The Duncan Anti-Usury ActCongressman Jimmy Duncan has authored a piece of legislation that I think is long overdue-a bill that would limit the credit limit that credit card companies could give to college students to 20% of their annual income or $500 for students with no cosigner.
Millions of Americans are swimming in massive credit card debt, and for many of these folks their journey into the world of credit debt slavery began when they were in college. Have many people been financially irresponsible? Yes they have. Others realize that they have been irresponsible but didn't know the wiser when they were 18, on their own for the first time, and had very little that was truly their own.
Parents ought to teach their children a little about fiscal responsibility, that much is certain-and many parents have failed to do so before Johnny or Susie hits campus for the first time. Still others have taught their children this important fiscal virtue but they can't compete with the credit card representatives handing out goodies in return for signing up for a shiny new credit card.
I'm not saying that the credit card companies don't have a right to try and make a buck, but they go well beyond that-they sign up the penniless student for a credit card at an extremely exorbitant interest rate (precisely because the student is cash poor) hoping to induce Joe or Jane Student to spend money they do not have. The credit card companies view young, impressionable, and-yes-gullible college kids as a potential endless stream of profit, because if they are lucky they'll have them all hooked on credit cards they can't pay off by the time they graduate.
In the Bible charging excessive interest on money owed is a sin-the Scriptures call it usury. Ezekiel 18:13 tells us that a man:
That giveth upon usury, and that taketh an increase: shall such a one live? He shall not live. Seeing he hath done all these detestable things, he shall surely die, his blood shall be upon him.
Strong words from the Supreme Ruler of the Universe about those who milk excessive interest from others. The prophet gives us the impression that the Ever-Living isn't at all fond of the practice. Indeed, it is enough of a serious matter that mention of usury makes it into the same chapter of the Bible as "the soul that sinneth, it shall die." (Verse 20) Among the nastiest of the sins of Israel and Judah mentioned in Ezekiel 22:12 is that:
They have taken gifts in thee to shed blood: thou hast taken usury and increase, and hast covetously oppressed thy neighbours: and then hast forgotten me, saith the Lord God.
Profiting from usury is right up there with forgetting God on the Almighty's list of things that make Him very unhappy. Somehow I don't think that Bible verse makes it into the lunch hour Bible study group at Capital One.
It bears remembering that usury is a practice that was prohibited in canon law by the Church for over a millennium. That the Scriptures speak so negatively of it may have something to do with the fact that usury can cause entire peoples to be eternal debt slaves.
While Congressman Duncan's bill obviously has a very useful secular purpose, I do wonder if he drew just a little inspiration from the pages of the Holy Writ.
Labels: Federal politics