Credit unions in place of payday lenders

A few General Assemblies ago, a theme speaker in the plenary hall — perhaps the Ware Lecturer; I really forget who — evoked images of how we know a neighborhood is in economic peril. Liquor stores but no grocery stores came up. But nothing evoke hard choices and poverty like check-cashing shops and payday lenders: the crystal meth of the financial world.

Since the interstate exportation of debt makes state ursury laws a dead letter, check cashing gives customers with few choices loans at rates that would make loan sharks blush. Since a legal remedy is unlikely, and since good ideas can overcome bad ones, I have to ask: what’s the role of cooperation here?

It isn’t like poor people have no economic power; quite the contrary. I’ve wondered where the credit unions are in the middle of this. Turns out at least one is paying attention.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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