Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Politics of Plastic

Wall Street Journal
August 24, 2010

How much more consumer protection can credit-card customers stand? If President Obama selects activist law professor Elizabeth Warren to head the new Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, we will soon have an answer. Meantime, thanks to a recent flurry of federal rule-making and legislating, consumers are already learning that "consumer protection" means higher interest rates and fewer card options.

It was among our safest predictions that reduced credit to consumers would result when the Federal Reserve announced new credit-card rules in 2008, and then Congress followed up with the Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act of 2009. By limiting the ability of banks to increase rates on delinquent borrowers and to charge fees on unprofitable customers, Washington encouraged card issuers to be more selective in advancing credit and to demand higher rates when they do.

It's a simple equation. If politicians make it more difficult and expensive for banks to lend, customers will find it more difficult and expensive to borrow.


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