John Edwards Talks Payday Loans in Iowa
by Jonathan Singer, Sat Jul 08, 2006 at 06:52:24 AM EDT
John Edwards of North Carolina hit the hustings in Iowa yesterday on behalf of a longshot US House candidate, and as the Associated Press reports, the former Senator hammered away at a very important issue.
John Edwards, a White House hopeful, focused on the problem of predatory lenders in his first swing through Iowa since a statewide poll gave his potential presidential campaign a boost.
"What we're doing is focusing on what can be done to stop predatory lenders and payday lenders from preying on our most vulnerable families," said Edwards, who called for new regulations for an industry in which annual interest rates for payday loans can soar to 300 percent to 400 percent.
For the past couple of months, I have become intimitely acquainted with the effort to begin regulating payday loan stores and predatory lenders in general. As a part of the state House campaign that I am managing in Oregon (Mike Caudle for State Rep), I have been working at both the local and the district level to reign in these companies, which in my state charge up to a 521 percent annual rate on short-term loans.
Just to provide some perspective, a survey by the State of Oregon (.pdf, page 27) showed that 30 percent of payday loan consumers explain they take out the loan just to pay for groceries. Another 10 percent take out the loans to pay off other loans.
Not only is it good policy to reign in predatory lenders, it is good politics, too. There has been polling conducted on this issue, and while I can't get into the details of it, suffice it to say that the vast majority of voters -- and even the vast majority of Republican voters -- are in favor of capping the interest rates that predatory lenders charge.
But a surprising number of Republicans in Oregon, and no doubt across the country, are opposed to placing regulations on predatory lenders on grounds that free enterprise should be left free.
So when Democrats like John Edwards and Mike Caudle come out in favor of new regulations and Republican politicians announce their opposition on grounds of free enterprise, the Dems have a great wedge issue to drive in the middle of the GOP coalition. Speaking from experience on the ground, even faith voters -- especially faith voters -- are willing to defect from the Republicans over this issue.
So I really hope Senator Edwards continues to hammer away on this issue throughout his (possible) bid for the Democratic nomination. I certainly know that my campaign will for the next four months through election day.