.Going Cashless Looks More and More Like a Capitalist Scam

Going Cashless Looks More and More Like a Capitalist Scam

By Ankita RaoMar   22 2019

Lawmakers argue bans on cashless stores could protect tens of millions of Americans without access to credit cards.

When Bluestone Lane decided to go cashless, the people running the coffee franchise were thinking of efficiency.

“Cash takes time,” said Andy Stone, vice president of brand marketing and events at the company, which was inspired by cafe culture in Australia. “In New York, nobody wants to be waiting in line.” There’s also the counting of cash, the moving and transferring of it in actual trucks, which can be vulnerable to theft.

And, Stone noted, the transparency question. “Whatever comes into the system, comes into the system. It’s better for society if we pay more taxes.”

Bluestone is far from the only business allowing solely plastic or digital payments in a country where, a Federal Reserve report last fall estimated, credit and debit cards were used in 48 percent of consumer transactions in 2017.

But in the past several months, local and state governments have moved to resist this trend, citing concerns that a cashless economy could discriminate against the roughly 6.5 percent of US households—disproportionately young, low-income people of color—without bank accounts, and hike up the cost of goods to account for credit card fees.

In early March, Philadelphia became the first major US city to ban cashless businesses. A couple of weeks later, the state of New Jersey followed suit, becoming the second state to ban virtually all cashless businesses after Massachusetts, which has had a policy in place since the 1970s.

Now cities like New York, Washington, DC, and San Francisco are considering similar moves. The regulations reflect a national push to fight back against corporations and tech firms critics say are only serving to widen already-yawning economic disparities.

“This should be the law of the land,” said Paul Moriarty, the New Jersey assemblyman who led his state’s successful push to ban cashless enterprises, "just as the US dollar is legal tender and is supposed to be accepted for all debts.” Moriarty’s legislation garnered almost unanimous support in a state that includes Newark, one of the most underbanked cities in the country.

But it’s not only low-income families he’s accounting for. Moriarty also pointed out that going cashless could allow businesses, and customers, to be exploited or juiced by financial institutions. Visa, it should be noted, has been offering restaurants $10,000 to go cashless.

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