In 1997 the Tennessee state Senate took great pains to ensure that high-interest payday loans were, in fact, loans and that the post-dated checks put up as collateral were treated as collateral. This was to protect the poor families who use such services from being taken advantage of by companies that many people believe to be nothing more than legitimized loan sharks. The payday loan industry contributes huge amounts of money to political campaigns, and in 1998, a year after the protective measures were taken, the single largest contributor to Tennessee political campaigns was a payday loan company. Interestingly enough, last week the Senate voted to allow these companies to take people who fail to pay their loan on time to court and tack on bad-check fees, as well as court costs and attorney fees, to their already huge interest rates. Should the political contributions continue, no doubt additional penalties will eventually be added. Broken knee-caps and severed fingers are time-honored and effective means of settling delinquent debts, after all.

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