Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Thoughts on Cuba and Other Stuff

Yes, I'm really too busy to blog, and this is not the post I was going to post. But when I'm too busy go toss off thoughts at an unsuspecting (and uncaring)Blogosphere, I use other people's thoughts. First, here are some thoughts on Cuba from Nat Hentoff, and them some that are more succinct from Michael Ramirez. I love the way he can portray such strong emotion in just two hands. The man can draw!
New Pulitzer prize-winning columnist Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post, who has made 10 reporting trips to Cuba, writes (April 14) that the Congressional Black Caucus delegation was either naive or disingenuous "not to notice ... or acknowledge that Cuba is hardly the paradise of racial harmony and equality it pretends to be."

If these Black Caucus members — so lauded by Fidel for being accompanied by King's "aura" — had asked him and Raul for permission to look around Cuba on their own, they would have

heard considerable evidence from Afro-Cubans about their lower status in Michael Moore's paradise. However, adds Eugene Robinson, "maybe they were too busy looking into Fidel's eyes."

And I was going to comment on the fact that Earth Day is on Lenin's birthday. But that's been taken care of at People's Cube.

Meanwhile, at the Free Press, there are the usual calls for more government intervention to "help the poor".
Personal finances are not traditionally the purview of public officials. But in these tough times, government certainly has an interest in helping constituents protect their assets and create financially stable households. The life savings of many New Orleans residents were washed away during Hurricane Katrina. In some cities, a cash economy has become a public safety problem, with people becoming "walking ATMs" on days when pay or government checks are issued.

That's why the National League of Cities and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition are working with many of their members, including Detroit, to ensure that consumers are financially literate and that banks offer deposit, payment, credit and electronic products that meet the needs of the unbanked. The league's "Bank on Cities" campaign includes education and outreach efforts that partner with local banks.
Thomas Sowell sees through the sloppy thinking of the Free Press and everyone else who wants more government intervention in order to force check cashing offices out of business while also forcing banks to give loans to people whether or not they can pay them back.
Words are not the only things that enable political rhetoric to magically transform reality. Numbers can be used just as creatively — and many voters are even more gullible about statistics than they are about words, apparently because statistics seem more objective.

The latest congressional crusade is to clamp down on small finance companies that provide “payday loans” and check-cashing services in many low-income neighborhoods, where there are few banks.

A common practice in making small loans of a few hundred dollars for a few weeks is to charge about $15 per hundred dollars lent. Politicians, the media, community activists, and miscellaneous other busybodies are able to transform these numbers into annual percentage charges of several hundred percent, thereby creating moral melodramas and demands that the government “do something” about such “abuses.”

Of course, these loans are seldom borrowed for a year. They are often loans for a couple of weeks or less, to meet some difficulty of the moment, suffered by people who live from payday to payday, whether they are being paid by a job or are receiving checks from Social Security, unemployment compensation, or welfare.

The alternative to getting a payday loan may be having the electricity cut off or not having money to buy some medication. It is worse to borrow from illegal loan sharks, who have their own methods of collecting.

While $15 per hundred dollars may sound like a high rate of interest, it is not all interest. The finance company incurs costs just to process a loan, and these costs are a higher proportion of the total cost for a small loan than for a large loan.

When Oregon imposed a limit of 36 percent annual interest on what a finance company could charge, that meant charging less than $1.50 for a $100 loan for a couple of weeks. A dollar and a half would probably not even cover the cost of processing the loan, much less the risks of default.

Not surprisingly, most of the small finance companies making payday loans in Oregon went out of business. But there are no statistics on how many low-income people turned to loan sharks, or had their electricity cut off, or had to do without their medicine.

This is just one of the many ways in which self-righteous busybodies leave havoc in their wake while going away feeling noble.

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