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December 04, 2012 | 01:08 PMEditor's note: Sal Dimiceli's column has been a well-read feature of the Regional News for years.. This particular one is a little more opinionated than usual. It's a strong condemnation of predatory lending activities. Sal has seen the affect of these noxious policies on many of the people he is called upon to help. He requested that his usual column photo not be used so as to direct total attention to this week's theme.
We want to make clear to Sal that he's not on the forefront of these concerns all by himself. We don't write editorials at the Regional News. We write columns because I can only speak for myself, not the whole paper.So consider this my personal endorsement for Sal's position on predatory lending.
-- John Halverson, editor and general manager, the Lake Geneva Regional News
Our governor, Scott Walker, has turned our beautiful state of Wisconsin from over a $3 billion dollar shortfall to over $200 million in budget surplus for this year.
Our governor, Scott Walker, may someday have the opportunity to serve our country as president. At the present time, we need our fiscally responsible governor, to put in place legislation to put an end to "predator loans." My dear friends, please read the following. The lives and well-being of many of our fellow creations is at stake. Our governor needs to stand with us to protect the most vulnerable Wisconsin citizens from being taken advantage of financially.
I am living in pain and embarrassment. I cannot go anywhere without the stares of strangers.
I have several conditions that have caused my deformity.
I had skin cancer that necessitated the removal of part of my nose. But the worst thing I suffer from is the loss of my leg. I developed an infection that traveled up my leg, and they had to amputate.
I live in constant pain and cannot even get comfortable to rest at night. I really need to use a wheelchair to go anywhere, including the many doctor visits, but it is so hard by myself.
I have not been to a dentist or eye doctor in years. I can no longer read and can barely write this due to my poor vision. I don't have dental or eye insurance so I do without. I have had to turn to loans at 450 percent to 650 percent interest.
My disability check is taken by these loans to the point where I cannot survive. Is there any way The Time Is Now to Help can help me?
This letter was very moving and we could feel the woman's desperation. There are so many that do not count their blessings. We knew this visit would have us counting ours.
We have found being healthy to be one of the greatest blessings and treasures in life. There are so many of our fellow creations struggling with disabilities and illnesses that we never knew existed. The next time you drive by blocks of houses and apartment buildings, pray for those that are suffering but not seen. This woman was in great need of our compassion and assistance.
We called the woman, even though we knew she would be home. The way she expressed her embarrassment over her appearance, her difficulty in managing a wheel chair, and her poor vision all told us she did not get out much. We wondered how she obtained food. We prayed for her and the obvious burden she carried with her every day of her life. We also understand the burdens of "predator loans" as many Americans are being taken advantage of, supported by confused politicians, our governor not being one of them.
The woman answered the phone and when we asked if it would be alright for us to visit, she began to cry and said, "I am not presentable and never will be."
We reassured her we were used to disabilities and her appearance was not a concern for us, her well being was our concern.
She eventually agreed but told us she had sold most of her belongings to pay bills.
We arrived to find a small apartment almost completely empty of furniture. The woman was sitting in an old wheelchair that did not even have proper padding or fit her frame correctly.
We knew the discomfort of sitting in that chair had to be adding to her pain level. We noticed the way she looked away with shame and embarrassment of her disfigurement.
We felt her loneliness and despair.
We shook her hand in greeting and told her things were going to get better for her now that The Time Is Now to Help was there to help. She was scared and alone. We told her hundreds of supporters of The Time Is Now to help want to help her. We saw her face change and tears fill her eyes.
After we discussed her many medical problems and medical bills we went over setting up a budget. It would be impossible for her to get by with the astronomical payments she was making on three predator loans. (Examples accompany this story.)
My dear friends, these are not ordinary loans but are loans of the same type our federal justice system made illegal decades ago.
Decades ago organized crime would make loans at high interest rates, the slang for these loans were "juice loans". The interest rates for these loans were usually around 30 percent. To force collection people would be physically and mentally threatened and terrorized by employees of the loan sharks/predator loans.
Somehow these loans have come back, especially now during this recession, preying on the most vulnerable Americans; the elderly, handicapped, all those suffering in the desperate pains of poverty.
Confused politicians trying to defy the federal RICO Act claim their "predator loans" create jobs. When a job is causing such great social injustice, preying on the poorest and most helpless of Americans, and taking away their survival, this is theft through RICO not job creation. Those that allow this corruption to exist need to STOP the suffering of the American people. There have been confused politicians, but the record is being set straight. These loans are a great harm and social injustice to the citizens of Wisconsin.
Those that give these extremely high interest loans have politicians protecting them, even to the point of passing several laws. Three years ago we received over fifteen requests about an 82-year-old widow who had one of these loans at 89 percent. The loans we were now looking at with the woman needing our help, had interest of 449 percent to 651 percent.
We are told, one of the laws put in place to complement the torment of our elderly and disabled fellow Americans allows the "predator loan" makers to take/garnish their meager monthly income by requiring automatic withdrawal from the elderly and disabled people's bank accounts, leaving them with no money for food, shelter and utilities.
Ever since the recession began, we have received more than 1,000 complaints regarding these "predator loans" preying on the helpless. We are told they try talking to their senator or state representative but there is a common complaint by hundreds of people.
"There are a few senators who support the owners of these 'predator loans' and any attempts to change things falls on deaf ears." Going forward, anyone voicing in favor of the "predator loans" and the "great social injustice" to our fellow Americans is an admission of their terrible wrong doing.
