Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Well, we tried

Tonight was DFL caucus night. I went to conduct an experiment. Could I get my fellow party members to support a resolution based on 200 years of settled law in USA. Obviously, the human race has no future unless the craziness of the banksters is brought under legal control. Suggestions include the restoration of Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression Era rule that kept commercial and investment banking separate.

But my pet re-regulation of the banksters is the re-imposition of usury statutes. Usury has long been considered evil, usury laws have existed in North America since before USA even became a nation, and there are simple mathematical demonstrations for why usury is socially and economically destructive. Most people and governments are hopelessly in debt. Passing new usury laws is clearly in the interest of at least 95% of the populations.

So I wanted to see if my precinct caucus could pass a simple resolution in favor of usury laws. Here is what I read.

Resolution supporting the re-criminalization of usury 
Whereas: All cultures and major religions have condemned usury in the strongest possible terms throughout history--with good reasons, and 
Whereas: The decriminalization of usury in USA in the late 1970s became a significant factor in the economic decline of the middle and working classes, and 
Whereas: It is mathematically impossible for USA to recover from its current economic disaster without significant debt restructuring and re-criminalization of the practices of usury, 
Be it therefore resolved that the DFL shall support strict interest rate limits, at the federal, state, and local levels, of no more than 1% for student loans, 3% for home mortgages, 5% for consumer loans like automobiles, and 7% for credit card debt. These limits shall be enforced by regulation and law and shall include severe penalties including triple damages for the first offense, and suspension of the right to lend upon a second conviction. 
Definition. Historically, the definition of usury has evolved from the outright prohibition on the collection of ANY interest, to the regulation of excessive interest. Since compound interest, the charging of interest on previous interest charges is essentially a 19th-century invention, it is not discussed in such historical repositories of cultural norms like the Bible or Koran. Even so, MOST scholars on the historic prohibition of usury believe that if simple interest is a crime, compound interest is a compounded crime. The fact that compound interest is environmentally insane because it mandates that the real economy must grow at geometric rates merely adds to the reasons for why it should be outlawed.
Well, as expected, it was voted down.  I live in a pretty conservative suburb whose Democrats want to believe they should think like old-time Republicans.  The evening was drawing to a close and there were 12 votes left to count. The resolution lost 10-2.

Interestingly, the woman who voted with me turned out to be a long-time staffer for a Minnesota Congressman named Martin Olaf Sabo--a North Dakota farmboy who represented Minneapolis in Washington for like 15 terms.  She had worked for Sabo back in 1978 when the existing usury laws were being dismantled.  She claimed Sabo had fought to the bitter end to keep usury laws in place.  I WANT to hear the rest of that story.

Another guy claimed he would go home and Google usury.  Good start.  And one young guy seemed interested in knowing some more so I directed him to this blog.

And I went home to wonder why 10 out of 12 people would vote against their own economic interests.  The ignorance runs VERY deep.

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