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Heal thyself, treasurer

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We did a double-take at a notice last week about a news conference this week at which Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner and VISA, the credit card company, were to announce the rollout of an NFL-themed video game intended to teach students better financial management.

OK, kids certainly need sound advice on money matters. Our short course:

Lesson one: Avoid credit cards.

Lesson two: If you run for public office, try to file more complete and accurate reports than Shoffner. Her campaign reports ranged from sloppy to dishonest, with the likes of a $900 monthly payment to a used car dealer in Newport for a beat-up old minivan being just one of several curious points.

Do we need to tell you about the financial lives ruined by credit cards?

A VISA spokesman took great umbrage at a blog item noting this rich irony and the implication of credit card culpability in shattered financial lives. It is just a credit card network, he said. The banks set the interest rates and make the big bucks. The credit card companies merely make a small commission on every charge at a merchant accepting their card. It adds up to a lot, though — witness the enormous credit card lobbying effort on federal legislation to make it hard to discharge credit card debt in bankruptcy. Otherwise, banks might be reluctant to keep issuing the cards.

The VISA man seemed a little surprised that the company's benevolence would be the subject of snarky remarks. The program had been rolled out in other states with other treasurers to wide acclaim. To which we commented: Lie down with dogs ....

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