New Civilization News: Survival Debt    
 Survival Debt13 comments
13 Oct 2004 @ 16:58, by Robert Oveson

Souls Sold For Plastic Debt

Feh the credit card, that slippery slope toboggan ride, that leads to the mark of the beast tattoed on your hide.

Every day the debt climbs to ever higher levels and our entire culture is in denial about how we will ever pay it back. At the national level the majority of the real money collected in taxes is used to pay the interest on existing debt, and the infastructure expenses are paid with borrowed money. The ponzie pyramid grows like a volcano being pushed up but which hasn't yet exploded. Everybodies bluffing, nobody is calling and yet another round of power poker stokes up the pressure seeking out the point that will blow us all to hell and back.

Been going on so long now that all the chicken littles have been labeled as boys crying wolf, and the warnings of the bottom falling out are regulated to forgotten myths, and placing faith in a safety net of Bretton Woods that no longer exists, all the common man feels like a fool for not grabbing onto the gravy, or is it a hell bound train wreck in the making, and everybodies hoping that unspoken thought that they will die before it runs off the tracks.

Got to eat, got to live, we deserve a life they insist and we got a little plastic card that confirms the reality of this as the fact that is. Who has time to worry of tomorrow when they are busy trying to make it through the day, and the upcoming night is to scary to even think about. If worst comes to worst there is always bankruptcy like the corporations do, but powers that be have decreed that credit card debt need not apply, and with no way out are debtor prisons far behind, or perhaps a buy out with a spot on some Iraqi front line, there are no free rides with devil's deals all comes due in time. Charge the rent, charge the food, what else can we do.

The text that inspired the above rant of mine was this mornings news story on the Microsoft money network written by MP Dunlevy, and what follows was written by her, and can be found in the title link.

The worst kind of debt: Charging the groceries

A whopping balance used to be evidence of a shopping frenzy or luxurious trip. Now, we're paying the rent with plastic. Survival debt is a bad, bad sign.

By MP Dunleavey

Editor's note: Columnist M.P. Dunleavey and six other women have come together online to strip away the myths surrounding money, lay bare their assets and liberate themselves from debt. Follow the quest for financial fabulousness of these "Women in Red" in Dunleavey's column on MSN Money.

Like many of her financial sisters, Yalitza knows from debt. She partied hard in her 20s and didn’t think too much about saving for the future. “I honestly didn’t think I’d live to be 30,” she says.

That “I’ll die before I have to pay this back” logic helped Yali to amass about $18,000 in frivolous debt, which -- after the cold light of her 30th birthday dawned -- she worked double time to pay back. And did.

Now 33, she finds herself battling an even more insidious financial burden: Survival debt.

‘I’ll pay off the card when I get paid’ In the last year, Yalitza and her husband hit a couple of financial potholes. Like many couples, they were busy living life and working toward their future: Yalitza had gone back to school to complete her undergrad degree and was free-lancing on the side. Her husband was paying most of the bills with his freelance design work. Car shopping?

Slowly, survival debt crept into their lives and onto their credit cards. One of Yalitza’s clients was slow to pay her -- but swore the check was almost in the mail. “We had no cash, so I had to put the groceries on my card,” she says. “But I figured the check was coming; I’d pay it back when it came.”

That check never came. (“It was the first time a client just never paid me,” she says.) The groceries stayed on the card. Then the brakes on her husband’s car went -- $700. Worst, he experienced a slump in his own work and Yalitza had to put one, then two, then three months’ rent on her credit card: $3,600.

Cards are paying our day-to-day stuff

We all know that we’re a nation in debt. I’ve cited the same gloomy statistics as often as every other money writer about the shocking number of cards the average American has (about eight); the shocking amount of debt per household (about $8,000).

The most stunning number of all was released by the Federal Reserve earlier this year: In 2003, consumer debt hit an all-time, record, Barry-Bonds high of $1.98 trillion.

(I love dropping that at parties and then adding: “Which doesn’t include mortgage debt” -- just to watch people’s eyes pop.)

But as jaw-dropping and eye-popping as our national debt habit is, there’s something scarier: How much of what goes on plastic these days isn’t frivolous debt but actual living expenses.

Remember when debt was fun?

Time was when that embarrassing chunk on your credit card carried a teeny bit of cachet. An outstanding balance on your card was bad. (Mais oui!) But at least it was a sign you’d tasted the high life; traveled to Spain instead of Miami; hit the hot spots; shopped until you plopped.

