Making Debt Patriotic

There seems to be no doubt anymore that tough economic times are here to stay for awhile. The biggest problem of these times is rising unemployment: companies downsizing, industrial jobs decreasing, construction work harder and harder to find, and that’s just scratching the surface. I believe it’s true to some extent, that we ourselves are to blame for the problem (we, being me and you), because we were asleep at the switch; we allowed this to happen.
For the biggest part of the last 30 years, Americans have viewed debt as a regular part of life, not as something to rid yourself of. Banks have certainly fostered and encouraged this idea as well. The prevailing attitude was, if I get in too far, I can file bankruptcy and walk away from all my debt. I heard that time and time again over the years. Unfortunately, that was never entirely true, and as of the last decade, with new bankruptcy laws it’s even less true. Banks and mortgage companies were, and still are, way too eager to make risky loans to people with no or bad credit.
When I came of legal age, sometime back, credit was something you had to build. Now all you have to do is open your mail or click on a website and you can be approved for thousands almost instantly. It’s commonplace to receive pre-approved, ready to use credit cards in the mail, that you didn’t even apply for. It is just plain obvious that loaning institutions are aiming to get you in debt as early as possible and keep you there for the rest of your life. And hopefully you’ll leave some of that debt for your children to pay off too. Late fees, penalties and adjustable interest rates are hugely profitable, and banks, credit card and mortgage companies will loan to those with bad or no credit, just to charge these high rates and fees. But, you still have to sign at the bottom of the page. Without our permission, the big evil banking empire can’t touch us; so, it’s still our own fault.
Now, with a new administration running the country, we are going to turn the corner and head smiling into a new and shiny future. Yes, I know that was a bit sarcastic, but hey, I do sarcasm well. The banking, mortgage, auto industry and most of Wall Street basically imploded from naked greed and bad consumer loans. Now people own houses they can’t afford to live in and can’t afford to sell. Giant banks are getting even bigger by eating the smaller banks that have gone belly up, and the government has gotten into the auto industry. A little while back, I owned a GMC truck and a Jeep Wrangler. I woke up one morning and my truck had become a product of the Government Motors Corporation and my Jeep had magically turned into a Fiat. And who got to pay for these fun and games? Yup, you guessed it; you and I, Mr. & Ms. Taxpayer.
All those intelligent people we elected to go to Washington to do our bidding put their collective heads together and came up with a plan; it goes something like this: let’s get Joe Six-Pack & Sally Housecoat to spend more money! Here’s how we’ll do it: We’ll say that if they bring in their old car, that’s paid for . . . no, no wait, their “clunker,” and trade it in on a new car, they will get further in debt and save the auto industry. All except for Ford, who is making record profits right now. Oh, oh oh, and, if we give them a tax credit on housing, say about $8,000, we can get all those who lost their homes because they couldn’t afford them back into another house they can’t afford and drive the price of housing back up.
Now you’re saying, “again with the sarcasm,” and you’re right this time too. About a month ago I heard our President, the leader of our little slice of American heaven, say in a speech that our economy is improving because the price of housing is going back up. My response to that is “improving for who?” Certainly not the person looking to buy a house. By driving the price of housing back up to overly inflated prices, you will create the same scenario that caused the problem to start with.
So here’s my two cents on the economy: save your damn money! Cut up all your credit cards and throw them away. If your clunker is running, keep it. If the government was really concerned about getting your fossil fuel burning monster off the street, it would have offered that money directly to you instead of enticing you to buy a new car with it. Which, by the way, short of a crystal meth habit, is the worst investment a person can make. As soon as you sign the title, the value of a new car drops drastically. A new car will never be worth what you owe on it. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy that new hi-def television our government has asked you to spend that stimulus money on. Low-def worked for a lot of years, and I’ll bet it still will. And probably the biggest one, if you can’t afford a house, don’t buy one. Yes, that $8,000 tax credit sure seems inviting, but it’s only a drop in the bucket to all the interest you’re gonna pay over the next 30 years Stay at home and live with your parents; your mom cooks better than you anyway.
Our government is very dedicated to economic recovery, but not mine or yours. It wants the banks and mortgage companies and auto industries that lobby it so hard to recover. So, don’t look to any branch of government, local, state or federal, to fix this for you. Do the time honored, tried and true method of making a budget, living within your means and saving your money. Yes, I know its boring and sooooooo old school, but it will work and ain’t nobody else gonna do it for you.


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