“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” – Maya Angelou
Tomorrow we mark Juneteenth, a reminder of the challenging and worthy work our society must undertake for justice and healing. Given the reckoning that has been underway in America over the past year, it is also a day to consider the important role economic equity plays in our broader social justice discussion.
The American Financial Services Association has for more than a century advocated for all consumers’ greater access to credit. There are some consumers who have good credit, access to credit cards, mortgages and auto loans. There are others who for different reasons may have less-than-stellar credit – or no credit – and do not have easy access to the funds they require. This may be due to financial missteps in the past, or perhaps not having established a bank account or credit.
Such circumstances should not fully bar these consumers from seeking to gain credit, particularly to cover the costs of emergency expenses or to buy a car to maintain their employment. Yet in the name of “economic justice,” this is what some well-meaning policymakers are attempting. By supporting regressive concepts like arbitrary interest rate caps, legislators are advocating policies that undercut efforts toward economic equity. Such policies actually hinder consumers’ ability to gain a fair shot at the same types of credit products, such as personal loans or auto financing, that others gain.
Policies that disqualify consumers who might otherwise be able to apply for and get personal loans or a car loan are not equitable. Policies that force consumers to seek larger loans that they cannot easily afford does not encourage economic equity. And yet today, advocates and policymakers claim such rate caps further the cause of economic equity. Decades of history and research show this to be a false and damaging promise.
AFSA supports an empowered and knowledgeable consumer. Our members work closely with their customers to ensure they are fully informed about their loans. Our education foundation strives to help young people understand the fundamentals of personal finance, from bank accounts to savvy shopping for auto and home loans. Our members work to serve all members of the diverse communities in which the operate.
On this date in 1866, more than 150 years ago, our society took yet another step down the path to right wrongs, engender equality and healing, and to help create an environment for opportunity for all. It has by no means been a straight or easy path. There have been many moments of success and many moments of failure and disappointment. Today is a reminder of all of this, and that each of us must strive to do better … for our neighbors and our communities.
That is AFSA’s commitment: working to ensure the promise of opportunity is available to all Americans and for the worthy goal of equal access to the American Dream.
June 18th, 2021 by Dan Bucherer