Today people are incurring a more dangerous kind of debt, says Tamara Draut, director of economic opportunity programs at Demos, a public policy organization in New York that’s conducting a nationwide study of Americans and debt.

“People are living paycheck to paycheck, and, after they’ve paid the bills, everything else -- like groceries or back-to-school clothes -- goes on the credit card,” Draut says. “Credit cards are picking up the slack in the household budget.”

Across the country, many of the credit counseling services are seeing the same shift. Eight years ago, when Rudy Cavazos started working at Money Management International, the nation’s largest credit counseling service, he says that clients were typically swamped by debt “after a life-changing event -- (because) they were laid off, or there was a serious illness where they had to resort to their credit cards to pay hospital bills.”

Now, says Cavazos, director of education for MMI, people have greater access to credit, higher limits -- and enticements like mileage points -- all of which encourage consumers to put their day-to-day expenses on a credit card.

Of course, many consumers pay off these charges every month. And it's hard to know exactly what percentage of credit card debt qualifies as survival debt, but Cavazos, Draut and others who work closely with debtors say that even those who intend to pay off these charges often fail to do so.

One major factor is how few of us have a cushion of cash in case of emergencies. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, people are simply saving less. In 1993, the average American’s savings was an unimpressive 5.9% of disposable income. Ten years later, it had dribbled down to a mere 1.3%.

Is survival debt really so terrible?

But maybe to you, survival debt sounds like a big “So What?” How much can a few groceries, some gas, a dentist visit and your cell phone bill add up to?

So glad you asked.

Over time, and with the swift padding of compound interest and ever-harsher penalties, quite a bit. Draut points out that few consumers realize that if your interest rate kicks up because you missed that midnight deadline your card now enforces, “it’s not just the rate going forward, it’s everything you purchased on that card.”

On top of which is the high cost of denial (Remember him?). Like Yalitza, who intended to wipe out those grocery bills when she got paid, Cavazos says most consumers have good intentions. But they either lack the follow-through to pay down the debt when their paycheck comes -- or in many cases, their paycheck is already spoken for. “It’s a horrible cycle,” he says.

Stephanie Kaniecki, a spokesperson for the Credit Counseling Network, says CCN has been conducting focus groups to better understand their potential clients’ debt problems. “It’s a real eye-opener,” she says, describing families with incomes of about $40,000 who are carrying $10,000 in debt, much of it from living expenses like paying their mortgage or tuition bills with credit.

“They’re managing the minimum payments, but they have no cushion at all when it comes to a crisis,” she says. Moreover: “We felt they were our potential clients, but they didn’t. They were like, ‘Oh, we can pay this off.’ But they didn’t have a plan.”

The worst thing about survival debt, though, is that while you can rein in the debt from shopping splurges or snazzy trips, it’s hard to hold back on living expenses. Especially these days, when it’s possible to pay for just about anything with plastic -- and those occasional expenses turn into chronic credit expenditures.

In 2003, consumers charged $50.6 billion in household expenses on Visa alone, says Robert McKinley, CEO of, an information provider on credit cards. “That’s for cable, home and cell phone use, insurance, rents or mortgage,” he says.

Not only was that a 27% increase over 2002, McKinley says, given that Visa’s share is half the market, “you can extrapolate from that to safely say that consumers probably charged about $100 billion (in household expenses) last year -- and this year it could be $125 billion.”

About a quarter of the transactions CardWeb tracks are from debit cards, McKinley says, but "people still lean more on [their] credit cards." A big inducement (aside from postponing payment) are the points and mileage credits folks can amass, which debit cards have been slower to offer.

Plastic pushers aren't helping

Some companies are even rewarding consumers for putting their living expenses on credit. “American Express was giving double points for groceries,” McKinley says.

“Groceries were ignored by the industry a decade ago,” he adds, as were medical bills and “recurring payments” like insurance or gym memberships, which are billed on a regular basis. “Those are big growth areas now,” he says.

In fact, credit card companies are doing their best to help consumers feel comfortable acquiring debt at any point in their daily lives. Witness the power of credit in the one arena where you’d think cash would be king: Taxes. The Internal Revenue Service started allowing taxpayers to discharge their tax burden by using credit cards in 1999, according to Michelle Lamishaw, a spokesperson for the institution we all love to hate.

The first year, about 53,300 taxpayers used credit cards to pay their taxes. That jumped to more than 200,000 the following year. In 2003, more than 313,000 taxpayers paid more than $900 million in taxes, an increase of 10% over the prior year.

Hot dog debt: Coming to a fast food restaurant near you

I don’t know what to say except that freedom from debt requires vigilance now, more than ever.

