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Hardcover, 224 pages
John Wiley & Sons, June 2010
ISBN-10: 0470579757, ISBN-13: 978-0470579756
It’s time we look honestly at what’s really wrong with the American economy.
The whole thing nearly collapsed from overwhelming debt in a crisis that began in 2007 and is still raging. It seems the economy will survive for now, but thanks only to maniacal government spending — funded by taxpayers. The long-term consequences of that spending are probably dire, possibly catastrophic.
By most of the media’s reckoning, the problem was that unscrupulous banks foisted bad loans on unsuspecting borrowers. Families were tricked into buying homes they couldn’t afford, with mortgages they couldn’t pay, based on incomes they didn’t have. Because the banks bamboozled them, went the thinking, such people deserved to be bailed out. The mortgage payment plans they agreed to follow were restructured so they could stay in their homes. Both the bamboozling banks and the bamboozled people were bailed out with taxpayer dollars.
That’s far from the whole story, though. The origins of the crisis extend much farther back than the bad mortgages of the early 2000s, to the creation of America’s consumer culture of excess built on loose credit and mountains of debt. Responsibility became an endangered species, ravaged by ad-driven greed and instant gratification.
Washington justified its enormous bailouts. Banks that extended loans to people unable to repay were called too big to fail, and the people who borrowed their way into homes they couldn’t afford were called victims.
For a moment, though, look closely at those victims, the supposedly poor people huddled in their supposedly humble shelters. The picture drawn by the popular story is of people in shabby clothes, sipping clear broth in a pool of candlelight for warmth, walking miles to a bus stop to go to a job that breaks their backs over the years. That’s what hard times looked like to previous generations. It’s not what we’re talking about today.
Too many of today’s “downtrodden” live in modern-day castles, wear designer clothes, drive opulent vehicles, eat in fine restaurants, take vacations, showcase “bling-bling” jewelry, and watch big-screen televisions. They fund their lifestyle with mortgages they can’t afford and credit cards they don’t understand. They live the life of Riley to show how sophisticated and cool they are, but when it all comes tumbling down they slink to Uncle Sam for help, not realizing that he’s part of the problem. There’s no dignity in that. It’s shameful. Rather than whine for financial justice, they should hang their heads.
Banks got into trouble by lending money to such borrowers and then transforming the loans into exotic investments that skittered across the earth like locusts. The loans and securities based on them became known in the media as “toxic assets” that the government had to manage. Thing is, those assets didn’t spring from nowhere. They were the prickly green weeds above ground, but they weren’t the roots of the problem. The roots were the borrowers, those who signed on the line to a payment they couldn’t afford. The borrowers, not the loans, were the problem.
Financially stupid people are America’s most toxic asset.
They fail to see the money-trap society around them. They live in a world controlled by corporations seeking to extract as much of their wealth as possible, and the moronic masses open wide for every lure. They trust false promises of bought-off politicians. They sit mesmerized before advertising campaigns telling them to buy trifles they don’t need using debt they can’t repay. They stumble down the path paved by big business that transfers their income to corporate coffers. They don’t realize that the way of the world is not the way they want to live, then they wonder what happened when they end up broke and hopeless. What happened is that they fell for the pattern, the easy route, the stairway to serfdom. They did not take control of their own financial future. They did not guard their wealth-building effort against the flimflammery of a debt-based culture concocted by corporate boardrooms and made into law by puppeteered politicians.
Do companies try to trick people? Of course they do, and always have.
Take credit cards, for example. All you need to know about the credit card industry is that it couldn’t exist if everybody paid on time. Profits come from people carrying balances at obscene interest rates. The smart people who pay off their cards every month get an interest-free loan. The morons who pay the minimum each month enter indentured servitude where every price becomes a multiple of its original value.
Wake up, America!
Yes, they’re trying to trick you, but if you’re not a moron and figure out the system, the joke’s on them. They’ll send you enticing checks drawn on your credit card and tell you to show yourself a good time. They’ll affix advertisements to your payment slip to try to get you to spend more money even as you pay on what you already spent. They’ll print in bold type the minimum amount you need to pay this month, not the balance in full. But if you laugh at their little tricks and pay off the full balance through it all, you win and they lose. It’s their own fault for creating a system based on the principle of providing enough rope for people to hang themselves. If you use the rope for something other than tying a noose around your neck, it’s a good free rope. If you use a credit card for something other than debt accumulation, it’s a good free loan month after month on the bank’s dime.
Society’s trap is this simple: you’re made to want what you don’t need, then provided with debt to get it. When you dive down the debt hole, you can’t easily get out so they’ve got you right where they want you, paying interest forever, stuck at a job you probably don’t like, generating taxes that politicians transform into profits for their big business benefactors. Bought the wrong way, houses, cars, and all manner of trifles lead to that grim existence.
The only reason America wound up on a mountain of teetering debt is that financially stupid people piled it up. The banks offered — and they’re a bunch of bastards, it’s true — but it’s the borrowers who accepted. People who accept debt are suckers. Instead of being a sucker, wouldn’t you like to look across the desk at that scheming banker or blustering businessman and laugh as you turn down every gimmick he offers? Wouldn’t you like to know he never got a single dime of damaging interest out of you, and will never lay hands on your financial freedom? I would, I do, and you can, too. We all can. That’s the point of this book.
When you finish reading, you’ll see how to buck the debt trend by following the First Rule of Finance and controlling the Three Cs. You’ll understand the pervasiveness of the enemy around you, the government, bank, and big business faction that engineered ways to get your wealth before you were even born. You’ll understand that almost all of society’s decisions are made financially, and that you need to think financially as well in order to grow your wealth. You’ll employ a simple system for marching up the net worth slope against a gale force wind of special interests trying to slow you down.
Financial people are everywhere in society’s leadership positions, pulling levers to make every option in front of citizens hazardous to their wealth. Financially stupid people are everywhere among the population, failing to grasp what’s really going on and repeatedly making choices that benefit the schemers. Don’t be one of the financially stupid. See through the haze. Guard your future. Refuse society’s claim on your financial freedom.
The nature of your whole life comes down to how you answer one question: Will I live in debt or will I live free?
This book will make sure you live free.
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