The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, March 14, 2005  

It Begins in Wilmington at Home

Who’s the worse abuser of credit cards? Card users headed toward bankruptcy or the card issuers themselves?

Jeff Gelles, “Consumer Watch” columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, raises the question in “Teens Talk Fads, Fashions, Credit”:

Virtually every college student now carries a credit card, which partly reflects how essential the cards have become to everyday life. But not all their effects are benign.

Three-quarters of 18- to 24-year-olds carry balances from month to month, at interest rates than can range up to 30 percent, according to a recent study by Demos, a public-policy research group. [Link added.]

Then there’s this stunning statistic: That same group spent nearly 30 cents of every dollar it earned in 2001 on servicing debt, twice the average in 1992. Sure, college costs deserve some of the blame. But so do credit-card companies, whose 2004 profits topped $30 billion.

Congress is on the verge of giving those same companies a gift: a long-sought overhaul of the federal bankruptcy law, which will make it harder to erase Visa and MasterCard debt if financial disaster strikes. […]

Last year, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.) proposed a simple protection for borrowers under 21. To get a credit card, they'd need one of three things: a cosigner, evidence of income, or proof of having completed a financial-education class.

What happened? The credit-card companies fought it.

They want somebody to pay a price for their overly aggressive marketing to teenagers.

Just not them.

Joe Biden, please call your office.

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