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Utah must take another blow against loan sharks

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(Courtesy Kim Raff for ProPublica) Darrell Reese, a Vietnam veteran, stands with his granddaughter, Lily, on his porch at his home in Salt Lake City on October 15, 2019. Reese was arrested on mandate after defaulting on payment for a loan he received from Loans for Less. He missed his hearing because, he said, he couldn’t afford to put gasoline in his car.

Brad Daw has long played Whack-a-Mole with the Utah loan sharks.

Once, the buzzards of the high interest lending industry hit him. They built a large war chest for the campaign, enlisted the help of a since disgraced state attorney general, and beat Republican state representative Orem in the 2012 election.

Daw returned to his seat in 2014 and got back to work curbing the worst abuses of the payday loan mob (they don’t really deserve to be called an “industry”) and other debt providers who practice obscene interest rates.

This legislative session, Daw’s target is a kind of lender that even the mainstream payday loan shops don’t want to be associated with.

It is the mass that deals with somewhat larger sums of money, with longer repayment schedules. The companies that, while Daw was not in the game, pushed the Utah legislature to give them the power to prosecute people who fell behind in their payments, to have them arrested (usually by agents armed forces who are not sworn police officers) and, when the victims of the scam post bail to get out of prison, the money does not go to the person who was arrested, as is normally the case. but is confiscated from the lender.

Conducting non-profit investigative journalism Documented ProPublica at least 17 cases – and there were probably many more – where people who defaulted on their payments for a company called Loans for Less spent anywhere from a few hours to a few days in jail.

This is an extreme example of a system that attacks the poor and the helpless in a way that keeps them poor and powerless so that they can fall prey over and over again.

Daw’s legislation – HB319 – would prohibit such practices. Practices deviously designed to get around the fact that debtors’ prisons in the United States were outlawed by Congress in 1833.

Utah lawmakers are often heard lamenting the phenomenon known as intergenerational poverty. It is the tendency of poor families to stay poor rather than realizing the American dream of climbing the social and economic ladders, as many have done before.

Traps such as inescapable high interest debts – as well as factors such as limited educational opportunities, lack of public transport, unequal pay for women, racial discrimination, lack of access to health care health, unaffordable housing – largely explain that sad trend.

The state of Utah may or may not see its way clear in providing more aid to the poor. But that shouldn’t allow the buzzards that plague the earth with triple-digit interest rates to make matters worse.

Daw’s bill should be approved.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Rep. Brad Daw, R-Orem

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