In public, the Republican Party fiercely defends the military and hold our troops up on a golden pedestal, as they should. But when it comes to legislation, it’s clear that the GOP cares as little for our veterans as they do for any other part of American society that doesn’t donate millions to their re-election campaigns. The National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes funding for the military’s 2016 budget, has a little clause slipped in at the end, which inserts a year-long delay for any laws that would protect military servicemen from predatory lending agencies, Wall Street’s army of payday loan businesses and other such shameless extortionists who have the gall to charge triple digit interest rates.
Such heartless criminals make one understand why usury used to be a sin. But House Republicans don’t seem to see a problem with the most insidious perpetrators of selfish objectivisim and the most barbaric form of capitalism feeding off the wallets and livelihoods of the brave men and women who risk their lives and limbs defending our country from its enemies.
The parasitical lenders have changed their methods to get around the 2006 Military Lending Act, the first such legislation protecting servicemen from these ravenous vermin, capping interest rates at 36% APR and putting limits on lending amounts and repayment periods. Now, the lending agencies, most of which are connected to the nation’s biggest banks, are using loans disguised as an open line of credit known as Deposit Advance Products. The Consumer Protection Bureau, the brainchild of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat and champion of consumer rights, says that the banks are specifically targeting our troops. They reported that some 55,000 military members use these services any given month, and about one in four every year, a statistic that should give all of us pause.
Why do we spend so many billions on national defense every year if our soldiers are so grossly underpaid they must take out these loans in the first place? Over $50 million was borrowed by servicemen over the past year, with over $5 million just in application fees- not even counting the APRs-in-all-but-name that vary from 80% to a shocking 584%. It leads to horror stories like the private who ended up paying over $8000 for a $650 laptop.
Needless to say this has raised ire among liberal groups and consumer protection watchdog groups. Public Citizen President Robert Weissman said that “It is a sign of just how indebted certain members of Congress are to corporate interests that a critical, commonsense regulation that is needed to protect our national security can be sacrificed in service to the predatory lending industry.”
Not only is it morally reprehensible, but it is an issue of national security. The Consumerist reports that “When servicemembers default on loans, bad credit reports result in security clearances being revoked…the Pentagon also found that unit morale suffered from the harsh effects of predatory lending.” But somehow, this is all tenable to the Republicans, who would rather see the big banks keep extorting millions from our servicemen. It is an atrocious hypocrisy for the Republicans to trumpet our veterans at the podium, but relentlessly work to drive America into overseas conflicts and then actively work to prevent our underpaid soldiers from being taken to the cleaners by their cronies on Wall Street.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.