In her book, The Senses Still , Nadia Seremetakis i utilizes the notion of stillness as a heuristic device for disrupting the illusion of continuity and progress that is infused into the cultural artifacts of our everyday lives. For Seremetakis, stillness does not denote a closure of the senses but rather an opening of oneself to the unfiltered experience of sense-memory. After having lived away for well over a decade, I returned to my hometown of Phoenix, Arizona in the spring of 2008 and experienced two distinct moments of stillness in which the entanglements of memory, history, and narrative, as described by Seremetakis, were brought to the surface. Stillness, as I experienced it, involved sifting through objects that had taken up residence in my unconsciousness. It involved disentangling memory from perceived reality and assigning new meaning to sedimentary structures.
The first moment began upon my immediate return and persisted for the next few months. Having rented a house less than half a mile from the home I grew up in, I was immersed back into the cultural surroundings of my childhood and struck by the familiarity of it all. In my years of absence, the neighborhood appeared to have changed very little. Safeway and Fry’s still dominated the corner strip malls, St. Jude and Bethany Presbyterian still opened on Sunday, and dozens of businesses I never frequented but ever familiar to me were still there. And yet, there were signs of change. The space had weathered: buildings appeared under-maintained, restaurants were less busy, and homelessness was more visible. The stillness from these experiences involved confronting the contradiction between my comfort in the known and my uneasiness with the appearance of little new to be found. I saw little in this space to attract new business. Indeed, home values had dramatically declined ii and the median household income was well below the state average. iii The economic decline of my neighborhood, although still somewhat under the surface, was present enough, yet I cannot recall being aware of when all the changes actually occurred. The reciprocity through which we as individuals shape, and in turn, are shaped through our lived environment can lead to a cognitive erasure of sorts. Being embedded in the local environment, we lose ourselves in the landscape and the spatial changes fall upon us all at once. We are shocked by what we had always seen but never noticed because it reveals the extent to which we, ourselves, are implicated in the spatial changes we find around us.
This, then, was my second moment of stillness : when I became acutely aware of what had changed and what that change signified. The Great Recession, iv as it has been termed, shook the centers of global finance to their core, but in neighborhoods that were already struggling, the shaking merely unearthed the decay that was already there. For example, according to census bureau data, the number of businesses registered and operating in my zip code steadily declined from 830 operative businesses in 1998, to only 636 operative businesses in 2011. v By that time, vacancy had become an essential part of my urban landscape. The wave of foreclosures that hit Phoenix vi left neighborhoods eerily quiet. At one point, eleven out of the sixty-three homes on my half-mile street sat empty due to foreclosure. Businesses that had found a way to linger finally succumbed and began to close. Then, in early 2013, I began to recognize a peculiar renovation in my urban space. A large number of the buildings that had been left empty were re-opening; they were being repurposed to house Alternative Financial Service Providers vii (AFSPs), particularly title loan stores.
At the corner of my major intersection, title loan agencies now operate on three adjacent corners. What used to be a Fish n’ Chips shop, a convenience store, and a Mexican restaurant, all now advertise the best rates on high-interest loans. Spaces that had once offered discount meals and discount entertainment now pedal “discounted” short-term, high-interest debt. In a one-mile, square block radius from my home, there are now sixteen AFSPs, whereas in my youth I can recall only one (the local pawnshop). This outcropping of AFSPs is by no means confined to my neighborhood. According to the Department of Financial Institutions, there were 160 licensed title-lending branches in Phoenix during the years 2000-2008: since 2009, the number has skyrocketed to over 600. viii Such numbers are consistent with the national trend, which according to the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) has seen the number of title loan lending agencies increase from less than 100 in the early 1990s to approximately 7,730 operating agencies in 2013. ix
Although I was aware of the general economic decline within my immediate spatial boundaries, I had not connected the dots between decades of wage stagnation, recent economic contraction, and a financial need to create new channels of liquidity through the issuance of alternative forms of interest accruing debt. A landscape that had weathered decades of retreating capital investment was quickly transforming to serve a different set of capital needs. Most striking was the reconstitution of spatial fixes x attached to the dynamics of capital circulation. More accurately, these changes to the environment reflect what David Harvey refers to as spatio-temporal fixes , which see the “the penetration of pre-existing social formations by capitalist social formations and institutional arrangements.” xi Identifying such spatio-temporal fixes allows one to observe the manner in which capital is absorbed into the urban landscape for the intensive purpose of shaping that space to meet its needs of circulation. xii Hence, the renovation of urban space I was witnessing did not take the form of new high-rise apartment complexes, flashy retail centers, or even a build-up of mundane infrastructure; rather, capital was addressing its anemia through an effort to stimulate the spending of the working class and the urban poor.
