Monday, May 23, 2011

Keeping the Boot on Your Throat, One Policy at a Time

Capitalism: It's like this, only with more screaming.

Today, I would like to discuss credit checks during job applications. I don't bother to check my credit. Whatever the lowest score is, I've earned it. I've earned it, not through irresponsibility, most people don't, but through misfortune: illness, job loss, circumstance. I tried to pay my bills, I just couldn't. Because no matter what the finger waggers like to say, anyone faced with the choice of paying the credit card bill and eating will choose to eat. Unless you've starved yourself to death to pay off your student loans, don't lecture me.

The reason I got my present job through a temp agency is that temp agencies, at least around here, don't do background checks. Everyone else does. I applied for a bank teller position and was told that my credit score was the only thing preventing me from getting the job. Then I had the humiliating experience of explaining each and every entry to the interviewer, in detail. That was so much fun.

Good credit scores are for the wealthy, the healthy and the lucky. If you're poor, you don't have a good credit score. You couldn't. You will pay your bills late, and if you've been poor more than 6 months, you know exactly how long each utility will wait before shutting you off- and you pay your bills accordingly. I've heard the advice not to get a credit card, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Gas has gone up, electricity has gone up, water has gone up, food prices have skyrocketed, but you know what hasn't gone up? Wages.

More and more people are living one paycheck away from absolute ruin and part of the problem is credit scores. It wouldn't do me much good to finish college, because I couldn't pass a credit check anyway.

And what's the logic? I have no idea. There's no correlation that I could find between poor job performance and poor credit, and what sort of people do they think are desperate to get a bank teller position paying a little over minimum wage?

It's just another way to keep the boot of the plutocracy to my throat and make sure I, and millions more like me, don't ever climb one rung up the ladder. The more of the pie I have, the less they have, and if you have to go through life with only three gold-plated yachts, what's the point, really?


  1. Ted Rall has written some great stuff about how fucked up the credit rating agencies are. So has Fred Clark over at Slacktivist. I feel for you, I live off my wifes good credit rating, withoout which I wouldn't even be allowed to enter a bank, let alone work there.

    Bottom line, the credit rating agencies are highly unaccountable entities who are really unreliable as well.

  2. For a recently divorced woman with a fairly high debt to income ratio I have pretty good credit. That would all come crashing down if I got sick or lost my job or missed a week's pay for any reason whatsoever. I walk a pretty tight rope to keep my credit that way and realize that if one little piece gets pulled out my Jenga tower is gonna crash around me. I don't have my credit report pulled because, guess what, that effects your credit if you do it more than once per year. Any.little.thing. effects your credit rating.

    I sort of, kind of, understand why banks require credit checks. They can't afford to employ someone as a teller, making just barely minimum wage, who has money issues because they don't want them dipping into customer's accounts and such. But as you said, many other jobs require a credit check for no apparent reason. Which keeps you from getting a better job or a job even. Which just perpetuates the cycle. How can you get better credit if you can't get a job? How can you get a job without good credit? It's a trap that people who happened to have had a bad break can't get out of and it isn't right.

  3. Life on the edge, it's exciting, isn't it?

    On the surface, it seems reasonable to say that tellers need good credit, but only until you look around a bank. There is a camera pointed directly at every teller station, and that's just the visible cameras. Then there are the security measures to prevent theft, which are thorough to the point of bizarrity.

    And, there's really no evidence that people with bad credit are more likely to steal. I mean, if I were inclined to steal, I probably wouldn't have the money troubles that I do.

  4. Never a dull moment while teetering over the side of the cliff. :)

    I'm inclined to agree with you about the banking jobs. Though my ex works at a bank and a teller there came up with a creative scheme to dip into customer accounts. She didn't steal cash from the till. She and her hubby were having money troubles, but only after she'd started working at the bank. Somehow I doubt that's the reason she did it, though. I think she was more or less stickin' it to the man. Maybe if they paid the tellers a wage that was competitive and not at poverty level they could avoid temptation moreso than worrying about a credit score. Just sayin'.

  5. Oh god, credit checks. Screw credit checks, credit cards, and everything else that uses the word "credit" when they really mean "debit".

    I'm lucky: I don't own a credit card (I use eftpos* and cash) and I'm not sure Australia even has credit checks. If we do it's not something employers usually bother with: I suspect it only really affects*** how much you're allowed to borrow.


    *footnote: You guys have eftpos, right?**

    **footnote: I never realised how weird the word "eftpos" is before now... "eftpos". "eehhhffft-pos". "eft-pooosss". God it's so weird.

    ***footnote: Sorry D'Ma, I have to mention it if only to stop my eye from twitching: "Any.little.thing. affects your credit rating". Ahhhhh... urge to correct grammar fading... I feel better now.

