Jewish World Review Sept. 28, 2004 / 13 Tishrei, 5765

Binyamin L. Jolkovsky

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Consumer Reports

Senator wants us to take ‘young at heart’ to an irresponsible extreme | Sen. Charles Schumer is at it again — attempting to save America from itself.

This time the New York Democrat is warning that credit cards are harmful to college students' financial health.

At New York University this weekend, Schumer, surrounded by cameras, cited a study by the student loan agency Nellie Mae that found college goers in the Empire State carry nearly $2 billion in credit card debts. That's because of hidden interest rates and dishonest marketing practices, he charged.

Dr. Schumer's prescription? Allow would-be sophisticates to be treated like children.

The senator wants credit card companies to grant special privileges to coeds — by waiving penalty fees for a grace period. But only when it comes to such necessities as cable TV and phones. He's also pushing to force mommy and daddy to act as co-signers, even if their child is three years past the age of majority.

The sheer brilliance of this is epitomized by John Wooten. At 21 years-old he's already managed to rack up a whopping $15,000 in debt. But all is well since his parents are picking up the tab on three cards, including two that he's maxed out.

"I was irresponsible with my spending, but I knew I had my parents to take care of it," Wooten told the New York Daily News.

Here's a better idea: At a time when Yale University is hosting conferences studying Michael Jackson, maybe before issuing plastic, the card corps should force financial freshies to take a course in Monopoly. Not the laws of unfair practices, but the famed Parker Brothers game. Actually, maybe it's the senator who should review its rules.

Lost on Schumer, and on those he seeks to "protect," seems to be what many of the board game's fans learned as children: Purchasing comes with a price and if you can't pay up, you sell out — sometimes at a lost or with a penalty.

In the real world, companies are not "community chests." Nor should they be.

Yes, contemporary society often forces American youth to grow up too fast. But encouraging adults to act like children is a really dumb idea.

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Binyamin L. Jolkovsky is editor in chief of Comment by clicking here.


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