What has become strikingly apparent – as the dust settles from the most recent financial crisis – is that the fallout was by no means equally distributed across populations. While the spiking unemployment rate xiii spoke to the precarious position facing the labor force as a whole, clear racial disparities emerged from the data. By 2010, the unemployment rate for Whites (8.7%) remained significantly below the national average of 9.5% while Blacks (16.0 %) and Hispanic (12.5 %) workers faced more uncertain prospects. xiv Taking income into account, the scales grow increasingly imbalanced. The Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston, calculated that for households earning $150,000 or more, unemployment was only 3.2%, a number commensurable with what is considered to be full employment; comparatively, households earning $12,499 or less, experienced unemployment at a rate of 30.2%. xv This concentration of dramatic unemployment in low-income neighborhoods, where traditional banking was already in steady decline, xvi exacerbated the drag on an economy that was experiencing a historic contraction in consumer credit. xvii While the government scrambled to provide social assistance, finance was left to solve the puzzle of plummeting consumer demand within the space of the working class and the working poor.
If traditional forms of credit remained beyond the purview of these spaces then new channels would be opened. This analysis identifies AFSPs as one such channel. I choose to focus on the short-term lending practices of AFSPs, specifically payday and title loans, for two reasons. First, the expansion of AFSPs in conjunction with the most recent financial crisis speak to the myriad of ways the object of debt has become normalized not only as a financial instrument but also as a spatial phenomenon. Second, the lending practices of AFSPs produce traceable paths of capital flows from vulnerable populations to large financial institutions and global markets. This allows us to examine processes through which the poor are no longer excluded from finance but rather have become an integral component of finance capital’s circulatory system. While short-term lending cannot be generalized as a descriptor of finance as a whole, locating the dramatic increase of these practices within the historical narrative of finance provides an opportunity to interrogate the disciplinary function of such practices and the relationship between subjectivity and space.
The argument of this paper is that the material embedding of AFSPs into the socio-economic fabric occurred in conjunction with multiple practices of financialization, xviii which have served to constitute a specific economic subject. Here, I build upon Maurizio Lazzarato’s theoretical framework of debt subjectivity, which informs the extent to which the debtor-creditor relationship has come to constitute a specific relation of power that necessitates the “production and control of specific subjectivities.” xix Lazzarato extends Michel Foucault’s conceptions of homo economicus to speak not only of the diffusion of economic rationality throughout society but to consider the implications of occupying space where every transaction validates and reinforces the condition of debt. It is this form of subjectivity that he terms “indebted [hu]man” xx and that he posits as a universal power relation, as all individuals are implicated within it. Yet, despite the centrality of debt within political discourse today, it continues to exist as a specter of itself. This is to say that debt is regarded as a conditional object rather than the objectified condition of lived experience. Theoretical intercourse between the instruments of finance and the spatial concentrations of AFSPs allows for the consideration of the weighted conditions that are differentially applied across geographies and populations.
Making sense of the material changes in my own urban landscape requires an understanding of the depth to which debt financing has become normalized as the primary medium for financial circulation within local, national and global markets. xxi Financial innovations, such as securitization, that originated in the 1980s and accelerated in the 90s relied upon a range of conduits to endlessly re-package and re-circulate debt, thereby lubricating the markets with fictitious liquidity to meet the extensive needs of capital. From the optic of debt, financialization is not merely as an expansion of economic activity but the simultaneous conditioning of a new subjectivity that is extensive , since it brings all forms of production (social and economic) under the logic of finance, and intensive , “since it encompasses the relationship to the self, in the guise of the entrepreneur of the self.” xxii The historic expansion of credit meant that capital would inevitably be required to widen its base of borrowers/debtors to absorb the surplus being generated. It is unsurprising then that it was during the accelerated spread of credit in the 1990s that AFSPs also began to proliferate at a much faster rate. If capitalism in fact creates a physical landscape “in its own image, broadly appropriate to the purposes of production and reproduction” as Harvey xxiii maintains, then it was only a matter of time before the short-term risk with high interest return model that had become the modus operandi of the markets would find new spatial articulations.
