FYI.

This story is over 5 years old.

Milf Teeth

Living In Debt Makes You One of 'Them'

When you're shit with your money, you're funding bankers' bonuses.

There was an article in the New York Times at the weekend called "How Credit Card Debt Can Help The Poor". In America, it’s uniquely hard to get your life established if you haven’t got an official credit rating – you have to pay a $200 deposit just to get a gas bill set up in your name without one – and the only way to get a credit rating is by taking on debt. That’s right, the only way you can prove that you’re good with money is by spending someone else’s and then dealing with the repercussions of that; the debt dragging behind you like a chem trail. Ah, but the logic of late capitalism is a poetry all of its own.

Annoncering

Anyway, to get round this problem, the article described a new scheme that lets low income workers spend a few hundred dollars on a credit card and then pay it back gradually – but without actually buying anything. The money goes into a savings account, so it provides the user with a good credit rating while also helping them save. The reasoning being that, left to their own devices, that person probably wouldn’t have managed to set any money aside into a savings account. Only through being in credit card debt, compelled to pay a certain amount back each month, did they scrape the money together to pay it in – and save it up. It wasn’t in a standard savings account, so they couldn’t yield to the temptation to take it out again.

This idea is bloody brilliant, and, as long as the repayment schedule is convincingly scary, could be extended far beyond low income workers in desperate need of a credit rating. Most people I know, including me, have forgotten how to save, and know only how to put things on credit cards. We pay for everything backwards, repaying with so much eventual interest that we’ve paid for them twice, in this modern world in which our brains are sharp as tacks in the varying tones of internet snark and lol and about as acute as heffalumps eating pillows when it comes to treating the future as real.

Say you’ve had a two-grand overdraft for ages and £1,700 finally comes into your account, making you a mere £300 overdrawn. This is the moment when you, if you’re me, believe that the £1,700 is now yours to spend again, as if owning the print of a photo and the negative of a photo meant you had two totally different photos of two totally different things. You conveniently forget that it’s the same photo. It’s the same money. You can’t spend it twice.

Annoncering

As for credit cards – they’re exactly the same as drugs and murder: You feel so much more casual about them the second time around. Even if you think you can handle it, cos you paid it all off neatly the first month, don’t get complacent. The third time, it’s nothing. The fourth time, you’re getting another credit card to do a balance transfer deal from the first. The fifth time – what was that thing you really, truly needed cards for in the first place again? Who cares. This is just the first form of currency you pull from your pocket for a £27 shop at Sainsbury's. It’s normalised. It’s your money. Except it’s not.

So imagine this: A charity fundraising type stops you in the street and says “Good afternoon Sir/Madam, do you have a minute for the starving children of Syrian refugee camps?” And you feel really bad about Syria so you go, Erm, alright then, and allow him to talk at you for a minute, flapping around in his green plastic tabard with the overly enthusiastic demeanour of a gorillagram. The gorillagram waves his big charity clipboard in your face and says it’s not a big commitment sir, madam, just asking you to fill in this direct debit form to give one hundred pounds a month to these kids who are being systematically starved to death. And you go ONE HUNDRED QUID A MONTH? Are you having a laugh, my simian pal?

Well, if you’re someone who gets into debt a bit – maybe an overdraft, and a credit card and the odd late payment fine for things like council tax (let’s not even start on student loans) – you’re probably giving away a hundred quid a month anyway. All it takes is a couple of £15 fines for going over an overdraft limit, £25 interest on top and a £45 payment just to keep your credit card debt steady. That’s a hundred quid a month right there, and you’ve not donated it to tortured kids or endangered elephants or gay teenagers in Russia who don’t stand a chance. No, you’ve given it to your charity of choice: your friendly high-street bank.

Yes, those are the same banks that pay million quid bonuses to their executives, while asking the government to plug their holes with our taxes during a recession. The same governments that are slashing the welfare state. The same governments whom you moan about paying taxes to, because you don’t want your money going into such bullshit schemes. Except, if you’re living in this secret dreamlife of debt, you’re paying into them already. You’re part of them. You are them.

The truth is that you don’t have to be involved with a payday loan shark to be putting your money somewhere mad, bad and with a stench of death about it.

@heawood

Previously – Atheists Have Replaced God with Ricky Gervais Retweets