Column: In defense of payday lenders

My Arkansas News Bureau column this week is about two bills before the state Legislature that would open the door to the return of small loan providers – payday lenders, basically.

The lenders, which provide small, short term loans mostly to poor people, shut down and left the state after Attorney General Dustin McDaniel threatened to sue them in 2008. They couldn’t justify their expenses and risks charging what the state would allow.

Everyone celebrated their departure as if they had done some noble deed – and then did nothing about the underlying problem, which is that poor people sometimes need $300 by Friday or their lights will be shut off.

Banks don’t loan that kind of money to anybody. Banks don’t loan money to poor people. But nobody proposed doing anything about that. And lest you think there are churches and agencies out there ready to help – there aren’t, at least not nearly enough of them.

So basically we left poor people with one less option to keep their lights on until a paycheck comes in or until they can figure out what to do. In fact, it was the best option. Now all they can do is go to a pawn shop, beg or steal.

Poor people sometimes need $300 to keep the lights on, and there’s no one out there willing to loan it to them. For those who oppose these bills – and, of course, that includes McDaniel – I have one question: What is your solution to the real problem?

What is your solution?

Here is the column.

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