Unite to Fight

Usury threatens us all

Thank you for the honor bestowed upon me in last week’s Best Of issue. It is my opinion, nevertheless, that we are all best citizens when we act with integrity, obeying the laws established by our civil society and the laws governed by our moral conscience. When this happens, there is not one citizen better than the other, but, rather, all of us are equal.

 In their conference of Friday, March 20, 2015, the nine justices of the Supreme Court of the United States had 276 cases before them from which they agreed to hear two. Carnacchi v. U.S. Bank was not one of them.

 Thus ends the last round of this exacting fight, but ultimately my battle against usurious lending may continue.

 The constitution of the state of California Article XV concerns usury. Under this constitutionally guaranteed protection, the maximum interest allowed by law is 10 percent. The problem is that all of the financial corporations that make loans are granted an exception to this article.

 In fact, because my credit score took a hit, thanks in part to my fight against U.S. Bank, I have been inundated with solicitations for loans charging as much as 224.36 percent interest. I am not desperate enough for money to accept such an extortionate offer, but unfortunately these types of loans target those in our society who are. And as it is well documented, once a citizen succumbs to this type of borrowing, it is an endless downward spiral from which there is no escape.  

 Guarding against this injustice is the reason the authors of California’s constitution adopted usury laws. Money begotten upon money at unrestricted interest rates is one of the hidden forces behind America’s growing income inequality. One way to combat this is to reestablish our constitutional protection against usurious lenders.

 The California constitution is a compact among the citizens of this state, and we have the right to amend it. If we could organize under what we have in common, we will be the many, and they become the few.

Michael Carnacchi is the proprietor of Apple Cobbler in Sebastopol.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the ‘Bohemian.’ We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write [email protected].