McKinley says that the hot new target for credit card companies is . . . (are you sitting down?) . . . fast food.

That’s right, VisaMasterCardAmexDiscover hope to lure the U.S. consumer even deeper into survival debt (maybe we should call it snack debt?) in increments of $6 or less. According to CardWeb, consumers charged $13 billion in fast food last year. "This year it will be about $20 billion," says McKinley.

At this point, ya gotta ask: Are they crazy? Apparently not. When people pay with plastic -- even at a McD’s drive-thru -- “it lifts the sale by 25 to 30%,” says McKinley. “So instead of a $6 sale, you’ll get $8.”

I guess you don’t have to be at Chanel for that credit-card-induced sense of indulgence to kick in. As McKinley put it: “People will go for the apple pie.”

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13 Oct 2004 @ 18:58 by shawa : *

14 Oct 2004 @ 01:17 by astrid : Yes, Robert ....
it is sheer madness; this Money-Poker-game.... we "all" know that the whole Game is a RIGGED game.... just like the slotmachines are rigged to bring in so & so much profit and to allow "only so much" WINNINGS to the Public...
Money is all phony and our toilett paper roll has more REAL value, when push come to shove.... BUT there is that ONE secret here that almost is never is discussed: Billions of people are now away from the LAND; all the small or smaller towns, villages, country-sides etc. Agriculture broken down almost 100% LAND/RealEstate equals LIFE. THIS is the true crux foe more people than you can count!....IF they owned LAND, they would pick up their stuff and go!....
So in order to BRAKE the cycle of EVIL : GET together with family/friends get LAND and start living off the LAND together, what ever form of community. ANY such community is better than none!
As long as money is an issue: draw it AWAY from Big Corps; change your priorities > Lifestyle. find small/local stores/Markets.Let that be your weekly entertainment!... Start BARTER. Start helping your neightbour for free, just because they need some help and you happen to be ablt provide the skills needed for that particular tasdk. etc etc. IF THERE's a WILL , THERE IS a WAY!
Let me know what you think!  

14 Oct 2004 @ 10:39 by spiritseek : Broke
Good ideas Astrid and the only solutions I see so far but even those will be almost impossible as the money is just not there.The purchase of property most likely will be done by credit too. Families and friends could share the cost in order to make it. Bartering seems to be coming back into fashion as we find we haven't the means to buy certain items any other way.For one fast food burger combo I can purchase the meat and feed a family of four one meal. Somethings I will probably never eat again because of their cost but I can survive on the lower priced meats and food stuffs. Going out to eat is reserved for a date as it would almost cost me the same as a week of groceries for one.I did buy me a car yesterday and today I'm already nervous about the payments and insurance not to mention the mechanical bills I now will have again.
I had real hopes of paying off my medical bills I acquired this year so my credit report would look more impressive and I would feel less like a bum. I have hope that slowly these will get paid as long as more bills aren't added to the heap. My house still needs insulation and the winter is drawing closer so which will I do first seems to be the question. Priorities come first but which is the most important,food,housing,car,debt? Does paying a little here a little there really do any good or will the debt just keep rolling in faster then we can pay on it? Broke in Michigan.  

14 Oct 2004 @ 11:35 by scotty : Buy now Pay later mentality
is the problem !
I don't know if you've seen the tv advert about a wee boy who wants to sleep over at a friends house ... to make it a successful weekend dad has to buy a sleeping bag a backpack and a walkie talkie... the ad ends with " some things money just can't buy - for everything else there's visa - or mastercard or whatever !!
Nice image - dad loves his son and gives him a great weekend - where's the problem ?
Dad had to fork out about $90 that he couldn't afford !!!!
How do we know he couldn't afford it - 'cos he used 'credit' !!! (it's expensive to pay back !)
The worst thing is - Dad just taught his son that you can have it all and you can have it now !!!! Dad just taught his son that good parenting is buying things for the kids instead of spending quality time with them and that buying material things fills the emotional void that exists today between parents and their children !
The charge card mentality says that you can have it all nowand then pay for it in some distant far off tomorrow.
Hmmm - tomorrow always has this uncanny tendency to become today!
People no longer "save up" for things - they seem to prefer to have to "cut back" to pay off 'yesterday'!
Like living by the sword - instant gratification tends to kill those who live by it !

Sure - the credit card companies have a big part of the blame in this - with their clever adverts etc - but at the end of the day .. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink !
The final responsability is up to the individual ! (that's my tuppence worth !)  

