Explaining Southern California's economy

Expanding payday loans make case for banking the unbanked

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Bank of America is too big to do payday loans, but credit unions and small, regional banks are getting in on the action.

The L.A. Times ran a piece a few days ago about how banks and credit unions are getting into the lucrative but ethically dicey business of payday loans — short-term, high-interest loans that, until recently, were aimed at customers who don't have typical relationships with banks or credit-card issuers. This morning, KPCC's "AirTalk" with Larry Mantle did a segment on the issue.

Payday lending is rife with problems — and the potential for big returns. Here's the LAT:

[M]any people can't repay the loans when they come due. Instead, they simply roll the loans over from payday to payday, or take out new loans to cover the old ones, piling on additional costs that can result in interest charges of 300% or more over the course of a year.

The move by banks into payday lending — or direct deposit advances, as many of them call it — led about 200 fair-lending, consumer, religious and labor groups to write federal regulators last month and call for prompt action to stop "this inherently dangerous product."

"There are people who wouldn't walk into a payday loan store but think that if a bank is doing it, it must be safe," said Lauren K. Saunders, managing attorney with the National Consumer Law Center. "If you take a look at these products from a consumer protection standpoint, they raise serious red flags."

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How to save the U.S. Postal Service: bank the 'unbanked'

In the last week, we've all learned just how dire the outlook is for the U.S. Postal Service. The Postmaster General, Patrick R. Donahoe, has been pleading for federal assistance in helping the USPS overcome not just a problem with meeting an impending $5.5 billion pension payment, but also a looming $10 billion fiscal deficit.

The post office is such a fixture of American life that the story was immediately picked up by pretty much everybody. On the left-hand side of the political spectrum, Tom Hartmann argued that Republicans have always hated the post office and that this latest crisis is a manufactured one to enable mail delivery to be privatized. On the right, GOP Congressman Darrell Issa of California had already introduced legislation in June to implement "sweeping, structural reforms" of the USPS.

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