambu is not representative of the entire payday market, but according to the center’s research, borrowers seeking loans because of an unexpected expense represent thirty-two per cent of the over-all market. Policy recommendations, however, are focused on the regulation of the industry, rather than on the conditions that lead people to seek out small, expensive loans in the first place.
Some of the lenders in our network participate in what is known as automatic loan renewal. Simply put, if your loan is over a specific amount of time past, your lender will rollover your loan. This can be offered to you in addition to options like repaying your loan in full at a later date or repaying your debt in installments over time. The minimum term for an automatic renewal is 15 days and you will be required to pay renewal fees and additional interest charges.
Donald Trump allegedly told the porn actress Stormy Daniels in a hotel room in Lake Tahoe in 2006. “After that proposal, you will be able to go on [The Celebrity Apprentice] as Daniels told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes on Sunday night, she went to the bathroom, and when she came out, Trump had relocated herself to the end of the bed. It was clear, she said, what she assumed would happen next.
Now, we should say, that when you are an academic study of a particular industry, often the only way to get the data is from the industry itself. It’s a common practice. But, as Zinman noted in his paper, as the researcher you draw the line at letting the industry or industry advocates influence the findings. But as our producer Christopher Werth learned that it has not always been the case with payday-lending research and the Consumer Credit Research Foundation, or the CCRF.
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Check Center clients were drawn to Tambu. She knew most of their names and often greeted them by asking about their children or their jobs. She took her job seriously, and she did it well. But even though her employer paid her more than the minimum wage, Tambu did not earn enough to absorb unxpected expenses, like car repairs and illnesses.
CA residents: CNU OF CALIFORNIA, LLC d
This is exactly the approach by which Donald Trump inadvertently made millions for Michael Wolff. Having so spectacularly backfired the first time, why do it again? The short answer is: Team Trump knows nothing else.
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Researchers, journalists, and policymakers routinely demonize the businesses that provide payday loans, calling them predatory or worse. Indeed, if you are not living close to the edge, it’s hard to understand why a person would pay such a high price to borrow such a small amount of money.
Some other academic research we’ve mentioned today does not recognize the role of CCRF in providing industry data – like Jonathan Zinman’s paper which showed that people suffered from the disappearance of payday-loan shops in Oregon. Here’s what Zinman writes in an author’s note: “Thanks to the Consumer Credit Research Foundation (CCRF) for providing home survey data. CCRF is a non-profit organization, funded by payday lenders, with the mission of funding objective research. CCRF did not exercise any editorial control over this paper. ”
CHRISTOPHER WERTH: Right. Well, it’s a non-profit watchdog, relatively new organization. Its mission is to expose corporate and political misconduct, primarily by using open-record applications, such as the Freedom of Information Act or FOIA applications, to produce evidence.
Fulmer’s firm, Advance America, runs about 2,400 payday loan shops, across 29 states. All in, there are roughly 20,000 payday shops in the U.S., with total loan estimated at around $ 40 billion per year. If you were back to the early 1990s, there were fewer than 500 payday-loan stores. But the industry grew as many states relaxed their usury laws – many states, but not all. Payday lending is prohibited in 14 states, including much of the north and in Washington, D.C. Another nine states allow payday loans but only with more borrower-friendly terms. And that leaves 27 states where payday lenders can charge in the neighborhood of 400 percent interest – states ranging from California to Texas to Wisconsin to Alabama, which is what drew President Obama there.
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and are a problem for those borrowers – but it sounds like though those repeat rollovers are the source of a lot of the lender’s profits. So, if you were to eliminate the big problem from the consumer’s side, would not that remove the profit from the lender’s side, maybe kill the industry?
So we are left with at least two questions, I guess. Number one: How well is the one of the payday-loan research we’ve been telling you about today, pro or con? And number two: How do we have any academic research?
Later on, the payday lenders gave Mann the data that showed how long it really took those exact customers to pay off their loans. About 60 percent of them paid off the loan within 14 days of the date they were predicted.
DeYOUNG: Right now, there are very little information about rollovers, the reasons for rollovers, and the effects of rollovers. And without academic research, the rule is going to be based on who shouts the loudest. And that’s a bad way to write law or regulation. That’s what I really worry about. If I could advocate a solution to this, it would be: identify the number of rollovers at which it has been revealed that the borrower is in trouble and is being irresponsible and this is the wrong product for them. At that point the payday lender does not flip the borrower into another loan, does not encourage the borrower to find another payday lender. At that point the lender’s main is then switched into a different product, a long term loan where he or she pays it a bit bit every month.
DUBNER: OK, so this is interesting that a watchdog group that will not reveal its funding is going after an industry to try to influence academics that’s funding. So should we assume that CFA, the watchdog, has some kind of horse in the payday race? Do we just not know?
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Maybe that’s about as good as it gets on the fringe. Outrage is easy, and outrage is warranted-but maybe payday lenders should not be its main target. The problem is not just that people who desperately need a $ 350 loan can not get it at a affordable rate, but that a growing number of people need that loan in the first place.
To be sure, some payday lenders engage in abusive practices. During the month I staffed the Predatory Loan Help Hotline operated by the Virginia Poverty Law Center, I heard a lot of stories from people who had been harassed and threatened with lawsuits by businesses that routinely flute existing regulation.
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