Take an anti-credit card lending activist, one liberal congresswoman and a disgruntled credit card holder, and you have the stacked deck against lenders that ABC used on February 11.
“World News with Charles Gibson” attacked credit card companies for rising interest rates and fees, but left out a few details about credit markets by assuming that a Federal Reserve interest rate cut should result in lower credit card interest rates.
“When the Federal Reserve made two dramatic cuts in interest rates last month, there were reassurances that interest rates on credit cards would come down as well,” said “World News” anchor Gibson.
Gibson continued, “And that was promising news to the 175 million Americans who are paying an average 19 percent interest on a total debt of nearly a trillion dollars. But reassurances in many cases have not become reality. Rather than lower rates, the rates on many cards have actually gone up.”
While the Federal Reserve’s interest rates are one factor in determining the interest rates credit card companies charge borrowers, Gibson’s remarks ignored the increased risk from scores of defaulted mortgages related to the subprime lending woes. ABC also didn’t take into account that the credit crunch is dictating that lenders charge more interest and fees because the supply of credit has decreased under these economic conditions.
“The phenomenon of the credit crunch is reinforced by the fact that credit expansion, just like any other increase in the quantity of money, serves to raise wage rates and the prices of raw materials,” wrote George Reisman, author of “Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics,” on the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s blog in August 2007. “This too leads to the outcome of a credit crunch as soon as the spigot of new and additional credit expansion is turned off.”
But who did “World News” trot out to condemn credit card companies – none other than Robert Manning, professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology and author of “Credit Card Nation.” His book was written from an anti-credit card company perspective on consumer debt. Still, Manning offered his oversimplified analysis on more expensive credit for ABC’s viewers.
“Unfortunately the average American right now is going to find themselves [sic] facing the higher cost of credit simply because the banks are losing money on other divisions,” Manning said.
ABC advocated more government regulation as a solution to rising rates and fees and quoted Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) to support the argument.
“Congress is now considering bills that would require banks to notify customers before they change rates or fees,” ABC correspondent Dan Harris said.
“World News” interviewed only one legislator – Maloney, who has encouraged government expansion on other issues. In August 2007 she supported federal subsidization of birth control. Maloney told ABC the credit card companies have an unfair advantage by determining rates and fees.
“It sounds like the contract between the consumer and the card company is totally unbalanced,” said Maloney.
Harris even painted a bleak picture of an economy in the balance.
“And this is not just a problem for individual card holders, it’s a problem for the entire economy,” Harris said. “The more people struggle to pay their credit card bills, the more they will cut back on their spending, which slows down the entire economy, as I said, Charlie. And defaults are already going up,” concluded Harris.