Thursday, March 30, 2006

Oprah's American Debt Diet series

International news that a lot of Americans are in debt? Should anyone else care? Well, yes and no. Sure, what do you, who doesn't live in North America care about another countries' spending? Well, if this were a question raised by participating bloggers from the round table (and rest assured, I will re-visit this topic once I have them all rounded up), I would challenge them to look into potential connections between their country and the U.S. Or to say it in a more important sounding fashion; the ramifications... .

You see, when I grew up in the Netherlands, it was for the most part a cash system only. Sure, people did have mortgages and must have had a way to pay monthly for cars..but... at the grocery store, clothing store , whatever store..it was cash. In fact, when I visited in 1992, not many stores accepted Master card because, as the merchants reasoned, "why should we pay for your convenience in buying from us". My uncle used to say that he rather used cash so he knew what money he did or did not have. Basically, you can only buy what you can afford.

Back to this debt diet Oprah is trying to address. Make no mistake, it is a laudable attempt to enable people to live and stay debt-free. My only disagreement with this is that the focus is only healing the wound, but does not address the underlying cause. The way I see it is this;

# This is a consumer driven society. Almost everything is "brought to you by..". Sports casts, sports events, school fundraisers, donations to schools, television broadcasts (as some would say, commercials interrupted by shows), you get the picture.

# The "Don't pay now but pay later" facilitation of getting people to buy furniture or what have you that they can have for a year before starting to pay money on it.

# Credit cards. 0% percent interest for how ever long but naturally, there is always the fine print...fine print people! Credit cards target college students with little money and encourage spending by giving them a cash back limit of however much that they don't have in their account. That amount increases the longer they have the card and as long as they pay back a certain amount regularly.

# Credit ratings are considered all important because it shows your purchasing history and if you would have only been buying with cash, you'd have no history and literally, no credibility if you wanted to purchase say, a car with a large down payment.

# TV commercials abound on even kids channels starting them off to want everything they see because it looks so cool! Kid targeted advertising is the worst to me as it just puts them in line to become good little consumer droids.

# Many products to buy and compare from. A lot of products competing means driving down prices. Products hence end up being made abroad (yes, I am getting there) where clothes, plastic wares..you name it, is made for pittance and sometimes under bad conditions.

You get the picture.

Well, after you are done reading, just ponder these issues;
if people in the US would stop buying so (too) much, how would it affect the economies of those countries where the products are made?
What kind of sustainable economy could take its place instead?
If the reliance on consumer driven economy is lessened, what kind of global impact could you see coming from that? (I mean, what kind of global ramifications could it have??)
Did I mention the so-called corporate imperialism? Jobs at home and overseas?

Just think.

10 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

ingrid, i linked from RP, and thought based on your profile u might enjoy reading this blog as well (not mine, so not self-promoting or anything):

http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/

i regular both, and they often do similar or same topics, though sepia is a south asian (i.e india bangladesh pakistan etc) focus.

but the reason i think you would enjoy it is like me u r a political science educated/interested individual, and the commentors on sepia are profoundly different from the ones on RP. i would love to see you and others from RP comment on their topics, sometimes they can be, how shall we say, narrowminded.

=) dudette

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Ibn said...

You know Ingrid,

My secret weapon towards making sure I do not end up in the hole, credit card or no credit card, is:

Vigilance.

My college credit card which I still have is 15% (!) interest rate, but I ALWAYS pay in full. They keep raising my credit line because they probably think "ok..NOW he is going to spend more than he has...". hehe.

Basically, the end note on how much money I have is what my checking account meter says once I log onto my bank site, plus the quarters I happen to clandestinely gather from the mall's local fountain. If you ever see anyone come out of a mall entrance with no bags but with drenched arms dripping, then, you know I just made a "withdrawal". :D

-Ibn

4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

permaculture practitioner?

??

dudette

5:17 PM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Hi dudette, I recognize you as a RP regular..I have to tell you, I think he's such an awesome writer, no matter if you like his ideas or not, you can't disagree with his talent.Thanks for your suggestion to read the sepia blog. Since I am trying to find other bloggers to either join my roundtable or just to expand my horizon, you end up going through a lot of blogs before you find something worthwhile.
And those 'narrow minded' ones..they are a challenge aren't they??!
If it is appropriate, I'll try to write about my sepia findings..
thanks for stopping by dudette, see you around the comments section (RP or otherwise)

Ingrid

6:41 PM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

IBN...what..and here I am thinking for sure you are in KSA but writing a comment at this hour??
Now i don't think so anymore (I love detective work)..oh well.

But to comment on yours. Isn't if funny how self discipline can work wonders? Even amidst all that 'temptation' of 'buy me buy me'!

And you are a busy guy who no doubt must have a structured sort of life in order to do all of the things you do so it is probably also in your nature. That, or you are naturally afraid of being indebted..which..is how I am too. My American husband on the other hand..well, let's just say, he's very much a consumer type even though with other things he's outright stingy.. go figure..

Ingrid

6:51 PM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Btw Dudette...

permaculture you say? Girl..I have one kid in the bath tub behind me, dinner half eaten downstairs (couldn't resist to respond right now) and dishes waiting..
is it ok if I explain more clearly tomorrow? Perhaps I should just write a post on it so that that clarifies it for one and all, for once and all...

Ingrid

6:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

now how do u know i am a girl?

mayhaps, i m practicing to have a pseudonom whence i become a writer in the future.

or maybe i am an old women, having gone thru a sex change..

=)

it shall remain a mystery...

feel free to call me dude (applicable to both guys n gals) though

8:25 PM  
Blogger Ingrid said...

Je m'excuse dude/tte!

Yes, you are mysterious indeed because people can cheat, deceive and misrepresent their identities...not intentionally malicious of course, ha!

Ingrid

9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

=)

i think i got it figured out. ur an expert in perms right? or the community of people with perms, ergo, permaculture, practitioner, ergo, u have a perm.

i will admit i lived in fla for ians though, people around here not too into dude(tte) much.

dude(ette)

9:13 PM  
Anonymous ibn said...

Hahaha,

Keep gueesin' detective Ingrid! :)

Im pretty good with saving money though - if I really really really have to. I dont think my family is like that though..well maybe my dad...and I think I have some cousins who can be a tad stingy at times - real annoying - either way, Im more of the black sheep of the family. :D

-Ibn

1:43 AM  

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