Staff Editorial: Uncle Sam deserves some credit, unlike young people

The Credit C.A.R.D. Act that took effect Monday accomplishes the equivalent of moving a bottle of marked poison out of the refrigerator and into a medicine cabinet - it makes it slightly harder for young people to mortgage away their future, which as far as we're concerned is a good thing.

The new law requires those under 21 years old to submit evidence that they have income to apply toward credit card payments or obtain a co-signer to shoulder some of the liability for late or delinquent payments. These are sensible requirements, as young people with no job normally shouldn't be racking up large purchases with non-existent funds regardless of the law.

From time to time throughout the past century and beyond, the government has created financial and legal disincentives to discourage what are generally recognized as bad habits - speeding, smoking, drinking, tanning and, depending on how our legislature votes, even drinking soda. While there is legitimate debate about how bad each of those habits really are, there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that charging purchases to a credit card with no means to pay for them is anything but a bad idea. Filing for bankruptcy was so 2009.

In fairness, there are plenty of young people who do not have regular income but make credit card purchases responsibly in order to build credit so they can one day sign for a car or house. While this is admirable, it is unrealistic to expect that young people who are full-time students or otherwise unable to work will be able to adjust to financial independence based solely on whether or not they remembered to pay their credit card bill on time when they were 19 years old.

While we wish that people possessed the good sense to avoid incurring debt unless they have very good reason to believe that the money is coming their way and soon, the countless stories of people in their mid-20s with thousands of dollars in credit card debt are reason enough to enact this bill. Let's have more interest in the habits of saving money and living within our means, and less on our monthly statement.