Sometimes explaining a problem in a particularly creative way can be a form of solution. Predatory lending in mortgages, credit cards and payday loans has been revealed as a central issue in North America over the last year, but many people still seem to have difficulty understanding what it is, how widespread it has become, and why we need regulatory action to solve it.
Enter The Predatory Lending Association! This great industry association parody site has a simple mission:
The Predatory Lending Association (PLA) is dedicated to extracting maximum profit from the working poor by increasing payday loan fees and debt traps. The working poor is an exciting, fast growing demographic that includes: military personnel, most minorities, and a growing percentage of the middle class.
It's full of helpful tips and tools for your friendly multinational usurer: Poor Finder™ technology which "locates the most profitable lending locations by analyzing sales records from pawn shops, liquor and gun stores, and the lottery"; a payday loan calculator to make sure your check-cashing store is gouging its customers for the maximum allowable interest rates (now capped at 36% in some states!); and a handy guide for responding to charges that ultra-high-interest loans are the same thing as indentured servitude (one major difference: working poor people caught in debt traps these days are rarely sent to debtor's prison!).
It's a sardonic look at practices which has ruined millions of American families, true in the way that sometimes only deeply outrageous humor can be.
For more measured responses and tools for putting a stop to these practices, you can check out the Center for Responsible Lending.
For a background on solutions to the challenge of providing useful and fair financial services to working people, check out the history of credit unions.
While I am sympathetic to the traditional social justice arguments around predatory lending.
In my opinion, the larger issue both from a social & environmental impact has been the gross mis-allocation of resources during the housing bubble.
Greens have been strangely silent regarding that somewhat sacred cow.