Saturday, March 08, 2008

Makes Me Sick

I just finished watching the documentary on the credit crisis, Maxed Out.

The film was made in 2006 so it only hits the tip of the iceberg in relation to this nation's financial quagmire.

Like most Americans, I have my own financial bumps and bruises - fortunately I started only paying with cash three years ago. Since then, I've taken a couple trips to Europe, the East Coast, Las Vegas and not a penny of it was put on credit.

There is some security and comfort in knowing I don't have to pay someone tomorrow for the food I'm eating today.

That said, I still have a few kinks I'm trying to work out from yesterday.

I was one of those suckers college students who signed up for a few credit cards to get free t-shirts/wate bottles or other crappy promotional items. It's amazing - my credit limit was no more than 300 bucks - and yet the debt on two of those cards escalated to something around $1500 each when compounded by late fees, over-the-limit fees and other charges.

That's what happens when a college student with no job is given a little bit of credit she can't afford.

I now have a $200 limit credit card that I typically pay $50 on each month - even though the minimum payment is 15 bucks. I have improved my credit rating thanks to those consistent payments and those which I'm making on my car.

I am not exactly rolling in money. People don't get into my line of work to build up a solid financial portfolio, and I don't live the luxe life enjoyed by many of my friends in the corporate world. That said, I am fortunate I can fill up my gas tank, afford the rent, my utility bills, car payments and insurance and still have a good chunk of cash left over for my sophisticated eating and drinking habits.

But I used to have night sweats and sleepless nights five years ago.

That was when the creditors were calling. That was when I was playing a shell game - using the rent money to cover the late car payment, and then paying the rent late. It was a massive orchestration of liquid assets - I still can't believe I kept most of it straight.

My tax bracket is a good bit higher than it was five years ago and I am confident my salary will continue to rise and be at a different place five years from now.

Hopefully I'll still rely on my cash and not my credit.


This movie - Maxed Out - you should really see it if you've ever struggled with staying afloat.

The film doesn't just reveal the financial irresponsibility of people like you and me, it also paints a picture of a federal government with blinders on when considering its own fiscal obligations. It's shocking how the U.S. government has raped the Social Security fund to cover our interest payments to the foreign nations that have lent us money over the years.

The national debt will continue to escalate, our obligations will continue to mount - as will the amount of resources our nation continue to shirk.

The documentary shows a great clip of President George W. Bush talking about how we were financing the Iraqi war through loans. This was at a press conference about how he decided to raise the national debt cap to $800 billion. A reporter asked W. why he didn't want to impose a debt on the Iraqi government for our commitment to their nation.

The President replied that those people didn't need to be weighed down with a heavy debt, and that the only currency they would have to pay us back was oil.

And that's when he said surely something will be worked out down the road.

I guess I don't understand why Generations X and Y are expected to pay for this war with our Social Security contributions. We can't afford it, and it looks like our government is just as trapped in the credit crisis as its people.

So this is how it looks like it's boiling down:

  • There won't be any Social Security for anyone who's likely 35 or younger (and Medicare is going to run out even more quickly).
  • Most people don't have the cash to contribute to their 401k because they're embroiled in debt.
  • The federal government has made it even more difficult to file bankruptcy and get a clean slate from those ruthless collectors.
  • Debt portfolios (which include outstanding accounts belonging to you and me) are one of the most lucrative and most traded things on Wall Street these days.

We're fucked.


Chelsea Talks Smack said...


Chris F. said...

"We're fucked."

Kate, right on!