When Hurricane Katrina ravaged America's Gulf Coast, it laid bare an uncomfortable reality-America is not only far from the world's wealthiest nation; it is crumbling beneath a staggering ...
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When Hurricane Katrina ravaged America's Gulf Coast, it laid bare an uncomfortable reality-America is not only far from the world's wealthiest nation; it is crumbling beneath a staggering burden of individual and government debt. Maxed Out takes us on a journey deep inside the American debt-style, where everything seems okay as long as the minimum monthly payment arrives on time. Sure, most of us may have that sinking feeling that something isn't quite right, but we're told not to worry. After all, there's always more credit! Maxed Out shows how the modern financial industry really works, explains the true definition of "preferred customer" and tells us why the poor are getting poorer and the rich getting richer. By turns hilarious and profoundly disturbing, Maxed Out paints a picture of a national nightmare which is all too real for most of us. Written by
Have you seen the new card that they're talking about putting out now-where you can get a credit card against your pension account, so that, when you go and charge it, it automatically, if you don't pay, will be withdrawn from the money you've put aside for your retirement? This is one more way that we're trying to string together with chewing gum and bailing wire to keep the American family looking like it's afloat long after it is really sunk with debt.
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Corrupt Politicians and Campaign Contributors Rely on Our Lack of Full Understanding.
Watched the news recently? Did you find out more about Tiger Woods' extramarital affairs and the concern about Obama's religion than about genuine subjects that concern you as an American, as a citizen of the planet, as a human being? Authentic journalism has just about vanished from TV in the past decade. Humorists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert more frequently carry out the task of speaking truth to power and holding leaders responsible than any supposed journalist currently. Accountability and outrage at power and status quo are still appearing on film: in theaters, from time to time, but more often direct-to-DVD sold mostly to, well, the outraged, the informed, those who want to stay informed.
Writer-director James Scurlock, himself a financial adviser, records and recounts vicious procedures in the credit industry. He uses interviews with creditors, debtors, academics and everyday Americans who've been victimized by the process. His wants to increase recognition and knowledge of how credit and lending issues are shaping society. His key assertions are that banks and other creditors calculatingly target people more liable to have trouble paying and that the creditors profit from links to government, the debt collection industry, and from lawmaker lack of concern.
This film released a few years ago now, when evidently low-interest government-subsidized mortgages were replaced by companies like Citifinancial with loans many people couldn't afford. The "ethics czar" Bush appointed to "clean up" corporate America was a director of Providian, which had not long before defrauded its customers of roughly $400 million. The corrupt politicians and campaign contributors rely on the lack of full understanding of people, like me, when it comes to finances and business terminology. But you can be rusty or inexperienced in those matters and still fully understand how they've raped us for at least thirty years.
Scurlock's answer to all the optimistic economic news the mainstream media inundated us with at the time of its release---stock market and corporate earnings are booming!---and looking where we are now, is a gloomy rendering of loan scams that misinform even intelligent, well-informed people and a credit card industry calculated, with government support, to run counter to everyday consumers. Within ten years, over ten million declared bankruptcy. In 2004, thirty states sued the banks for predatory and unfair practices. The Bush administration's top regulator rushed to whose defense? The banks'.
In regards to Bush's failure to be a trustworthy, honorable, even respectable leader, the information never ceases. For his second term, his top campaign contributor was the country's second-largest credit card issuer. Within a few months, Bush endorsed a bill making it much harder for middle-class Americans to get a second chance when paying off their debts. Guess who wrote the bill? His top campaign contributor. That year, more of us went bankrupt than those of us who graduated college.
But Maxed Out isn't just another railing against Bush. It dates back for all necessary context. It summarily chronicles that Reagan used billions from Social Security to pay interest on the national debt. Then Bush 41 took even more billions from the Social Security trust fund and replaced it with IOU's. Then the government ran out of money anyhow and shut down, so Clinton used billions from pensions and Social Security to prevent defaulting on interest. Fast-forward to the middle of George W. Bush's 8-year reign, when the government ran out again, and Bush raised the debt limit by $800 billion. Within a year, the federal government had spent every cent of the Social Security "trust fund," just to cover smaller expenses.
I often gripe about people who fume about Obama's protracted handling of the 2008 economic downturn after they supported Bush's spending of $10 billion a month on average for his now famously dishonest and wasteful war, but here I learn his administration actually spent more on interest than on homeland security, education and healthcare all put together. In a time when the government's actually trying to monitor corporate power, the majority wants to restore all corporate power. Never mind that they're unequivocally the ones who drove us into depression. Or that one of the fastest-growing industries on Wall Street is buying debt. They've successfully consumerized us to the point where we feel we just have to blow our wads on luxury we know we can't afford. We keep pathologically trusting the wrong people because they know what words make us feel self-satisfied. When Bush talked about issuing a "fiscal straitjacket," he made it sound like it was a way of restricting Congress from reckless spending. But really---big shock---it was a handy excuse to remove government programs that didn't profit higher-ranking taxpayers and corporations.
There's a case to be made that films like this preach to the converted, but no one finds fault that tax-exempt mega-churches preach to the converted, and these kinds of films are at least making steps to satisfy an informative role the corporate media snubs. Besides, there were certain fine points stated directly in this film that I didn't know, that maybe I should've. For instance, I didn't know that the number-one qualification required to work at a bank is selling experience. If these films are "biased" toward a liberal or progressive stance, they still cannot expect to offset the virtually inescapable right-slanted corporate monotony. The trouble's this: When there were just three channels and Murrow discredited a Senator's hate campaign, everyone knew about it. When you have to be alerted to independently produced DVDs giving you another side of the story so as to realize that there's another side to the story, you wonder what the drawbacks are of mass media targeting subgroups for their specific interests. People only really want to pay attention to the media paying attention to them, and agree with the worldview they're too complacent to think too hard about. I'm waiting for Maxed Out 2: The Obama Years.
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