On My Credit Card Debt Is As Bad As Substance Abuse

You're absolutely right, Ellie: It makes no logical or financial sense to blame credit card companies for my own spending patterns. That wasn't my intent with this piece, but I can see how it could be interpreted that way. Rather, my point, which I probably didn't convey clearly enough, is that logic never entered the equation when I was accruing debt, just as it was on permanent holiday when I was drinking: most addicts aren't operating out of rational self-interest when they continue to abuse themselves with drugs and alcohol—that's why sheer willpower often isn't enough to overcome addiction. My efforts to curb my spending and pay down my balances recall, in a disturbingly visceral way, my early struggles to quit drinking. Notice that I did say: "I know I got myself into debt, and I take responsibility for that," and I don't lay the blame for MY behavior at the feet of the financial-industrial complex. I know exactly how I got myself in debt. I made a lot of stupid decisions and remained willfully ignorant about the machinations of APRs, late fees, and all that fine print on my monthly statements. Perhaps "blame" is the wrong word. This is a hard dynamic to articulate, and that's one reason addiction is so insidious: our preferred poisons, being "cunning, baffling, and powerful," elude logic and language, so the struggle to overcome addition is compounded by one's inability to comprehend and talk about in a rational way. So let's set aside the question of blame, to whatever extent possible. Here's a more straightforward way of putting it: I believe the system is broken, and other comments here have explained very clearly how the lack of regulation and ardent pursuit of more customers have allowed credit card companies to put more people in debt. If I am misinterpreting you, Ellie, I apologize, but it sounds like you disagree with that—that you believe we have enough regulations on credit card companies and financial-services industry already. Maybe that's where we part ways. Another source of the bafflement I was trying to convey in my piece, is that I wasn't being entirely accurate when I referred to my credit as "terrible." My credit score is still amazingly high, so by that metric, at least, my debt situation is not a problem in the eyes of the financial system, but by my own metric, I feel like weeping when I look at my credit-card balance. And still I get emails from the cards I DO have telling me I have all this unused credit, and why am I not using it? Get out there and spend! It seems fucked up that some of us have to work so hard to resist the siren call of big debt. But then, I suppose credit is just another product that corporations have to advertise, so of course they're going to go after their most lucrative market, and yes, I guess I am the sucker who swallowed it whole. There are efforts to educate consumers about debt and spending, to hold banks more accountable, to increase regulation and oversight, to protect vulnerable consumers. But those efforts seem outgunned by a culture that values acquisition and wealth so much, and a financial industry with the most money and the best lobbyists. I blame myself for my debt, but I blame … what? the cosmos? the Man? for creating a culture where so acquiring so much debt is so normal, and "not spending what you don't have" is, for a depressingly large slice of the population, impossible.

Posted on December 13, 2013 at 1:23 pm 1

On My Credit Card Debt Is As Bad As Substance Abuse

That something I wrote was illustrated with a photo of Deacon Claybourne is probably the highest honor I've ever achieved. Thank you.

Posted on December 12, 2013 at 12:24 pm 1

On Adventures at the Intersection of Homeownership And Sewage

@Noro Fantastic. Thanks for reading!

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 12:48 am 0

On Adventures at the Intersection of Homeownership And Sewage

Posted on March 8, 2013 at 12:45 am 0

On Adventures at the Intersection of Homeownership And Sewage

@SuperMargie I'm over here in Minneapolis; if you were closer I'd recommend you use our guys. I hope everything works out, and thanks for reading!

Posted on March 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm 0

On Adventures at the Intersection of Homeownership And Sewage

@Noro We got a detailed inspection from a professional inspector; unfortunately, he was not the kind who can see through walls. Thanks for your concern-trolling, though!

Posted on March 7, 2013 at 9:18 pm 0