19th Century scumbags, rejoice! Government is coming to your aid

Angela Yartz with debt collection notices from a district attorney.
She bounced a $47.95 check to Walmart

The letters are sent by the thousands to people across the country who have written bad checks, threatening them with jail if they do not pay up.

They bear the seal and signature of the local district attorney’s office. But there is a catch: the letters are from debt-collection companies, which the prosecutors allow to use their letterhead. In return, the companies try to collect not only the unpaid check, but also high fees from debtors for a class on budgeting and financial responsibility, some of which goes back to the district attorneys’ offices…A kickback for services rendered.

Consumer lawyers have challenged the debt collectors in courts across the United States, claiming that they lack the authority to threaten prosecution or to ask for fees for classes when no district attorney has reviewed the facts of the cases. The district attorneys are essentially renting out their stationery, the lawyers say, allowing the companies to give the impression that failure to respond could lead to charges, when it rarely does…

The partnerships have proliferated from Los Angeles to Baltimore to Detroit, according to the National District Attorneys Association, as the stagnant economy leaves city and state officials grappling with budget shortfalls. Lawyers for the check writers estimate that more than 1 million of them are targeted a year. The two main debt collectors — California-based CorrectiveSolutions and BounceBack of Missouri — return millions of dollars each year to retailers including Safeway, Target and Walmart…

Because the cases are not fully investigated, there is no way of knowing whether the bad checks were the result of innocent mistakes or intentional fraud. The so-called bad check diversion programs start from the position that a crime has been committed.

Where’s Charles Dickens when you need him?

You can RTFA for all the details. I imagine most folks who wander through this site already have a perception of political life in these United States that doesn’t lead you to gasp in surprise over collusion between government and private collection agencies. You could write out in advance the rationales used by district attorneys – who are marking time in office before their next run at higher office.

There is a class of rip-off common in the United States that started with storefront mortgage companies encouraging people to lie about income and expenses – to achieve the dream of home ownership when it wasn’t really affordable. Hustlers like “kindly” moneylenders offering payday loans at terms that were against the law back when credit cards were invented – legal loan sharks kept in business by politicians with the ethical standards of a weasel. Scumbags are allowed into emergency rooms by hospitals administered by beancounters who find nothing wrong with confronting someone in dire need with a lecture on your responsibilities to people who make a living from your ills and injury.

It stinks on ice. The direct result of ideology and politics that say means-testing and your ability to pay take precedence over anything else in our society. No matter that most other industrial nations have learned that running the service levels of government on the basis of need and common good not only results in higher average standards – but, that it costs less than devoting bureaucratic time to policing the lives of ordinary citizens. A more sound return on investment.

Too bad that doesn’t satisfy today’s corrupt derivatives of the Puritan ethic.

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