Friday, October 13, 2006

We got robbed on the Nobel Peace Prize!

The gloomy Guses who wring their hands with their sob story about Americans can't compete in Science had to give it a rest for a while with this year's Nobel Prizes, when 6 Americans were awarded the prizes for medicine, physics, chemistry, and economics, and we dominated the awards like we do the Super Bowl and World Series. Then the dark cloud came back when we were denied a sweep, with some Turkish guy getting the literature prize, and the Nobel Peace Prize going to Bangladeshi economist Muhammed Yunus and his Grameen bank, which gives innovative micro-loans to entrepreneurs, which has the effect of lifting the bank's customers out of poverty. By reducing poverty, they create a more secure and as a result peaceful society. As it happens, the bank makes money, too, turning a profit in all but 3 years since its creation in 1976.

It hurts that this prize could not go to an American. When Yunus says "They're not asking for charity, charity is no solution to poverty", he sounds almost like a College Republican reciting the right-wing saw: "a hand up, not a hand out". Further, in America, companies like Cash King, Cash One, CheckMate, EZLoans, Money Mart, and Check'n'Go have been making small 'PayDay loans' to poor people for years. Poor Christian people wanting to borrow money from fellow Christians can go to Christian Faith Financial.

Of course, there are some differences between Grameen Bank and the typical Payday Loan franchise. Grameen Bank requires borrowers to belong to five member groups, so there is a motivation to pay back the loan to avoid the shame of having the other people in your group know you are a deadbeat. Also, according to the website: "Since the bank does not wish to take any borrower to the court of law in case of non-repayment, it does not require the borrowers to sign any legal instrument." Payday Loan companies threaten jail time as a way of collecting debts. Grameen offers interest rates of 20%, 8%, 5%, and a rate of 0% for 'Struggling Members'. Payday loan interest rates average just under 400%, although thanks to a measure passed by House and Senate Republicans that has nothing to do with the fact that Election Day is right around the corner, there is now a 36% cap on payday loans for service members and their spouses.

"We need to enact these new protections for our troops and their families because a growing predatory lending problem has impacted our operational readiness,"said Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., who pushed the measure in the Senate.

So, apparently by preying on the poor and increasing poverty, Payday loans cripple the U.S. military and threaten our readiness to go out and start wars. If that's the case, why can't whoever it was that started 'Check'n'Go' get the Nobel Peace Prize? If he's American, I mean.

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