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Show Me the Credit!

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Just this week alone, my daughter received two invitations in the mail from credit card companies, even though it's a little over a month away before she graduates from college and who knows how long before she gets a full time job. Yet, those dubious invitations keep coming!

There used to be a time when credit had to be earned, but that is no longer the case and we as a country are sinking deeper into debt because of those wondrous plastic cards. If my daughter didn't have her older sister--her older sister the accountant--and me warning about the pitfalls of using credit cards for that designer bag or those cute shoes, it's a safe bet she'd already be in over her head. After all, it's tempting to reward oneself after living the meager college life. Just to push my buttons, though, my daughter tells me that if need be in order to pay off those exorbitant finance fees she could always become a stripper; great sense of humor she has. Unfortunately, there are those who do have to resort to desperate measures to try to pay off their charges that suddenly got out of control. That said, my daughter's "invitations" were then tossed in the garbage. However, it's quite certain more will come in tomorrow's mail.

Several months ago, I had an opportunity to see a segment of Danny Schechter's documentary In Debt We Trust in his studio and just the short piece I saw was alarming. No, it wasn't Danny's typical report about Weapons of Mass Deception or terrorists trying to blow us up. Instead, it was about the debt that we as a country are piling up. Danny was on Democracy Now talking about how credit card companies are ruining us. We've become an instant gratification people; charge now, worry later. The problem is that while we chase the American dream using that plastic, we're selling our soul in the process.

Quite some time ago, while channel surfing, I came across one of those so-called reality television programs where a woman was salivating over a $25,000 necklace. She said, "I just need this. If I own this, it will buoy my self-esteem." She then took out her credit card and buoyed her self-esteem--at our expense.

Recently, when my kids pestered me about what I wanted for my birthday, I suggested ink cartridges for my printer. They thought I was being difficult, but as a freelance writer, the cost of ink cartridges can add up and would come in a lot handier than a gold piece of jewelry. Don't get me wrong. I like nice things, and one of the nicest is a worry-free night's sleep; not being in debt helps in that endeavor.

Try to make it a point to catch Danny's documentary and also take some time to cut up your credit cards. As Danny says, "This is not just a story about credit card mania, but what lurks behind it: a powerful debt and credit industrial complex, deliberately fueled by excessive debt."

In Debt We Trust screens April 5th at the Quad Cinema in New York City (34 West 13th St) at 7:50 and April 13th and 14th at Fine Arts Theatre, 8556 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills, 90211, (310) 360-0455 (Call for Show Times).