Foreword Communications

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Ohioans for Financial Freedom

Filed under: BUSINESS, ECONOMICS, ECONOMY, LIFE, LIVING, MONEY, NEWS, POLITICS — Tags: , , , , , , — forewordcommunications @ 8:05 pm



Recently appearing on the airwaves are commercials funded by a group called Ohioans for Financial Freedom.  In the television ad, a friendly farmer, supposedly representative of the “average” Joe, tells viewers that, after doing his research, he has discovered that 6,000 Ohio jobs and the state’s financial freedom are at stake.  Farmer Joe explains that, if a belt breaks on his red Chevy truck, he can borrow $100 from his friendly neighborhood payday lender and pay back $115 when he gets his Friday paycheck.  Joe then goes on to extol the virtues of payday lenders by linking the average citizen’s option of borrowing money from a payday lender with financial freedom and tries to impress upon his audience that 6,000 “well-paying” jobs might be lost if Ohio legislators, who are taking steps to regulate the industry, have their way.  In other words, according to Joe, the State of Ohio wants to strip its citizen’s of their financial freedom by reigning in payday lenders.  Joe wants us to stop the madness by signing one of the petitions that have been circulating to get legislation sponsored by Ohioans for Financial Freedom on the November ballot.


What Joe doesn’t tell us is that Tony Soprano and his mobster buddies would be hauled off to federal prison for doing what payday lenders make a business out of.  What payday lenders do is called usury in my neck of the Ohio woods and, like mob lending, it should be illegal. 


The plain facts are this:

  • Payday loans are assigned at an annualized interest rate of 391 percent!  Ohio lawmakers want that rate lowered to a more manageable 28 percent.
  • Payday loan jobs are not “well-paying” positions.  They are low-paying jobs that won’t keep a person afloat financially.  So, those 6,000 jobs that Joe insists will be lost are people living barely above the poverty line to begin with, not people living in the lap of luxury as Joe would have us believe.
  • Payday loans come in all sizes, with a $100 loan being on the low end of the spectrum.  Some payday loan lenders allow loans of up to $800.
  • Payday lenders prey on those who don’t have the money to repay their debt.  The only proof of solvency that payday lenders require is proof of employment and of a bank account.  A customer’s credit rating, or true ability to repay, has nothing to do with the transaction.  People who have good credit, have other, less expensive, options for accessing money to pay for pickup truck belts.  It’s the folks who don’t have those options – the people least able to absorb such high interest rates – that payday lenders service.  Desperate people, struggling to find ways to pay bills and meet the rising costs of gasoline and groceries, make up the general clientele of payday lenders.  What Joe neglects to tell viewers is that since many payday lenders allow their customers to “borrow” again within a day or two of paying their loan, a number of customers are doing just that.  Far too many customers of payday lenders get caught in a cycle of borrowing the same amount, or a larger amount, every payday cycle just to break even. 

It is because far too many people found themselves unable to pay back their loans that the State of Ohio had to step in and regulate the payday loan industry which has been enjoying explosive growth at the detriment of those they profess to serve.  Had their rates been reasonable and their practices not targeted those least able to repay, Ohio legislators wouldn’t have had to become involved.  The only thing missing from payday lenders’ repertoire is a big guy named Vinnie threatening to break the fingers or kneecaps of non-paying customers.  Of course, for people who have no other options, even usury is a feasible, if not altogether welcome, alternative.  But, gee, Farmer Joe, why not tell the truth and give Ohioans all the information they need to decide if they’d rather borrow money at 391% or at 28%?  I for one believe that my financial freedom, and that of my fellow Ohioans, rests on the failure of the payday loan industry, not the perpetuation of it, and you’ll not see this Ohioan’s signature on Joe’s petitions.




But, I don’t have all the answers either.

 ©2008 ForeWORD Communications    

All Rights Reserved



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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Ugly American: Are We Really Any Uglier Than Everyone Else?

Ok, so bright and early this morning I had a discussion with a European-based buyer about how American freelance writers gripe about the low rates that the market is currently paying primarily because of the influx of writers from developing countries.  For internet writers, the globalization of freelancing has resulted in competing against writers who are able to charge a mere $2-ish an hour.  In this country, that wage would qualify you for food stamps – no, homelessness!


And, have you seen the work of these so-called writers?!  Horrors!  Just surf the web and you’ll find an internet crammed full of content that is plagiarized, grammatically incorrect, rife with spelling errors, and completely lacking in any real ability to speak to the audience.  Their grades in school may have reflected a relatively solid understanding of the English language, but, linguistically, they fall so far short of making the grade, it’s frustrating.