While the 1990s is often remembered as an era of dramatic economic expansion spurred on by the IT revolution, the base of working class America remained stagnate in wage earnings xxiv straining their ability to meet a socially constructed standard of living that was being driven upwards through increased access to credit: “American median-income households have experienced unsecured debt levels well above yearly income levels since 1992.” xxv Hence, the increasing need for quick access to credit/debt became an integral component within the discourse of the financialized-self and the AFSPs responded to meet these needs by embedding themselves into the urban landscape: nationally, “the number of payday loan offices grew from under 200 offices in the early 1990s to over 22,800 offices at the end of 2005.” xxvi
To add perspective to these numbers, it is worth comparing the expansion of payday lending stores with a recognizable urban fixture, such as Starbucks Coffee Co., which also began in the early 1990s. By 2005, there were 8,569 Starbucks stores, compared to an estimated 22,000 payday loan stores. xxvii Such comparison is informative as it draws attention to the fact that financialization cannot be thought of outside of the spatial confines in which it is articulated. It must “be understood as a profoundly spatial phenomenon, because it describes the search for a financialized spatial-temporal fix(es).” xxviii Economic forces do not only shape the space we occupy, the economy is also shaped by our conceptions of that space. Spatial changes encroach on the intimate experience of our lives and conceptually alter our experience of the world. The saturation of AFSPs is not merely a response to a need or desire for debt, rather it is actively shaping such needs and desires. The inter-relation between space and body is critical for it allows us to postulate the subject “as a way of thinking about the possibility of experience.” xxix This moves financialization beyond the discourse of economic practices to a discourse of power, where the body and the space one occupies often determine the conditions of possibility.
Anatomy of a Beast
Similar to payday lending, the title lending industry as a whole has followed an upward trajectory of rapid expansion since the 1990s. According to a 2013 report by the CRL, approximately 7,730 title loan lenders now operate across 21 states “costing borrowers $3.6 billion each year in interest on $1.6 billion in loans.” xxx Loans are typically made at $25-$40 interest per $100 borrowed and are paid or renewed every 30 days (compared to the two-week interest period associated with payday loans). Thus, while the APR tends to be somewhat lower (a mere 300%) than payday loans, the principle amount is typically much higher, often making it more difficult to repay. The average borrower renews a loan eight times and pays approximately $2,000 interest on every $1,000 borrowed. xxxi Yet, rather than focusing solely on the issue of usury, I seek to analyze title loans as conduits for financial flows. To comprehend the broader implications of the title loan industry, it is necessary to move beyond the accumulated rate of interest to consider the strategic processes through which interest is accumulated. To achieve this, I will examine the practices of TMX Finance LLC, more commonly known by its store brand name of TitleMax, the largest automobile title lender in the United States based on title loans receivable. xxxii
The purpose of this analysis is to examine the ways in which TitleMax serves as a node within the processes of financialization. It actively brings the logics of finance and capital into social space and dramatically shapes the lived experience of the individuals who acquire debt through them. Furthermore, TitleMax’s short but dynamic history provides an opportunity to investigate the way capital flows move between financial institutions and financial subjects and the strategies employed to maximize the transfer of wealth from the individual to the financial sector. Equally important, it provides a marker by which we can readily identify the material presence of finance within specific spatial confines. The spatial concentration of TitleMax’s operations allows for a deeper analysis that implicates specific bodies as part of an accumulation strategy.
TitleMax opened its first store in 1998, in the city of Savannah, GA, and experienced steady growth that accelerated when payday lending was terminated in Georgia in 2004. By 2009, it had expanded to over 500 store locations across seven states. xxxiii However, it has been the rate of growth within the past few years that is most striking. While most of the country lumbers through a tepid recovery xxxiv from the dramatic economic downturn associated with the 2008 financial crisis, TitleMax nearly doubled its operations in the last two years, opening 507 new stores since April of 2011. xxxv According to documents filed with the Securities Exchange Commission, the same two-year span saw the company’s holdings of title loans receivable increase 57% from $317.7 million to 497.6 million: total assets increased 66%, from $482.7 million to a staggering $802.2 million. xxxvi
Such rapid expansion can be attributed to the constant flows of interest accumulated that provide a steady stream of capital available to be re-circulated into its spatial machinery. Yet it must be noted that the model of short-term lending tends to work in a somewhat inverse relationship to the economic cycle. Thus, when times are good, demand for high interest loans will diminish. For example, in its financial statements, TitleMax acknowledges that first quarter earnings are traditionally its weakest as households are temporary buoyed by extra revenues from tax refunds. xxxvii Yet when the economy dips and credit is tightened as was occurring during the financial crisis, the demands for these types of loans should rise precipitously. It was then a matter of curiosity that TitleMax filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2009 during the peak of the recession, when the contracting economy and tightened credit streams should have been fueling a lending boom for such companies. In fact, this was the case, as statements made by CEO Tracy Young clearly revealed: “In 2008, TitleMax generated by far the highest revenues and profits in its history and 2009 is expected to be another record year.” xxxviii This analysis raises the question of why TitleMax opted for bankruptcy protection despite its strong performance. The answer lies in capital’s desire to optimize the potential for zero risk earnings, thus illuminating the direct linkages between the profits of high finance and the costs incurred by the individual subject. For TitleMax, chapter 11 was a restructuring of the terms of debt it sought to circulate and redistribute.
