(por Kathryn Mollen)
Febrero 13, 2014
Recientemente, Pope Francis has denounced usury as contrary to human dignity and a “dramatic social ill” because it takes advantage of another person in desperate financial situations.
Usury, o la práctica de prestar dinero a tasas de interés explotadoramente altas, has become increasingly widespread over the past decade as families struggle with economic insecurity. Y, though most states have laws regulating usury and capping excessive interest rates, these laws do not necessarily address all exploitive and abusive lending practices.
If laws and regulations fail to address all abusive lending practices that exist, then we as Catholics must oppose usurious practices that exploit people’s financial problems for profit.
En Minnesota, payday lending is a growing industry practice that requires prudent regulation.
In this sluggish economy, many people have been living paycheck to paycheck and have turned toward payday lending as a way to get by. A payday loan is a small, two-week loan that is meant to cover a borrower’s urgent needs such as rent, mortgages, utilities or medical payments.
Payday loans are marketed as short-term, quick and easy ways to help borrowers get to their next paycheck. All borrowers need to do is prove they have a bank account and a job. The typical borrower, sin embargo, generalmente no puede pagar el préstamo en dos semanas y regresará al prestamista para tomar otro préstamo. Al hacerlo, al prestatario se le cobra una tarifa adicional.
On average, a borrower will return nine to 10 times a year to a payday loan shop. According to the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition white paper on payday lending, Minnesota law allows borrowers to take out back-to-back loans that, cuando se repite varias veces, lead to staggering fees and make payback impossible.
El 99% de los préstamos de día de pago se hacen para repetir a los prestatarios que se han quedado atrapados en una trampa de préstamos de la que no pueden salir. The problem is obviously not in the loan itself, but repeat borrowing that the practice encourages. Por diseño, los préstamos de día de pago atrapan a los consumidores en una espiral descendente de deuda.
Como católicos, we need to ask ourselves if that type of business practice is harmful to our community, y, if so, what can we do to change the laws regulating payday lending. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote that the purpose of a law is to lead citizens toward virtue and goodness. La ley de, he reasoned, is a moral teacher that plays a central role in how we order our lives in our businesses, relationships and communities.
En la actualidad, laws surrounding payday lending do not encourage healthy business practices. The mere presence of a willing lender and willing consumer does not make a practice right or promote human flourishing.
Afortunadamente, there will be a bill brought before the Legislature this session that aims to better regulate payday loans by capping the number of these loans a borrower can take out and ensuring that a borrower has the ability to repay the loan, among other provisions. This reform to lending practices in our state will create a set of laws that encourages businesses to participate in healthy lending practices and will ensure that borrowers can take out loans without getting stuck in too deep a debt trap.
In his recent apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” Pope Francis condemned what he calls economies of exclusion and inequality. En esencia, he says we need to re-evaluate economies that encourage competition and survival of the powerful at the expense of the powerless. El crecimiento económico verdadero y saludable debe fomentar las relaciones de solidaridad y amistad dentro de nuestras empresas.
Por lo tanto, it is necessary for us as Catholics and Minnesotans to support laws that encourage, rather than discourage, healthy business practices such as the current proposal to limit usurious practices in payday lending.
Mollen is the policy and outreach coordinator for the Conferencia Católica de Minnesota.