But, let’s stop here for a minute.  Before I’m accused of being exactly what I hate, I don’t begrudge anyone the right to make a living.  All I’m saying is that, if you can’t compete, don’t lower the bar for everyone else.  For instance, I’m not a huge fan of women firefighters or overweight policemen.  I believe that every job has a certain minimum standard that has to be met for the job to be done properly.  If you can’t meet that standard, don’t expect the industry to lower the minimum standard to accommodate you.  Does this mean that no woman can be a great firefighter or that an overweight policeman can’t do his job?  Not at all.  It just means that, if the male firefighters are expected to lift 250 pounds, the women had better be able to do it too.  And, if that overweight policeman can huff his way through a back-alley foot chase, more power to him.  But, no special dispensations; find another job, if you’re not willing to adhere to the minimum standards.  After all, I wouldn’t try to get a job as a nurse without the right skills, would I?


Now, back to that buyer who has a problem with paying a fair wage.  His rantings about how Americans only complain when something affects them and how Americans expect the rest of the world to kowtow to them reminded me of the age-old, and significantly overdone, rant about the Ugly American.


Sure, there is such a thing as the Ugly American, but there are Ugly British, Ugly Germans, and Ugly French too.  The ugliness of the tourist is common throughout the world.  Just ask anyone in the hospitality industry.  Still, that whole Ugly American thing has always bothered me.  It’s as if we’ve been held up as an example of everything that’s wrong with politics, economics, morals – everything!  Like we’re a bunch of whiny two-year-olds.


But, hey, we are a bunch of whiny two-year-olds!


The United States is only a little over 230 years old.  Old for a person, but a babe-in-the-woods compared to other countries.  The UK, Germany, France, Italy, etc. are old-timers compared to us.  And, like any toddler, we are testing the limits and pushing the boundaries.  We make bad decisions and end up paying for them.  And we stomp our feet when we don’t get our way.  We’re not ugly, we’re inexperienced!  Newbies in the global community.


And, this is different from everyone else how?


Actually, we Americans are no different from anyone else.  We’re just newer at it.  Remember when Rome controlled most of the world?  How about when England and Spain battled over the very grounds we live on.  And, speaking of England, didn’t they have colonies all over the world at one point?  Remember South Africa and apartheid?  Guess they were pretty ugly too, huh?  The only difference is that, now, it’s ok to speak out against a nation’s need to spread its wings, whereas, back in the days of the Tudor’s, it would have gotten you beheaded.


Still, we Americans are pretty stupid.  We just bounce gleefully along until we get ourselves into a whole heap of trouble.  Wanna come live here?  Ok, no problem.  All are welcome.  Now there are so many immigrants in the US that we’re arguing over official languages, arguing about what to do about illegal immigrants, and bending backward so far we can kiss our own you-know-whats.  Other, more established nations don’t have this problem; nor do developing third-world countries.  If you’re an illegal immigrant in the UK, you can kiss your butt goodbye.  If you go to France and don’t speak the language, do ya think they’re gonna make new walk/don’t walk signs just for you?  I don’t think so. And, China and Japan, well, they don’t let anyone in to just wander around like they’re free or something.


So, what does the Ugly American complain about?  The same stuff that developing – yes, in the larger scheme of things, we’re still developing – nations throughout time have complained about; the right to make a living, secure our boundaries, and be a recognized player in the global community.  Sometimes our complaints are focused inward (Rhett, whatever will I do without my servants!) and sometimes outward (How do we compete against third-world countries in the distribution of goods and services?), but they’re the same complaints that every other, much older, nation has already experienced.  Remember the hard time that England went through when they didn’t know where’d they get their tea?  How about when Rome couldn’t draw from a pool of captured slaves for servants – ok, Rome fell, so maybe that’s not a good example.  Either way, you get my point; the US is experiencing a host of growing pains; pains which most of Europe has already outgrown and most of the still-developing nations have yet to experience.


So, get off your Ugly American high-horse and recognize that Americans are just a few centuries behind the rest of the world.  Someday, we’ll put drastic limits on immigration, hunt down and deport illegals, require that the citizenship test be completed in English only, and stop rewarding our own corporations with tax breaks for outsourcing and leaving our own citizens jobless.  After all, isn’t that what everyone else does?




I don’t have all the answers either.


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All Rights Reserved


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