The trigger that prompted TitleMax to file bankruptcy protection in the spring of 2009 was the coming to term of $165 million worth of senior secured notes issued several years earlier by the company. The lender, Merrill Lynch & Co., was heavily mired in its own financial problems xxxix and unwillingly to renegotiate the interest rate on the loan. At this time in 2009, in the wake of the credit crunch that had frozen financial markets in 2007 and the near collapse of the markets the following year, the Federal Reserve was aggressively attempting to stimulate the circulation of credit by reducing the prime rate to historical lows. xl The sudden drop in the Fed prime rate dramatically lowered the cost of capital to those who were credit worthy enough to secure the confidence of a loan. As a result, borrowers across all sectors of the economy desperately sought to refinance their debt in order to steady the ship and position themselves for greater profitability in the future. Despite record earnings, TitleMax recognized an opportunity to renegotiate the interest rate it was paying on its own debt. Again CEO Tracy Young reiterated that the chapter 11 filings were “not due to operational or financial performance,” rather it was seeking to maximize future earnings by expanding the yield between interest paid (at a premium rate) and interest received, which is upwards of 300 percent APR. xli TitleMax, whose solvency and sustained profitably is directly linked to the tightening economic conditions experienced by the lower and middle class, was able to leverage its position in order to negotiate cheaper access to credit which could then be re-circulated at triple digit rates. There is a certain maddening genius to capital in that its destruction (as was the case for firms like Merrill Lynch) is so easily reorganized for greater capital gain at the expense of vulnerable populations. While increased unemployment, credit freezes, and the collapse of the housing market dramatically contracted the field of possibility for those desperately in need of money to sustain themselves, firms such as TitleMax were left to contemplate the possibilities of debt negotiation, and corporate expansion.
The Boom of Bankruptcy
That the rules of a capitalist system are designed to benefit capital should come as no surprise. As anticipated, TitleMax’s restructuring of debt led to its most profitable years yet. The company exited Bankruptcy proceedings in April of 2010 having negotiated a new loan of $250 million of senior secured notes, that included a $25 million indenture provision, which guaranteed a credit line of $25 million that the company could utilize at its discretion assuming all payments on the senior loan were current. xlii These terms provided TitleMax with the capital tools to effectively reduce its own risk to a threshold of zero. Consider that in the first quarter of 2011, less than a year removed from bankruptcy protection, TitleMax paid $9.5 million in interest payments, including the amortization of debt issuance costs. During this time, while all operations were underwritten by the new $250 million senior secured notes, the net interest and fee income was an astounding $105.2 million. The immense margins of profit drove TitleMax into an aggressive phase of expansion that continues into the present. In May of 2011, it closed on an asset purchase agreement with Cashback Title Loans, Inc., acquiring 19 locations in Nevada for $6.7 million. xliii Two months later, it reached a $1.6 million agreement with Mid-America Credit, Inc., Mid-West General Finance Corp., and Rainbow Loan Co., to collectively purchase eight locations in Missouri, six in Nevada, and lease fourteen other properties xliv . By the end of the second quarter of the next year (2012), TitleMax would purchase an additional 150 new stores, expanding its presence into Arizona, Texas, and Virginia. xlv In the following twelve months, 307 new stores would be added, bringing its total operations to 1,108 stores across twelve states. A beast had been born, fashioned in the image of a system that privileges capital interests over the individual subject, consolidated through the protection of courts, and unleashed by the needs of the suffering.
In only the first three months of 2013, individuals transferred $181.3 million dollars into circuitry of this beast. $13.1 million of that amount moved back to financial institutions in the form of debt amortization to ultimately be re-circulated in global or domestic markets. The remaining $168.2 million funds the continual expansion of TitleMax’s presence in the social space where lives are lived. Identifying the processes through which TitleMax has achieved such incredible profitability in such a short time informs the extent to which everyday lives and materialities are increasingly interconnected to the financial system: companies such as TitleMax allow us to draw a straight line through the heart of the social pyramid. As Christian Marazzi points out, the new needs of financialization require that the credit-seeking base is widened; it demands the production of new populations to facilitate the circulation of debt which translates into profit on the other side of the ledger: “in order to raise and make profits, finance also needs to involve the poor…It is capitalism that turns bare life into a direct source of profit.” xlvi In this way, TitleMax is an exemplar of the inter-relations between finance and the financial subject as it applies spatial fixes to capital needs. Where finance capital was once regarded as distinct from the sphere of the ‘real economy,’ the operations of companies like TitleMax demonstrate that finance-capitalism not only creates the poor but that it requires the poor.