We have been told hundreds of complaints are going to the U.S. Attorney's office and beyond. Even our president passed a law to put ceilings on credit card interest. These loans are more than thirty times that ceiling. These immoral, socially unjust loans charge up to 800 percent or more to those that do not have, squeezing every penny they can get, causing homelessness, hunger and extreme pains of poverty.
There are many terrible byproducts of poverty, including alcoholism and violence. These despicable "predator loans" have joined the terrible treatment of our American poor. We need these predator loans removed from the state of Wisconsin now.
Any in existence need to be deemed illegal and life threatening to the poor. Non-action by, for and of the people will be an admission of guilt. An emergency session needs to be called in the capital now. The media must be allowed and invited to follow the overwhelming vote in favor of social justice for Wisconsin's victims of these predator loans.
These predator loans do not have to be for a large sum of money, to ruins lives, usually $500-$1,500.
The perpetual payments never end due to the extreme interest rates and fees that keep compounding. The loan lenders go to any length to keep them from paying the loan off to zero.
They even tell the often bewildered poverty stricken fellow Americans, "Do not pay the loan off, it will improve your credit if you keep a balance open."
These are poor people that will never obtain better credit by paying exorbitant interest fees. Of course the poor are going to miss a payment, this perpetuates the payments, continuing the pain and suffering.
Our country has more than 50 million poverty stricken that barely eat every day; including the working poor that earn such lower wages they go from day to day to barely survive. Add to that a loan with a devastating 400 percent to 800 percent interest rate and now they no longer eat because their already meager earnings are taken by the "predator loan" lenders. All approved by certain politicians, and not one of these politicians would take out a loan at 20 percent interest, let alone 400percent-800 percent interest. Yet confused politicians allow the financial brutality of our desperate poverty stricken elderly and handicapped fellow Americans. This is not representation by, for and of the people. These are confused politicians protecting the socially unjust lenders of these predatory loans to our fellow creations.
Our government leaders need to make these loans as they exist today illegal and place a reasonable maximum interest rate of 10 percent on them.
We have been telling people who know these terrible loans and know victims for years why tell us, tell law enforcement. They respond, "The laws protect the loan sharks. We need people in politics representing the American people who are at our level who understand our problems not only these abusive, life threatening predator loans, causing joblessness, inflation of everything, not just gas, and the ripping apart of the American dream. We do not need people representing us who protect these loan sharks, all while we pay their wages and provide them great health insurance and no worries through our taxes, while we the American people suffer."
We helped the handicapped woman who needed a pair of glasses for two years since hers broke, but could not buy glasses to see due to the predator loans taking her last penny, every month for years.
We also helped her with food due to the loans taking her last penny. The pain and psychological suffering we found her in due to these terrible loans, given by heartless greedy people, was total torment.
All eyes are watching now, coming together to remove the pain and suffering caused by "predator loans".
Together we paid off her loans at an outrageous 450 percent and 650 percent interest, we bought her new glasses, we provided her with a wheel chair, we restored her life with dignity, a balanced budget, giving her, her monthly checks back.
We cared and shared this handicapped woman back to life.
She cried in disbelief over our overwhelming assistance to help put her life back together.
Thirty-seven states have passed laws to protect the American people years ago, some even over ten years ago. Wisconsin government needs to act now. The following are just a few lines from the volumes of letters and calls we receive.
"Wisconsin allows these social injustice loans to exist. Why? When other states passed laws and criminal fines, including placing these predators in jail."
"Iowa has very strict laws protecting their American citizens. Why not Wisconsin? Do our law makers think less of our Wisconsin citizens?"
"Arkansas passed laws of protection in 2001. Why not Wisconsin law makers? Yes, there are some attempts to pass a bill but the percent rates are still much higher than other state laws that were passed a decade ago." Why are there a handful of Wisconsin senators and representatives protecting these predator loans? These politicians are causing a great social injustice for the Wisconsin people they are supposed to be working for.
"WC, we have been informed by the US Justice Department the lag is due to: To put an end to these loan companies nationwide by setting a federal example of the loan makers, and their government supporters. By charging them with the federal crime of the RICO Act. Also there is a movement to spring a class action suit to shed great light on all those that are involved, the politicians and their strong bribing, lobbying will finally be put in their place. Any political representative not voting to pass strong laws "now" to protect the innocent, need to be sent to jail."
These are only a handful of comments by the many, many we have. God bless all of you for helping. Please call, write, email your state senators and representatives. Tell them to put a cap on all these terrible loans of a 10 percent maximum annual interest rate and remove the threats that take/garnish thru an automatic withdrawal from these peoples meager monthly checks. Tell them to pass laws to stop the social injustices of "predator loans now."
Governor, we are counting on your leadership to put an end to a grave social injustice.
Our many fellow Americans in need are thankful for your generosity, caring and sharing. Together we (100,000-plus supporters and all the media) make a big difference in the lives of many. God bless all of you for making all our good works possible.
Health and Happiness,
God Bless Everyone,
The Time Is Now to Help
Make checks payable to:
The Time Is Now to Help,
P.O. Box 70,
Pell Lake, WI 53157
The Time Is Now to Help is a federally recognized 501(c)3 charitable organization licensed in the states of Wisconsin and Illinois. You will receive a tax deductible, itemized thank you receipt showing exactly what every penny of your donation provided for the poverty stricken.
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Audrey Wunderlin-Hersko in memory of Don Wunderlin. Marvin Hersko in memory of Barbara Hersko.