- - Sunday, November 22, 2015


President Obama and his liberal friends insist they should be judged not on performance but on good intentions. This conceit enables them to condemn critics of federal programs as mean-spirited when the evidence clearly demonstrates that the problem with the program is that it just doesn’t work. They want to be graded on “commitment” to alleviating things like poverty, social injustice and regulating the weather and the high seas.

The president claims to be the champion of the poor, the minorities and the unemployed, and under his leadership poverty has increased and more blacks and browns have far fewer prospects for work than they did under either Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, his most-hated Republicans. He campaigned for re-election in 2012 with billboards of a smiling President Obama with his hand on the shoulder of a young black boy under the message: “He’s Got Your Back.” The president apparently wasn’t looking when his policies stabbed young Americans, like the boy on the billboard, just between the shoulder blades.

Neither the president nor most of his chief advisers have experience in the world where the rest of us live. They’re mostly ideology-driven academics, reformers and dreamers who walk two inches off the ground. Few of them have ever missed a meal, come up short on pay day, watched as a repo man repossessed their car, felt the pain when the heat was shut off in midwinter because they didn’t have the money to pay the gas bill, or faced eviction when they didn’t have the rent.

You don’t have to be a whale to review “Moby Dick,” as the saying goes, but it helps if you’ve ever put a big toe in the water. If they had put in time in that real world, the president’s friends might not be trying to destroy the payday loan. The newspaper reported last week that the Obama administration, through the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, proposes rules that would effectively abolish such loans. The administration calls them “payday death traps” because payday lenders charge higher interest rates than the banks that generally lend to those who don’t actually need a loan.

Lending to a hard-working man or woman with no savings and few assets is considerably riskier than lending to a Harvard-trained CEO, or even a skilled welder or newspaper reporter, but Mr. Obama’s minions think lenders should be willing to take the risk. Eliminating what they call “payday debt traps” sounds like good intentions, but will make life more difficult for millions of Americans who run into a stretch of hard times. The alternatives, since banks won’t lend to them, is often to run to the mercy of loan sharks who charge much higher interest and impose harsh penalties, sometimes physical penalties, on those who can’t pay up.

A bipartisan group of House members, representing districts that are part of the real world, want to prevent the government’s indulging good intentions and making the innocent pay the price of those intentions. Before Mr. Obama and his good intentions arrived in Washington the payday lenders were regulated by the several states. Some states do a better job of regulating than others, but Florida, for example, regards the lenders as providing an essential service. The entire Florida delegation, including Democrats like Reps. Alcee Hastings and Debbie Wasserman-Schultz are on record against a federal takeover. Florida is an example for the other states. It’s not necessary to fix what ain’t broke.

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