In this way, the body of the poor is interpolated as something more than an accumulation strategy. xlvii It is not merely the perpetual accumulation of profit that is staked to the lives of the working class, it the very structure of capital’s workings. The near collapse of the financial markets in 2007 reveals the extent to which the circuitry of finance is kinetically dependent upon levels of liquidity circulating within the veins of the capital system. As such, the body moves from being the point of labor extraction to an essential capillary of debt circulation. Hence, the emergent economy of debt/credit rearticulates the needs of both capital and labor in reciprocal fashion. Labor continues to require capital to meet material needs and capital requires labor to act as the necessary base for debt circulation. Irony aside, the rich have never needed the poor so badly.
Living in the Right(s) Space
Central to the argument being made throughout this essay is that the project of deregulation and the liberalization of capital flows since the 1970s has resulted in new spatial organizations of capital that vary across differing geographic, and socio-economic terrains. xlviii An example of this is found in the work of Leyshon et al., xlix who demonstrate the importance of space and place relative to the accessibility of capital. Noting the ways traditional financial service providers utilize geo-demographic data to identify concentrations of profitable financial subjects, they theorize the withdrawal of traditional banking services from economically disadvantaged neighborhoods in the UK to be indicative of the exclusionary principles implicit to a system of finance that co-locates specific practices with specific spaces. From this position the physical infrastructure of traditional or alternative financial service providers serves as a network through which different subjectivities are linked to the circuitry of finance. These spatial arrangements mark the parameters of different financial ecologies, which dictate one’s exclusion or inclusion into varying networks of capital that require different types of financial subjects. Hence while the processes of financialization collapses the space of finance and the material into one, we can also identify flows of spaces where each point of exclusion is always at once a point of inclusion into a differentiated space. Sarah Hall notes that socio-economically deprived individuals who have been excluded from traditional banking services due to their perceived lack of profitably are relegated to a new space of vulnerability where they are “subjected to a range of more exploitative forms of financial provision.” l This form of segmentation is supported by our investigation of TitleMax, which targets populations who “turn more to title lending because of a contraction of credit from other sources.” li
In the Phoenix metropolitan area title loan lenders unsurprisingly cluster in lower income neighborhoods in central and west Phoenix, as well as, satellite cities such as Mesa and Glendale that have significantly higher percentages of Hispanic populations. Overlaying US Census Bureau data onto the geographical concentrations of title loan lenders in Phoenix reveals striking socio-economic correlations between income and the presence of AFSPs. A survey analysis conducted by the Arizona Republic reveals that in census tracts where there are no title loan lenders the average median income is $58,375; when one lender is present the average income dips to $47,774; in tracts with two lenders the number reduces to $38,442; and when three or more lenders are to be found, average income diminishes further to $36,442. lii Using the same data, we are able to see that tracts with higher numbers of title loan lenders have higher percentages of residents on public assistance and higher minority populations. These findings are consistent with Martin and Longa’s studies that find
“as a neighborhood’s median household income increases and its residents’ skin pigment whitens, AFSPs become increasingly scarce” liii .
While no causal relationship can be determined from these data, the higher concentrations of AFSPs in lower income and minority spaces fits with the theoretical assertion that the normalization of debt as the primary mode of financial security results in new spatial organizations of capital that vary across socio-economic terrains. This proliferation of debt is sold to the public through a discourse of social inclusion eerily similar to the narratives employed to justify the disproportionate number of ethnic minorities who were targeted for subprime mortgages just years prior. liv In this way, the persistent and disproportionate movement of AFSPs into low-income, minority neighborhoods cannot be viewed as simply meeting a consumer demand, but as extending the newest articulation of power that confines particular bodies to spaces where rent/debt/interest is readily extracted.
