DUBNER: Obviously the history of lending is long and often, at least in my reading, tied to religion. There is a prohibition against it in Deuteronomy and elsewhere in the Old Testament. It’s in the New Testament. In Shakespeare, the Merchant of Venice was not the hero. So, do you think that the general view of this kind of lending is colored by an emotional or moral argument too much at the expense of an economic and practical argument?
In a vicious cycle, the higher the permitted fees, the more stores, the lesser customers each store serves, so the higher the fees need to be. Competition, in other words, does reduce profits to lenders, as expected – but it seems to carry no benefit to consumers, at least as measured by the rates they are charged. (The old loan sharks may have been able to charge lower rates because of lower overhead, although it’s impossible to know.) Mayer thinks the explanation may have more to do with the differences in the customer base: Because alternative alternatives were sparse back then, these lenders served a more diverse and overall more creditworthy set of borrowers, so default rates were likely lower.)
Tambu is still paying back the loan she got to fix her car last summer, visiting each of her five lenders on Wednesdays, her payday, and paying them twenty-two dollars each. When I asked Tambu whether, given her experience, she thought payday loans should be illegal in California, as they are in New York, she told me, “no, I think they should still exist. You know it’s undoable to take out five loans and be able to pay them back. But sometimes you have no choice. The reason I’m working so hard to pay these backs is that I want to be in good standing, in case I ever need another one. ”
heavy users, whose predictions are really bad. And I think that group of people seems to fundamentally not understand their financial situation.
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DUBNER: Well, here’s what seems to me, at least, the puzzle, which is that repeat rollovers – which represents a relatively small number of the borrowers
MCKAMEY: Everybody that comes in here always comes out with a smile on their face. I do not see anyone come out hollering. They take care of everyone who comes to the T. You have been satisfied, I’m satisfied, and I see other people be satisfied. I never seen a person walk out with a bad attitude or anything.
ERVIN BANKS: I do not see anything wrong with them. I had some back bills I had to pay off. So it did not take me too long to pay it back – about three months, something like that. They are beautiful people.
On the other hand, this leaves about 40 percent of borrowers who were not good at predicting when they would pay the loan off. And Mann found a correlation between bad predictions and past payday loans.
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DEYOUNG: If we take an objective look at the folks who use payday lending, what we find is that most users of the product are very satisfied with the product. Survey results show that almost 90 percent of the users of the product say that they are either somewhat satisfied or very satisfied with the product afterwards.
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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.
The CFPB does not have the authority to limit interest rates. Congress does. So what the CFPB is asking for is that payday lenders either thoroughly evaluate the borrower’s financial profile or limit the number of rollovers for a loan, and offer easy refund terms. Payday lenders say even these regulations may just be put out of business – and they may be right. The CFPB estimates that the new regulations can reduce the total volume of short-term loans, including payday loans but other types as well, by roughly 60 percent.
Tambu and I sometimes stayed in the sun on the steps outside the building during our lunch and coffee breaks. When I told her about my research, she volunteered to tell me her own story of how she ended up both giving out loans and taking them out herself.
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.
“I’m a working woman again,” she told me, in the common room of the old apartment where she now lives, in California’s Inland Empire. Gordon has worked a number of odd jobs throughout his life-as a house cleaner, a home health assistant, a telemarketer, a librarian, a fundraiser-but at many times in his life, he did not have a steady job that paid in Social Security. She did not receive a pension. And she definitely was not making enough money for retirement.
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.
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The explanation for this is not simple, and a variety of economic jargon floats around the issue. But it’s all started with this: The typical payday-consumer loan is too desperate, too unsophisticated, or too exhausted from being treated with disrespect by traditional lenders to engage in shopping. So demand is what economists call price tax. As Clarence Hodson, who published a book in 1919 about the business of small loans, put it, “It is not possible for bargain to benefit with cupidity.” In its last financial year, Advance America, one of the country’s largest payday lenders, wrote, “We believe that the main competitive factor is customer service, rental, convenience, speed, and confidentiality.” You will notice it did not mention the price.
After studying the millions of payday loans, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that 67 percent went to borrowers with seven or more transactions per year, and the majority of borrowers paid more in fees than the amount of their initial loan. This is why Diane Standaert, the director of state policy at the Center for Responsible Lending, says 36 percent interest-rate cap, says, “The typical borrower experience involves long-term indebtedness-that’s core to the business model.”
The last time Tambu and I talked, she told me about a job she had recently started, working at a veterinary hospital. “This is a career-a real job,” she told me. Tambu hopes that she will finally be able to set aside twenty-five dollars from each paycheck, and maybe start taking classes at a local college to work towards degree in counseling.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (left) talks with Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Richard Cordray after he testified about Wall Street reform at the 2014 Senate Banking Committee hearing. (Jonathan Ernst
DeYOUNG: Well, in a short sentence that’s very scientific I would start by saying, “Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The question comes down to how we identify the water here and how do we identify the baby here. One way is to collect a lot of information, as the CFPB suggests, about the creditworthiness of the borrower. But that brings up production cost of payday loans and will probably put the industry out of business. But I think we can all agree that once someone pays a fee in an aggregate amount equal to the amount that was originally borrowed, that’s pretty clear that there’s a problem there.
And yet it is surprisingly difficult to condemn the business wholesale. Emergency credit can be a lifeline, after all. And while stories about the payday-lending industry’s individual victims are horrible, the research on its effect at a more macro level is limited and very ambiguous. One study shows that payday lending makes local communities more resilient; another says it increases personal bankruptcies; and so on.
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need it. Now, it’s not surprising you that the payday industry does not want this kind of government regulation. Nor should it surprise you that a government agency called the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is trying to regulate an industry like the payday industry.
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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.
MANN: The data really suggests that there is a relatively small group of borrowers, in the range of 10 to 15 percent, who had been extremely
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?
Trump’s background and beliefs could not be more incompatible with traditional Christian models of life and leadership. He has been bragged about sexually assaulting women, and even his language (he introduced the words pussy and shithole into presidential discourse) would more naturally lead religious conservative to exorcism than alliance. This is a man who has cruelly published his infidelity, made disturbing sex comments about his older daughter, and boasted about the size of his penis on the debate stage. His lawyer reportedly arranged a $ 130,000 payment to a porn star to dissuade her from disclosing an alleged affair. Even religious conservatives who once blanched at PG-13 public standards now yawn at such NC-17 maneuvers. We are a long way from The Book of Virtues.
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Consumer Notice: Payday loans are intended for short-term financial needs only, and should
, because they do not have the storefront overhead. But they may have difficulty managing the fraud, and they themselves are difficult to police, so they may at times evade state caps on interest rates. So far, the rates charged by many Internet lenders seem to be higher, not lower, than those charged by traditional lenders. (Elevate Credit, which says it has a sophisticated, technological-based way of underwriting loans, brags that its loans for the “new middle class” are half the cost of typical payday loans – but it is selective in its lending, and still charges about 200 percent annually.) Promising out-of-the-box ideas, in other words, are in short supply.
DEYOUNG: That’s a very standard disclaimer. The Federal Reserve System is a unique alternative to regulators across the world. They see the value in having their researchers exercise science and academic freedom because they know that inquiry is a good thing.
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