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As Gap Between Rich and Poor Widens, Tennessee Must Continue to Step Up Consumer Protections

Filed under: New York, Tennessee — Desmond Carlisle at 6:44 am on Thursday, July 6, 2006

Despite what some consider a flourishing economy, plenty of Americans are having a heck of a time just paying their bills.

According to the American Bankers Association, the percentage of bank cards 30 or more days past due increased to 4.4 percent in the first quarter of the year, up from 4.27 percent in the last fiscal quarter of 2005. All that rampant consumer debt is giving bill collectors incentive to toughen their tactics, according to The New York Times, even in cases where debts can't be proven.

The Cost of Consumer DebtNew York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is, of course, on the case, waging an all-out assault on all forms of predatory lending. The gap between rich and poor is growing wider in the U.S., and it's as easy as it's ever been for low-wage earners to fall behind and get into trouble with payday loans and other high-risk options sought by the desperate.

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports that Tennessee's General Assembly took an important step by passing legislation that sets tighter limits on what fees lenders can add to high-cost home mortgage loans and curtailing other practices that can often result in foreclosure or even bankruptcy.

Officials hope momentum from that effort will carry over next year to extend protection against predatory lending in such fields as car title loans, instant cash loans and other alternatives aimed at consumers who don't understand how badly they're being taken for a ride.

It's hard to say what direction this economy is going to take in the near future, much less over the course of the next few years. What can be controlled is making sure vulnerable consumers are protected from those who would take advantage of the situation when things turn sour.

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