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Debt for Sale: A Social History of the Credit Trap
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The emotional charge of the book comes from its many anecdotes of the victims of predatory lending, many of which make one's stomach turn and one's blood boil. One cannot help but be disgusted by the rapaciousness of credit card companies tempting college students with easy money, or the avariciousness of the banking marketing exec explicitly targeting the poor with usurious check cashing services. The many stories of those living in debt penury (stories that Williams calls "debt porn") and a solid (if brief) history of the credit card business are the strengths of this book.
Unfortunately, the book does a better job convincing of the seriousness of the problem than it does explaining its broad scope or inner workings, let alone exploring solutions. Among the book's several flaws is its nearly exclusive focus on the poor. Debt is an important topic because it is has become pervasive -- it is not limited to just the poor. And indeed, the elephant of debt -- mortgage debt -- is virtually undiscussed by the book. Given the rise of insane debt devices like interest-only ARMs and flexible payment ARMs -- and the dubious judgement of the GSEs pumping the liquidity in the first place -- the lack of discussion of mortgage debt is a serious failing.
Even when the book is on its home turf of credit card debt, there are dubious assignments of blame.Read more ›
There's also the ignorant and myopic:
In 2007 the ARM mortgage payments will increase we'll be hearing more and more of the people who used them. :)
Most of us have been in these debt situations. I certainly have. But the degree and size of this situation is what has been increasing dramatically, in particular over the last 2 decades. Debt can help us in many ways (Good debt). However, one question to ask is: how did the *size* (per capita debt ratios) get so big?
Williams discusses how debt is now arguably one of the most pervasive aspects in American society. Yet it seems real discourse regarding it is rarely if ever discussed. If there is discussion, it remains on the superficial level of TV talk shows, and newspapers and web articles that redundantly regurgitate "How to get out of debt" or "How to dig your way out of the hole." "Cut up your cards, pay off the higher interest rates first, establish a budget, itemize all expenses.Read more ›
These are the stories of exploitation that Brett Williams recounts in her newest book Debt for Sale: A Social History of the Credit Trap. Williams is clear from the very onset that she is making no attempts at neutrality and objectivity; she is simply telling it like it is, or at least the way she thinks it is. She herself suffers from massive credit debt. And yes, the language of suffering and victimization saturate this expose. The institutions, the government, even the consumer culture are to blame in this book for the downfall of the American poor and lower middle class.Read more ›