Advocates for the payday and title loan industries decry the notion that such practices target the lower socio-economic strata and instead champion the democratization of debt for providing necessary liquidity to populations which are otherwise deprived of credit. Such language provides yet another avenue to interrogate the discursive forces that reinforce the material possibilities of these differentiated spaces. The democratization of debt appropriates a rights-based language to justify an accelerated mode of debt capitalism, which effectively transfers debt from financial institutions, such as Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, through an intermediary like TitleMax, and onto the working class poor at exurbanite rates of interest. Under such logic the poor have the right to debt regardless of the diminishment of all other social rights regarding health, housing, or education. Hence, the democratization of debt should be viewed as a set of processes embedded within a political-economic strategy that sets to differentiate bodies through the productive capacities they engender. Such capacities must not be viewed in a strictly biological sense, but rather in conjunction with the social spaces these capacities are embedded in.
This inquiry began from an observation, a still recognition of the changes that, once noticed, were already upon me. Setting our gaze upon these social spaces colors our perceptual lens of the material nature of financialization. The normalization of debt embeds itself not only in the ideological formations of the social subject but also in the material articulations of financial intermediaries seeking to capitalize on accumulated interest associated with self-deficit spending. I have shown how AFSPs serve as conduits of a larger financial network, which appropriates discursive space and translates it into spatio-temporal fixes. These spatial articulations of financial power are not only to be found in the skylines of the city centers, rather the intermediary appendages of finance hold equal influence in reshaping the spatial dimensions of lived experience. Examining this experience then becomes crucial for it allows us to “make better sense of how the clash among globalizing discourses and localized social realities so often ends up prolonging personal and collective tragedy.” lv
The phenomenon of AFSPs that overtook my lived environment is symptomatic of a financial logic that not only seeks to order space, but to also order bodies. Finance capital has been forced by its own hand to seek out new spaces to colonize, and as such “the relation between global flows and local logics raises powerfully the question of the struggle over the real.” lvi The ‘real’ is then open for interpretation but the significance of space and place would seem to be paramount. If the socio-political dynamics are to change then it begins when we ascribe ourselves to a place in the social, rather than allowing the economic apparatus to inscribe us into a space.
i Seremetakis, C. Nadia. The Senses Still: Perception and Memory as Material Culture in Modernity . Boulder: Westview Press, 1994.
ii In my zip code of 85051, median home sale price fell from $160,000 in the first quarter of 2008 to just above $60,000 by the second quarter of 2009. See, "Zip Code Business Patterns." Federal Census Bureau . Accessed December 7, 2013. http://censtats.census.gov/cgi-bin/zbpnaic/zbpsect.pl .
iii 2011 data shows the median household income in the 85051 zip code to be $40,910 while the estimated household income in Arizona was $46,709. See, "85051 Zip Code Detailed Profile." Accessed December 7, 2013. - http://www.city-data.com/zips/85051.html .
iv The Great Recession refers to the slowdown in economic activity in the US economy that began in December of 2007 and ended in June of 2009: the Dow Jones Industrial average fell 5,000 points to a twelve year low of 6,547 in March of 2009, resulting in $11.2 trillion in total losses. See, Paradis, Tim. "The Statistics of the Great Recession." The Huffington Post. October 10, 2009. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/10/the-statistics-of-the-gre_n_316548.html .
v Industry specific data further highlights the declining local business environment from 1998-2011: construction and manufacturing businesses decreased from 84 to 53 and retail trade establishments declined from 214 to 165. One of the only sectors to see positive gains in operative establishments was Health Care and Social Assistance which increased from 77 to 87. See, U.S. Department of Commerce. United States Census Bureau. 2011 ZIP Code Business Patterns (NAICS) . http://censtats.census.gov/cgi-bin/zbpnaic/zbpsect.pl .
vi Fulmer, Melinda. "Foreclosure Rates: 20 Cities with Highest Filings and State-by-state Rankings." MSN Real Estate. 2011. http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=28364347 .
vii In this paper AFSPs refers to non-traditional banking institutions that provide short-term loan opportunities but include considerably higher fees and interest rates than traditional banks. The most common forms of AFSPs are check cashing services, pawnshops, payday loans, and title loans.
viii Brodesky, Josh, and Rob O'Dell. "Title Loans Hurt Poor, Critics Say." AZcentral.com , April 1, 2013. Accessed June 7, 2013. http://www.azcentral.com/business/news/articles/20130318title-loans-hurt-poor-critics.html .
ix Driven to Disaster. Publication. February 28, 2013. http://www.responsiblelending.org/other-consumer-loans/car-title-loans/research-analysis/driven-to-disaster.html .
x Harvey, David. The Limits to Capital . London: Verso, 2006.During periodic crises of over-accumulation, capital will embed itself in particular geographies resulting in a build-up of investment and thereby becoming “fixed” within specific socio-economic formations.
