The most insightful ancient historians and philosophers could not have foreseen a time when some type of mass convenience and abundance would become a threat to democracy, justice, and dispersed power. Welcome to the incarcerations of the Gulag’s credit card payment systems and the corporate state’s drive to prevent consumers from paying cash.
The ever-increasing loss of consumer freedom is a daily regression work by business planners in the fine print of growing consumer peonage.
As long as you have a credit card and a credit score, you’re in for a world of easy credit (no down payment, etc.) and high interest rates, especially on unpaid monthly balances. Simply swipe your card and press buttons at retail or online establishments to make a purchase.
If you’re in the bottom 20% of the income scale, unbanked, and outside of the Gulag, consumer protections are really weak. Fraud practices such as payday loan rackets and check cashing scams are proliferating.
For more than a decade, the screws have been tightening to coerce people into the economy of credit and debt. Business and government are to blame.
Try renting a car or buying home insurance without a credit card or credit history. Try using FedEx or UPS without a credit card. More and more outlets are experimenting with cashless transactions, even in places like the District of Columbia where a law prohibiting discrimination against cash purchases is not enforced.
For the purposes of this article, “cash” is defined as paper money, checks and money orders. Many state laws define cash as only paper money.
The government, for example, is turning the screw by forcing Social Security recipients to receive direct deposits or prepaid debit cards instead of receiving a check in the mail. It started in 2010. If you don’t have an “E-ZPass” on the Massachusetts Turnpike, an electronic camera captures your license plate and charges you an extra fee, even if you were willing to pay in cash for which there is no toll gate.
Last month, the city of Newburgh, New York, converted its coin-operated parking meters to cashless meters on streets in the city’s commercial corridors. According to Blaise Gomez of “News12 Hudson Valley”, florist Christine Bello said the town was out of touch with its largely low-income population. “They eliminated an entire chunk of my clientele by strictly making these cards,” she said. “A lot of my clients don’t have credit cards. They don’t have bank accounts. They don’t have smartphones. What were they thinking?”
Ms. Bello speaks on behalf of tens of millions of poor Americans who are denied, excluded, penalized and harassed simply because they want to use paper money that is “legal tender”. Isn’t that what 31 USC 5103 states – that “the coins and currency of the United States [including Federal Reserve notes and circulating notes of Federal Reserve Banks and national banks] are legal tender for all debts, public charges, taxes and duties”? Except for the loophole, which is that vendors may inform you that they don’t accept cash, unless you’re in one of the few states where the laws state that cash must be accepted. .
There are many seller incentives that get you into the credit card economy. First, you lose control of your money. The ever-tightening tentacles of their fine print contracts dictate the terms of their hold over you and the remedies you may have to challenge abuse. While losing your bargaining power under this consumer bondage, you also lose your privacy to a great extent, compared to buying with cash. “Data mining” takes over and sends your purchase history and profiles to anyone in the world willing to pay or anyone capable of hacking. Corporate Big Brother – Equifax and Facebook – profit from your personal data.
With credit, you’re more likely to make impulse purchases and not be able to control your children’s shopping sprees. Debts, high interest payments, and perhaps harassment from debt collectors come into your life. Some who live beyond their means are seduced by the lure of riches in the gambling industry.
A new Gallup poll reports that 64% of people say it’s “likely the United States will be cashless in their lifetime!” Other countries are going cashless more quickly, some for authoritarian motives. Just try to be a tourist in Europe without a credit card.
There is class stratification in the poll. The lower people’s incomes, the more likely they are to use cash for most purchases. The higher income and younger they are, the more likely they are to use credit/debit cards or other digital payment systems. Interestingly, however, many more American adults say they would be “shocked” if the United States became a cashless society (46%) than those who say they would be “happy” with such an outcome ( only 9%).
A majority (56%) of Americans, according to Gallup, say they “like to have cash with them at all times when away from home.”
The poll records a clear partisan difference: “Republicans are the most resistant to a move to a cashless economy, with 60% saying they wouldn’t like it. Independents register 45% and Democrats 28% adopting this position of rejection.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has contributed to the passage of cash, all the pressures from companies and extreme surveillance capitalism are pointing in this direction. Even the union-owned Amalgamated Bank recently announced that its Washington, DC branch is now “a cashless bank.” Imagine “a cashless bank” so you can no longer cash a check or get money for petty cash!
The ever-increasing loss of consumer freedom is a daily regression work by business planners in the fine print of growing consumer peonage. They have corporate contract lawyers who brag about every step they take, including stopping you from going to court for your grievances and waiving other rights.
There’s no time to lose. Consumers need an all-American advocacy organization to protect and defend the use of cash, checks, and money orders for the consumer control, freedom, and privacy that these payment systems allow. We invite those interested in helping to establish such an organization to write to Protect Cash, PO Box 19367, Washington DC 20036, or email [email protected]