By Richard (RJ) Eskow
This week Sen. Elizabeth Warren and six colleagues introduced the Equal Employment for All Act, which would make it illegal for employers to disqualify job applicants based on their credit scores. It’s an admirable and important bill which deserves our support. It also gives us an opportunity to have a broader discussion about the kind of society we hope to become. Here are six reasons to support a bill which will help all of us in the end:
1. It aids the long-term unemployed.
Long-term unemployment is at historically high levels in this country, and policymakers have done far too little for this hard-hit group of Americans. They have experienced the ongoing loss of their way of life — often accompanied by the loss of their homes, their belongings, and their sense of self-worth.Long-term unemployment is almost always accompanied by unpaid bills, which drastically lower a person’s credit score. Today that lower credit score can render a person unemployable, leading to the kinds of heartbreaking stories described in a New York Times article on the subject earlier this year.Instead of alleviating the problem of long-term unemployment, the use of credit scores in hiring makes it worse. On a societal level, that’s indefensible. And on an individual level, it\’s inhumane.
2. It begins to right a terrible injustice.
One of the great injustices of the past five years is the way that Wall Street, whose fraud caused the current economic crisis, still holds enormous power over its victims.We’ve seen that injustice played out in continued foreclosures, as banks evict families because their homes are worth less than the outstanding mortgage loan — thanks to the banks who created a housing bubble — and because many homeowners are unable to find adequate work as a result of the bank-created jobs recession.We’ve seen that injustice reflected in credit card debt and other loans, whose costs have soared as the result of overly complicated contracts with hidden provisions.And we see that injustice in the spectacle of Americans who are unable to find work as the result of foreclosures, soaring borrowing costs — and a credit-scoring system created for the banks.This bill begins to end that pattern of injustice, by ending at least one of these practices. It’s a start.