  6. Gaaaahhhhh! I did do that, didn't I? Ugh! :(

  7. I want to object to the image, though.

    Capitalism can be what you show: the selfish taking advantage of the selfless, the strong taking advantage of the weak, but philosophically that isn't capitalism: it's the true (i.e. not-diluted by pundits) definition of facism. Philosophically, capitalism is very different from facism (the strong don't take advantage of the weak: they employ them in exchange for what their labour/time/skills are worth), and in practice, capitalism is usually paired with democracy, which places limits on how many liberties can be taken with the "what their labour/time/skills are worth" side of things. Capitalism needs limits, such as governmental regulations, to prevent it from descending into what is effectively "polite facism".

    The thing about political ideologies, whether they be a democracy or a dictatorship, capitalism or communism, is that from a philosophical standpoint they always work. Democracy shares the power and the will of the people is done, a dictatorship allows one person to see clearly what needs to be done and gives them the power to do it. Capitalism gives everyone money in direct proportion to their contributions to society, and communism shares out everyones contributions evenly so nobody is better or worse off than anybody else. And everything is fair in the world and there's no more hunger or crime and unicorns and rainbows fly out of my ass.

    Back in the real world, a dictatorship is a dangerous concentration of power just waiting for some sadistic douchebag to get the throne, democracy is a do-nothing combination of red-tape beaurocracy and a popularity-contest, capitalism screws over everyone running with a handicap and is easily abused (what exactly do shareholders, CEO's and those who play the stock-market contribute to society? also, see "polite facism" above) and communism requires someone to make sure that nobody's getting more than their fair share, and hey, nobody'll notice if that persons getting just a little bit more for their contribution, will they?

    Philosophers can and will come up with pathetically optimistic idea's all they want, and societies can try to implement them, but sooner or later you're faced with choosing whichever poorly-built house killed the fewest people when it fell on them.


    I said I wouldn't do political rants again, didn't I? I never learn. *headdesk*

  8. the THEORY of credit = good worker goes like so:

    a RESPONSIBLE person makes sure to pay all their bills on time, and will therefor have a decent [if not outstanding] credit score; we want to hire RESPONSIBLE people. if a person has bad credit, it MUST be because they are IRRESPONSIBLE, because the only way to have bad credit is to be SO IRRESPONSIBLE as to not pay bills. and we don't want to hire someone who is SO IRRESPONSIBLE that s/he doesn't pay bills - if they are that irresponsible with their PERSONAL CREDIT which affects their ENTIRE LIFE, think how IRRESPONSIBLE they'll be at work! they'll NEVER finish anything, or do a good job - we KNOW that they ARE irresponsible because their credit is BAD

    and note how the people who interview? almost NEVER have been "poor" in any REAL sense of the term, where you are faced with the choice between food [to keep living] OR meds [to keep living] OR power [to keep living] - they can't comprehend NOT BEING ABLE TO PAY ALL THREE, and so they have NO CLUE what most people's credit is REALLY reflecting...

  9. and what sort of people do they think are desperate to get a bank teller position paying a little over minimum wage?

    I have heard many people claim that minimum wage jobs (and presumably those slightly above minimum wage) aren't meant for adults, especially adults who have families. Their philosophy is that these people should get an education and get a high-paying job and leave the minimum wage jobs for teens and college students.

    The problems I can see with that are as follows:

    1. Not everyone can afford to go to school and get a high-paying job.
    2. The low-paying jobs aren't all jobs that teens and college students can do.
    3. This isn't just a problem with minimum wage jobs. Even a $10/hour job grosses a meager $400/week or roughly $1600/month.* That's still not a lot to live on. After groceries, rent/mortgage, car insurance, gas money, utilities, and clothing....well, I know that much would never cover my bills and I'm a single guy (albeit one with a semi-extravagant lifestyle). I can't imagine adding in a need to feed a whole family, cover school supplies, and possibly even help with a college-age kid's tuition and books. In short, that money's going to run out real fast. Quite possibly before everything is paid off. And that's at a hourly rate that's just under twice the minimum wage.

    * And that's before taxes, medical insurance premiums, and any other withholdings.** What's actual take-home pay going to be? I'm guessing $340/week tops, which brings the monthly take-home amount to roughly $1360/month.

    ** I'd say 401k contributions, but I seriously doubt anyone in that position really has the money to spare for a 401k plan.

  10. My credit history used to have some black marks on it (for which I blame my ex-husband) but after my divorce I got back on track and the black marks eventually fell off the edge. My bank offered me a couple of credit cards, and I accepted them - more so I'd have a bunch of "money" in case of emergency than anything.

    Later, I read up on how credit scores are given: apparently a person with a lot of credit at their disposal counts as a "credit risk" simply because they could get really into debt. Even if they never actually do incur any debt.


    So the fact that I had a credit limit of $15,000 (between these two cards that I hadn't asked for and didn't use) might have been negatively impacting my rating. I canceled one of them.

  11. See, the most fucked-up thing about credit is we don't actually KNOW what goes into them. The three different scores are calculated by a proprietary formula, AND get access to information that no one cleared them to get. It's the most messed-up thing I could think to do, and no one is outraged about it.


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