14 Oct 2004 @ 17:16 by ov : Can't buy security
Well I quess you can in the short term, until the money goes south that is. Was listening on the radio yesterday about this guy was talking that he was broke and out of money and this was the reason for him to take a 'security' job overseas in the middle east. This wasn't like the rent-a-cop old guy standing in a shopping mall security guard, this was a euphimism for mercenary and it has become big business and the bucks get tacked on under the category of 'rebuilding' rather than military, which is a sick and twisted way of forcing the victims to pay for the army that attacks them. sigh. gonna be a hard rain that's gonna fall, yes indeed.

Having your own land and living off it does sound tempting but it has its limitations as well. First, as Marie mentioned their is the credit to buy it and when the real estate bubble pops a lot of people will lose whether it is a $500,000 500 sq ft condo, or whether it is an acerage in the outback. Even if the land is paid for there is still the ground rent commonaly known as taxes. If the Monsanto industrial farms want your land they will get it. One potential refuge could be native land and forming alliances with first nations could be a good option, but then not all of them are interested in taking in 'wanna be indians'.

There are long term and short term issues with this credit crunch. My gut feeling is that debt will be the golden chains used for population control, and a poor and desperate population will enable a volunteer army to continue without having to bring back the draft. However, once the current does completely collapse and becomes a write off then another stage is entered into. Then the immediate concern will be in keeping the infrastructure together enough to keep food and essential services in operation, and if everybody had even a couple months worth of food in their house this crisis would be significantly reduced. Then there is the transition phase and after that a settling into a restructered economy. All of this is major major project to say the least.

One thing that anybody can do right now is to make the switch to a voluntary simplicity, which means a lifestyle change and a change of attitude, both of which take some time and the sooner a person starts the better. Then again, living on welfare can really speed up the process (I may be a social parasite but at least I'm not a hypocrite :-)

Perhaps another option is to just run up as much debt as possible and then flip the bozo switch and dare them to sue you. The one thing I worry about that approach is that the debtor prisons of the near future could look alot like concentration camps. Personaly I don't have debt and don't buy anything unless I have the cash in hand. Perhaps I'm an idiot but then again I may be a fool.

True enough Scotty, but if you're patient enough it will eventually get thirsty, or if you have enough brute strength you can put a head lock on the son-of-a-bitch and hold him underwater until he drowns and then you can pig out on a big meat fead.

Tuppence, reminds me of that great liberating scene in Mary Poppins when the little kids cause a run on the Bank of England.  

14 Oct 2004 @ 21:44 by astrid : This IS a BIG issue...
....and the more of us who get on the bandwagon of finding SOLUTIONS to it, the better, I think.
This has "ALWAYS" been a Big issue!....THE BIGGEST!.... There is a TimeLESS /Cosmic Lesson (actually several lessons!...) for us Humans here to see and take to Heart, as I understand.
The first and foremost lesson, I think, is to learn Money Management and to truly take a deep look at ones' Life and start to make PRIORITIES... we are SOOOOOO deeeep into our Western Lifestyle and -of course- a corresponding amount of fear of coming across as the proverbial Stick In The Mudd/Sore Thumb IF we stray TOO FAR away, so to speak!....
The so called Western/Culture/Lifestyle is the "Most successful" manifestation of the Soul's descent into these vibrations, where the lowest is what we like to call "EGO" (to many it is thee "Christ-On-A- Cracker"-way-to-be!) which is as far away from being ourselves as we can get,putting our IDENTITY as close to 100% OUTSIDE of ourselves; into a certain Religion --ANY will do... but as the West.Cult. sees; SOME are more "CHOISE” than others-- Family, Race, Ethnicity, Social Club,Nationality, Title,Profession etc.etc. as we possilby can, all the while feeling ever more LOST!…..which we in fact are!
Our Life is now coming to a crucial moment: we have to choose either to find ourselves, the Me in us AND start FOLLOWING THE PROMPTINGS of that "ME" -or lose ourselves for good, at least for this Lifetime...
because obviously,we haven't really connected yet with our own truest Me-identity, but still sucking up to an OUTSIDE Identity! We have to start SOMEwhere!
For most people that "place" is to start re-thinking money and where to let it go and "how" to get it.. : to remain an employee ( Slave to the MoneyMongers System; the “establishment”) forever, or somehow move into selfemployment. Ohh, Scotty, Darlin' I need your help here: Give me the "exact" translation of "MORT/GAGE" : DEATH wage?payment?debt?

