Monday, May 4, 2009

beyond the binary: stop blaming it all on credit card companies

I enjoyed this article in the Los Angeles Times that operates much in the spirit of The Colonic--complicating binaries. Positing credit card companies as the evil villain is offensively reductivist at least, and blatantly inaccurate at most. Here's a quick overview of the article.

First, the author makes concessions:

I'll stipulate that they've been guilty of genuinely sleazy behavior -- much of which is properly targeted by the measures in Washington

They shouldn't be allowed to jack up the interest rate on card balances retroactively, except in rare cases. They should apply your payments to balances with the highest rates first. They shouldn't accept charges that put you over your credit limit and trigger a fee, if you request such a hard cap.

But then he brings it back home:

But we routinely berate card issuers for actions that are actually prudent and wise. Certain purported sins, such as raising rates and cutting credit limits for some borrowers, merely ratchet back the loose standards that helped lead us to economic perdition. For years we cursed the banks for showering Americans with easy credit. Now we curse them for tightening up.

Because of their unsavory past, the issuers are unable to make this case for themselves. They remind me of some frat guys at my college who were guilty of only about half the things they were accused of, but what was true was bad enough.

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