One-third of all credit card holders in the United States pay interest rates above 20 percent. Credit card rates now run as high as 41 percent -- almost double the highest interest rate charged in 1990. Recently, some major institutions, such as Bank of America, have informed responsible cardholders that their interest rates would be doubled to as high as 28 percent, without offering any explanation or excuse why the increase was taking place. This is usury.
Other modern forms of usury include:
-Payday loans charging an annualized rate of over 300%.
-Adjustable-rate mortgages with interest rates ballooning up to 14%.
-Rapid-refund tax return companies that charge 50% of the customer's tax return for a two-month advance - or up to a 300% annualized rate.
-Credit card companies that raise rates as high as 30% without reason or notification, and add on fees for both good behavior and bad. (The recent credit card reform law signed by President Obama in 2009 mandates that credit card companies notify the consumer of interest rate increases, but does not limit how much interest they can charge).
-Banks that charge $50 or more for "overdraft protection" - essentially a high-rate loan for the amount of the overdrawn check. US banks will collect a record $38.5 billion in overdraft fees this year, with nearly all the revenue paid by just 10% of customers. The windfall is nearly double the $19.9 billion collected in 2000. More on this from CNN.
-Check-cashing fees of 10% that are in effect exorbitant interest on the two-day period it takes for the check cashing agency to clear the customer's check.
The Metro Industrial Areas Foundation (Metro IAF) is a network of 17 broad-based citizens organizations in the United States and Europe that has launched a worldwide campaign against the usurious pratices of global finance. It could be one of the most exciting social movement to come out of the global financial crisis: a movement to cap interest rates at 10%. This video captures the birth of the movement -- on July 22nd, when simultaneous rallies were held in five American cities and across the pond in London putting some of the world's largest banks on notice.
"Our values are the majority values. It is our job as progressives to rally the nation around the progressive agenda." - Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont
Senator Bernie Sanders came to San Francisco tonight and spoke before a capacity 400+ crowd at the Unitarian Universalist Church. The first part of his address focused on the necessity of the progressive movement to come together and "raise up a New America." The Senator noted that progressive movement is too often focused on single issues and not sufficiently engaged in the hard work that is electoral politics. To succeed in seeing our ideas triumph, Senator Sanders urged progressives to focus on our commonalities and not our areas of difference. He touched on his own experience in Burlington in building a progressive coalition on the city council. He noted that "politics is what happens 365 days a year" and that we as progressives needed to engage our neighbors in changing the political culture.
Senator Sanders also touched on the economy. He began by noting wryly and thankfully he was speaking on a day that George W. Bush is no longer the President. He noted that we all should derive joy from that fact but then it was also important to remember that the damage wrought to the country was "incalculable." The Senator cited statistics that in the "boom" Bush years, that is before the financial meltdown, that the average median income in the country fell by $2,000, that 7 million Americans lost their health care coverage, that 6 million Americans fell out of the middle class and into poverty and that 3 million lost their pension benefits. Those were the "good times." The Senator spoke forcefully that progressives stand for a different path. That ours are the majority values and that those start with fairness and equality of opportunity.
San Francisco Progressive Perspectives presents Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday, February 17th at 7:30 PM. Senator Sanders will speak on "Why We Need to Unite around a Progressive Agenda" in conversation with Norman Solomon.
The event will take place at the First Unitarian Univeralist Church located at 1187 Franklin Street at Geary in the Cathedral Hill district of San Francisco. Suggested donation is $10.00.
Please RSVP to ProgressivePersp@aol.com
Also if you are interested there is a fund raiser for Senator Sander's PAC, the Progressive Voters of America PAC. Please contact me for more details on the fund raiser.