Thursday, February 28, 2008

Maxed Out. On DVD now (*******7/10)

I used to work at a store in Ottawa that bought and sold used CDs and DVDs. There was an individual who used to come into the store and use it as basically a pawn shop. This person had three giant box sets that would get about 100 bucks from us, and then return six days later to buy them back for 400 bucks. This happened maybe seven times in a year. When debt hits you, you do silly things. That's $2,100 you are losing, every year, just to hang on to your treasured possessions. And why are you losing that two grand? Because you are in debt. That's right, the less money you have, the more you get charged for it. My bank has this interesting policy. If I can keep $1,000.00 in my account all month long, I don't have to pay bank fees. However, if I dip under that $1,000, I then have to pay fees. 30 bucks worth or something. So...I get charged 30 bucks for not having enough money? For a long time, I thought, well, 30 bucks, whatever. Who cares about 30 bucks? But then a realization dawned on me - the biggest problem with charging me 30 bucks for not having money is that the bank is actively turning around and giving that 30 bucks to the guys who have lots of money.

So, it costs me 30 bucks more to be poor than it would to be reasonably well off. And further, it costs me sixty bucks more to be poor than it would to be rich. Because the rich guy is getting my 30 bucks. That means that "the rich get richer and the poor get poorer" is not just an expression. It's an ideology. And although it is likely worse in the U.S. than it is here in Canada, the culture of debt by no means stops at the border. This is something as dangerous to Canadians as it is to Americans. Maxed Out is a ne documentary, on video store shelves right now, that examines the practices of credit card companies, their lobby groups, and their connection to the U.S. government. (For example MBNA, who is the largest contributor to George W. Bush's campaign, and also the credit card company that was allowed to write the new bakruptcy legislation that was passed by the Bush government in 2005.) We all know the American economy is about to become absolutely disastrous, and a big part of that reason is that credit card companies have so much power. And because Bush passes legislation based on lobbyists, rather than common sense or compassion.

Maxed Out is a solid companion movie to last year's excellent In Debt We Trust. There are problems with the movie - some of the economic and legal jargon passes too quickly, without enough explanation - but it's still worth while. I know many people who have had credit card debt sneak up on them and overwhelm them, and this is really a story about those people. The credit card companies, of course, want people NOT to be able to pay. They charge 21 percent interest to rich people, 45 percent interest to poor people - poor people, they say, are a greater risk. Well, sure. So you charge them MORE? For being poor? Well, in point of fact, those poor people are the ones that make the credit card companies their massive profits. This is why you see so many credit card applications and booths on University and college campuses. Free T-Shirt just for filling out the form? Super. Credit card companies don't go after people who come out of high school and go straight to work - those people can likely pay off their balance all at once. No, they go after the college and university students who are young, dumb, and who have no actual income. Maybe they work part time, but they don't make enough money to pay off that $300.00 night at the bar in one chunk. And before long, they are making the minimum monthly payments, having maxed out their card, and VISA just watches the money roll in.

Or, they kill themselves. Maxed Out follows the stories of three families who lost a family member to suicide over credit card debts. It's a scary world, and there are so many documentaries that point this out. I realized something here though. Has there been a documentary on any facet of anyone's life over the last seven years that hasn't mentioned George Bush? Negatively? Is there anything in his entire presidency he's got right? I have compiled a list of recent documentaries on various subjects. Let's see how they view Bush.

Iraq War and War on Terror (anti-Bush)
Why We Fight
Iraq in Fragments
Fahrenheit 9/11
No End In Sight
Iraq For Sale - The War Profiteers
Unconstitutional - The War on Our Civil Liberties
The Fog of War
Rush To War
21 Days to Baghdad

These are just the one's I've seen. There are probably many more.

Health Care (anti-Bush)

Economy (anti-Bush)
In Debt We Trust
Maxed Out
The Corporation
Wal-Mart: The High Cost Of Low Price
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room

Political Machinations and Electoral Fraud (anti-Bush)
The Hunting of the President
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism
Fox News: Fake and Biased
Noam Chomsky: Distorted Morality

The Environment (anti Bush)
An Inconvenient Truth
Everything's Cool
This Is Nowhere
A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash
Who Killed The Electric Car?

Now, again, these are just the ones I've seen. There could be more. And not all of these movies focus on Bush as the biggest problem. Although many do. But they all make mention of how his policies, on everything, adversely affect America, and by extension, the world. There are probably more, I just can't think of them now.

1 comment:

  1. I saw "Maxed Out" on The Movie Network several weeks ago and it really shook me up. First, it made me really glad I'm Canadian and not American. But second, and more importantly, it made me swear never to borrow money for anything that isn't a car or a house, and to never get a credit card.

    I had to declare personal bankruptcy six years ago and in a way it has been a blessing. It has forced me to not borrow or use credit. I'm glad I saw Maxed Out while I'm still in bankruptcy purgatory (the 7-year "parole" period after you're released from hard bankruptcy time). It has made me realize that I'm a victim of the banks and credit card companies even more than I was a victim of the circumstances that forced me to go bankrupt in the first place.