Many times road to selfemployment goes through an earlier face, which is to become active in some kind of Mission. As we start putting our time and energy into the Mission oftentimes our Path then leads from there to ever more of “Me” empowerment as we empower others with our dedication to the Cause/Mission.
When we do this switch of consciousness we usually "automatically" fall into re-evaluating our Life and get more into "voluntary simplicity"

Robert, to be The Fool is a good "place" to be as long as you/we don't get stuck there forever....then again, to be there as long as comes naturally...

edit note: I've deleted a double post and made the links live. ov

14 Oct 2004 @ 22:34 by astrid : You know what Robert,
when ever we humans fantizise: "Monsanto doing this /that etc" we FEED them PSYCHICLY = GIVE them our precious Life enrgy to do -more of-what they already are doing!.... If we who are working on healing the Collective Mind/Soul of Hu/mankind just understood this one little cosmic truth and learned to work it to our collective GOOD instead of BAD.... The way to do is to stop those fantasies and jwhenever they come up into our Awareness, take a step back and put them in a big bubble... well you've probably read about this method in my other writings, so I will not repeat myself. remember though to say that no harm will go out from this bubble and no harm will go in, thus handing them over to Life, to take care of. Only Life Itself knows their total ENERGY-RECORD; "Karma"
The more we humans understand this energy process ( The Light & Love Bubble- thing) the more we can put it to work to benefit/protect us and all Innocent Life, like Animals and Nature! This is one kind of "Let Go and Let God" -thing but with more intention and more other words much more POTENT! :)  

15 Oct 2004 @ 19:27 by ov : Addictions
The thousand points of light for me is converging on addictions. (Damn Poppy Bush for ruining a good metaphor but heh sweating the small stuff eats too much time so let it slide.) The other day Scotty turned me on to a great site at {|Janus Head}, and this article on {|Money} is particularly related to this topic. There is also a connection here to the 'hitting rock bottom' phase at which point recovery becomes possible. When it comes to money we need more than abstinence we need sobriety which was a theme brought up in another article on this site but I forget which. This Janus Head is one of those sites that I intend to read in its totality so it could take me a few weeks to internalize it all but it is a great node.

"Let go of control and accept responsibility" is another meme that is on this site. Addiction is primarily about control, or loss of control, however you look at it this is a key stone in the arche type of our alcholic earth phase of patriarchy. Care must be taken not to kick it out for it will collapse the bridge but rather need to find the functional approach for dealing with this rather than denial or running away and hiding or simply submitting ourselves to the abuse, not trying to be obtuse, nor grooving on the rhyming juice, simply opening myself to the natural high to choose.

The money matrix, my dominatrix, converging on the abstinence, my welfare cheque in the mail, my monetary methadone, working on transcending this to a sobriety but damn the money addiction is hard to kick.  

16 Oct 2004 @ 07:00 by ashanti : Welfare
Money is a bitch of a trap in the Matrix. In Developing countries there are no welfare cheques. You don't work, you don't eat. Simple. Hence the massive civilian crime industry. To me, it is THE trap. Until we figure this one out, on a GLOBAL basis (not a selfish individual "I'm all right jack, sod the rest of the world") we all remain trapped. Every one of us.
Thanks for the excellent post, Robert.  

16 Oct 2004 @ 19:23 by ov : Who defines work
and that is a whole other topic which I am going to do a write up on soon. Went to a party last night by the {|} and I am going to be getting a lot more involved with this group, they have very good energy.

I'm not sure if I am having delusions along the lines of the romantic savage, or if there might be some validity to the subsistence cultures, but there is a difference in the developing world between the colonized and the traditional. Hard to say because even in the backwaters the imperialists have influence even if it is only because they have defined the boundaries of the backwater which people have been ghettozied into by the fact that these areas aren't seen to have value. Then again, from the larger perspective the value of areas is transient, for example the discovery of all that US oil underneath the useless sand of the Arabs.

Getting back on point though is that the 'don't work don't eat' attitude of 'The Book' occured at a time before everything became commodicized, and it occured before the major expense was interest on debt, and it was also for a region with a temperate climate where being homeless wasn't a sentence to death by exposure to the elements. Lot's of tangents wrt work and social control and these deserve their own articles, and they will take considerable time and effort to do a good 'job' of them, but ironically they won't be classified as 'work' and the $500 a month that the government pays me will be seen as a collosal waste of public funds but yet the corporate welfare that cost a factor of one million times more (ie 500 a month vs 6 billion a year) goes by without a single comment.

So back to one little tangent of this quagmire which is, "is debt being encouraged to entrap into bondage?"  

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