xi Harvey, David. The New Imperialism . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003: 115
xii Harvey, David. The Limits to Capital . London: Verso, 2006: 230The act of constant circulation is what allows money to transform itself into capital (money that creates more money). A capitalist system relies on the “smooth transformation of the circulation of revenues into the realization of capital through exchange”
xiii The US Department of Labor reported that the national unemployment rate effectively doubled from August, 2007 (4.6%) to May, 2009 (9.0 %). Six months later, it climbed to a high of 10%. http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000
xv Sum, Andrew, and Ishwar Khatiwada. Labor Underutilization Problems of U.S. Workers Across Household Income Groups at the End of the Great Recession: A Truly Great Depression Among the Nation’s Low Income Workers Amidst Full Employment Among the Most Affluent . Publication. Compiled by Sheila Palma. http://www.northeastern.edu/clms/wp-content/uploads/Labor_Underutilization_Problems_of_U.pdf .
xvi Bon, Gatien. Incubating Inner-City Branches for Acquisition by Financial Institutions . Working paper no. 32. Mossavar-Rhamani Center for Business and Government, 2013. http://www.hks.harvard.edu/var/ezp_site/storage/fckeditor/file/pdfs/centers-programs/centers/mrcbg/publications/awp/Bon_Final.pdf .
xvii "United States Change in Consumer Credit." Chart. In Trading Economics . 2014. http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/consumer-credit .
xviii This term will be interrogated further in the paper, here I define financialization as the process whereby key financial players gain greater influence over economic policy and economic outcomes, thereby transforming the fundamental systems of lived experience.
xix Lazzarato, Maurizo. The Making of the Indebted Man. Amsterdam: Semiotext, 2011: 30
xx Lazzarato uses the masculine form “indebted man;” however, as this condition is intended to be universal I will use the gender-neutral term “indebted human” throughout the paper.
xxi Harvey, David. The Enigma of Capital: And the Crises of Capitalism . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010; Harman, Chris. Zombie Capitalism: Global Crisis and the Relevance of Marx . Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books, 2010.
xxii Lazzarato, Maurizio. The Making of the Indebted Man: An Essay on the Neoliberal Condition . Los Angeles, Calif: Semiotext(e), 2012; 52.
xxiii Harvey, David. Consciousness and the Urban Experience: Studies in the History and Theory of Capitalist Urbanization . Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985: 36.
xxiv Palley, Thomas I. Financialization: What It Is and Why It Matters . Working paper no. 52. Washington, DC: Levy Economics Institute and Economics for Democratic and Open Societies, 2007. http://www.csun.edu/~sg4002/research/usury.html .Palley shows that while debt levels across all sectors of the economy, including household levels, have risen precipitously over the last three decades, real wages have not risen above 1979 levels.
xxv Montgomerie, Johnna. "The Pursuit of (Past) Happiness? Middle-class Indebtedness and American Financialisation." New Political Economy 14, no. 1 (2009): 18.
xxvi Elliehausen, Gregory. "An Analysis of Consumers' Use of Payday Loans." Financial Services Research Program Monograph No. 41 , January 2009. Accessed September 27, 2013. http://www.cfsaa.com/portals/0/RelatedContent/Attachments/GWUAnalysis_01-2009.pdf : 1.
xxvii Graves, Steven M. "Payday Lenders vs. Starbucks." C.S.U.N Geography. http://www.csun.edu/~sg4002/research/research_home.html.
xxviii French, Shaun, Andrew Leyshon, and Thomas Wainwright. "Financializing Space, Spacing Financialization." Progress in Human Geography , 2011: 7
xxix Das, Veena, and Arthur Kleinman. "Introduction." In Remaking a World: Violence, Social Suffering, and Recovery , 1-30. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001: 21.
xxx Driven to Disaster. Publication. February 28, 2013: 2. http://www.responsiblelending.org/other-consumer-loans/car-title-loans/research-analysis/driven-to-disaster.html .
xxxi Driven to Disaster. Publication. February 28, 2013: 2. http://www.responsiblelending.org/other-consumer-loans/car-title-loans/research-analysis/driven-to-disaster.html .
xxxii "Form 10-Q: TMX Finance LLC." United States Securities and Exchange Commission , March 31, 2011. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1511967/000119312511153313/d10q.htm#toc .
xxxiii Larson, Erik. "TitleMax Seeks Bankruptcy Protection in Georgia." Bloomberg News. April 20, 2009. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=akIBg67gt6pw .
xxxiv While the economy is showing signs of recovery it is historically the weakest recovery in the post-WWII era. GDP is only 9% higher than when the recovery first began four years prior. See for example, Walker, Dinah. "Quarterly Update: The U.S. Economic Recovery in Historical Context." Council on Foreign Relations. August 22, 2013. http://www.cfr.org/united-states/quarterly-update-us-economic-recovery-historical-context/p25774 .
