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Maxed Out

posted by Mechele Dickerson

The luncheon speaker for the conference was James. D. Scurlock, the director and producer of Maxed Out, which airs this month on Showtime. For those of you who haven’t seen the documentary, it’s a scathing, eye-opening depiction of how the financial services industry (most notably, credit card issuers, debt collection agencies) treats ordinary, hardworking Americans and how people are seduced into debt. He expressed his gratitude to the sponsors for inviting him to a conference where he was sure his talk wouldn’t be the most depressing.

During his brief chat, Mr. Scurlock provided a few chilling examples to remind us of the consequences of being a Maxed Out nation. He told stories of two people who were in the military, but whose odd enlistment periods (e.g., 179 days, not 180 days) were designed to either avoid having to pay their health insurance benefits or were designed to avoid making them eligible for GI benefits.

Mr. Scurlock, like many of the speakers at the conference, kept emphasizing that the US is engaging in an exercise in futility: we are trying to borrow our way out of debt. He lamented the fact that neither the President nor any of the current presidential candidates have developed a sensible plan that will help get the country out of debt. And, the current members of Congress have agreed only to give consumers the opportunity to buy about 10 tanks of gas (using the stimulus checks) or to borrow more money to buy a house (by raising Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s lending limits).

Scurlock was funny. But, he was also depressing (though, as he had hoped, not the most depressing speaker of the day).

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