Saturday, June 23, 2007

Required Reading: Maxed Out

EVERY American family needs to read (or listen to the audiobook of) Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit, and The Era of Predatory Lenders.

Seriously, the credit card industry has legislative advantages and intents that most of us would never guess.

In college when frat boys hocking credit cards would yell to my husband "Free t-shirt!" He would raise one fist in the air and yell back, "Credit is the oppressor of the middle class."

Truer words were never spoken.

There's a phenomenal Maxed Out documentary too, but it is much better when viewed after completing the book than before reading it. Look at your local library for this book and documentary. If they don't already own these materials, request them for acquisition so your entire community can benefit from this information as well.

We tip our hats to author/filmmaker James Scurlock and our newly discovered hero Elizabeth Warren for their sincere attempts to inform and protect low and middle income families.


Mike said...

No doubt, there are some terrible credit lending practices and some reform is needed, however I felt they did a disservice to viewers by hardly touching upon the subject of personal financial responsibility.

Most Americans (most, not all certainly) in credit card debt are in it due to a process called "buying things you can't afford."

Again there are practices in the financial industry that are repugnant (payday loans!!) but really the majority of this country's population needs to start taking responsibility for managing their money better. It may hurt not to get that new car, ipod, pair of sneakers or whatever, but at least you won't be in debt for pointless material things...

adrienne said...

Mike: (great icon!)

I concur. I spent enough years at the university watching students rush to get credit cards and then senselessly max them out. It's stressful.

The things that really touched me in Maxed Out (the book- and I don't think it's remotely addressed in the movie) are Elizabeth Warren's observation that the two highest factors for bankruptcy seem to be 1) being female and 2) having kids.

While I lack sympathy for people who want it all right now, I can see that my own long-term position in the middle class would be greatly threatened by the loss of my spouse, the loss of a job, a catastrophic accident, or major illness.

I'm horrified that the people in charge of credit industry regulation are a private corporation highly allied with credit card companies. It is truly, deeply disturbing that our President who strongly promoted credit card company-friendly bankruptcy received his largest campaign finance from MBNA.

As a household, we're enamored with simple living and community-minded financial programs like Your Money or Your Life and the Center for a New American Dream.

I think there are already a lot of people promoting personal responsibility in spending. I like this book/documentary set because they work to explain pretty horrifying truths about our government's spending system (there's almost no money saved for future Social Security payout because leaders have borrowed from it for decades now...) and things like the reality of the national debt ($90k owed per American family gaining interest every day).

Maybe this book/movie have different messages for different people. The story of the mom who drowns herself over hidden debt might touch someone who is trying to become financially responsible. The story of changes in the banking industry might persuade people without credit issues to work with independent banks or credit unions rather than conglomerates who finance predatory credit centers. Maybe all of us need to worry about how the vulnerable (mentally disabled) can LEGALLY be preyed upon by the unscrupulous.

We have a beloved relative who was in the recent past the head of the national debt collection association and who owned (among other billing oriented businesses) a skip-tracing company. He's an ethical and kind person, and I don't think the book/movie attempts to represent people like him. But how much can one book cover?

This movie may inspire us (society) to talk more publicly about problems with the larger financial and political systems.

Mike said...

True words Adrienne.

*sigh* Nothing's ever simple in this world it seems....