xxxv "Form 10-Q: TMX Finance LLC." April 2013: 21. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1511967/000110465913041451/a13-8662_110q.htm#Item1_FinancialStatements__174753 .
xxxvi "Form 10-Q: TMX Finance LLC." April 2013: 3. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1511967/000110465913041451/a13-8662_110q.htm#Item1_FinancialStatements__174753 .
xxxvii "Form 10-Q: TMX Finance LLC." April 2013: 7. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1511967/000110465913041451/a13-8662_110q.htm#Item1_FinancialStatements__174753 .
xxxviii Larson, Erik. "TitleMax Seeks Bankruptcy Protection in Georgia." Bloomberg News. April 20, 2009. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=akIBg67gt6pw .
xxxix Merrill Lynch would soon be absorbed by Bank of America in yet another restructuring of capital
xl The effective Fed funds rate, which had remained above 5% since 2006, dropped dramatically to near 0% by the start of 2009. Throughout the 2009, the official rate stood at 0.25%. For historical data on the Fed prime rate see, "Effective Fed Funds Rate Chart." Accessed November 25, 2013. http://www.fedprimerate.com/fedfundsrate/federal-funds-target-rate_chart-graph-graphic.htm .
xli Larson, Erik. "TitleMax Seeks Bankruptcy Protection in Georgia." Bloomberg News. April 20, 2009. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=akIBg67gt6pw .
xlii "Form 10-Q: TMX Finance LLC." United States Securities and Exchange Commission , March 31, 2011. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1511967/000119312511153313/d10q.htm#toc .
xliii "Form 10-Q: TMX Finance LLC." United States Securities and Exchange Commission , March 31, 2011: 20. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1511967/000119312511153313/d10q.htm#toc .
xlv United States. Securities and Exchange Commission. TMX Finance LLC Second Quarter 2012 Earnings Conference Call . http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1511967/000110465912062224/a12-20468_1ex99d1.htm .
xlvi Marazzi, Christian. The Violence of Financial Capitalism . Los Angeles, CA: Semiotext(e), 2011: 39.
xlvii Harvey, David. “The Body as an Accumulation Strategy.” Society and Space 16, (1998).
xlviii Harvey, David. The New Imperialism . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003; Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change . Cambridge: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008; Smith, Neil. Uneven Development: Nature, Capital, and the Production of Space . New York, NY: Blackwell, 1984.
xlix Leyshon, Andrew, Shaun French, and Paola Signoretta. "Financial Exclusion and the Geography of Bank and Building Society Branch Closure in Britain." Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 33, no. 4 (2008): 447-65.
l Hall, Sarah. "Geographies of Money and Finance II: Financialization and Financial Subjects." Progress in Human Geography 36, no. 3 (2011): 407.
li "Form 10-Q: TMX Finance LLC." United States Securities and Exchange Commission , March 31, 2011: 24. http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1511967/000119312511153313/d10q.htm#toc .
lii Brodesky, Josh, and Rob O’Dell. "Title Loans Hurt Poor, Critics Say." AZcentral.com , April 1, 2013. Accessed June 7, 2013. http://www.azcentral.com/business/news/articles/20130318title-loans-hurt-poor-critics.html .
liii Martin, Nathalie, and Ernesto Longa. "High-Interest Loans and Class: Do Payday and Title Loans Really Serve the Middle Class?" University of New Mexico School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper Series 2012, no. 12 (2012): 552.
liv For quantitative analyses of the ethnic segmentation found in subprime lending see, DeLoughy, Sarah T. "Risk versus Demographics in Subprime Mortgage Lending: Evidence from Three Connecticut Cities." The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics 45, no. 3 (2012): 569-87; Immergluck, Dan. "Hyper-segmentation and Exclusion in Financial Services in the US: The Effects on Low-income and Minority Neighborhoods." The Social Policy Journal 3, no. 3 (2003): 25-44.; R Rugh, Jacob S., and Douglas S. Massey. "Racial Segregation and the American Foreclosure Crisis." The American Sociological Review 75, no. 5 (2010): 629-51.
lv Kleinman, Arthur, Veena Das, and Margaret M. Lock. Social Suffering . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997: xi.
lvi Das, Veena, and Arthur Kleinman. Introduction. In Violence and Subjectivity , edited by Veena Das, Arthur Kleinman, Mamphela Ramphele, and Pamela Reynolds, 1-18. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000:5.