One of the ugliest aspects of American capitalism is its tendency to kick ordinary people while they are down, then keep kicking them. Senator Elizabeth Warren is proposing new legislation that would help stop one of the most egregious practices – employer credit checks. Considering the “kid glove” treatment Wall Street and the financial “services” industry got after their criminal actions nearly brought down the world economy in 2008, it’s the worst kind of double standard and an outrageous injustice – and Elizabeth Warren wants to put a stop to it.
In the minds of many employers, a person’s credit score is a reflection of how well that person might perform in the workplace. According to their logic, a person with “bad credit” is irresponsible and is likely to be a poor employee. In a recent editorial for Money magazine, Senator Warren points out what the rest of us know quite well: “A person’s credit history has no correlation with his or her ability to succeed in the workplace.”
The fact of the matter is that consumers incur negative credit for many reasons: a death in the family, divorce, medical bills, injury, a natural disaster, a sudden drop in income and job loss. And employers are using that information to discriminate, plain and simple. At the same time, the vultures at TransUnion, Experian and Equifax, all of which make large sums of money selling credit information, admit that there is no research or evidence demonstrating “any statistical correlation between what’s in somebody’s credit report and their job performance.”
Meanwhile, even if that person manages to catch up on bills and keep them current, the Almighty Credit Bureaus continue to hang negative information around a consumer’s neck like the proverbial millstone for seven years. In an appalling number of cases, credit information can even be inaccurate.
Aside from the fact that the Wall Street institutions responsible for the economic crisis that put millions of people in that position were allowed to skate and have suffered no consequences, the bitter irony is that the one thing that people need to recover is a decent-paying job. Yet, because they have been through hard times, the system judges them unfit to lift themselves up. Employer discrimination based on “poor credit” is not all that different from what health insurers did before enactment of Obamacare, denying coverage based on “pre-existing conditions.” As Senator Warren points out, it is “one more way the game is rigged.”
The Equal Employment for All Act would outlaw the practice of employment discrimination based on credit history (with exceptions made for the financial services industry). It would “level the playing field” by giving those who have suffered financial setbacks in a rigged system a better chance to get back on their feet.
It’s difficult to know how far Senator Warren’s bill will get in the legislature. It is likely that GOP lawmakers, who spit on working people at every turn, will do their best to block the bill. On the other hand, it is an election year, and voters on both sides are sick and tired of the rigged system that kicks them and puts its boot on their collective necks.
In any event, considering that Wall Street has got spoiled by corrupt corporate puppets in Congress, passing the Equal Employment for All Act is the least our lawmakers can do for their non-corporate, natural human constituents.