Monday, September 29, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

For years now we have regularly received unsolicited credit cards [not just the offers] in the mail. We have even heard of people whose dogs and cats have received offers of credit. A few pet owners have taken the companies up on their offers in order to illustrate the irresponsible techniques used to obtain customers.

My parents decided many years ago that they did not need a credit card and canceled the one that they had with JC Penney’s. They have always managed very well by paying for whatever they needed with cash. They have been driving old “Hope So” since they got her new in ’84, so every so often another part falls off or something loses the baling wire holding her together. It’s still a pretty good old car—for a Chevy. But the best part about old Hope So is that the parts are still available and she isn’t requiring any payments other than the normal gasoline and oil.

Not many people would drive a car as long as my parents have; and most people would not be capable of building their own house with their own two hands. Dad and Granddad built the house back when I was a very young child, but it is still sound—if a little small when the family comes in from all over. But the main point is that it has been paid for since I was about 10 or so. No house payments or rent. No car payments. Just food, gasoline, dog food, and utilities.

The parents were able to build their house because Dad served in WWII. The government wanted the men to be able to come home and build, go to school, or otherwise become happy citizens of America. Back then, that idea worked well because people knew that their future depended largely upon their own abilities to work and pay their own way.

When men and women returned from Viet Nam, things had changed dramatically. The changes since that time have been so life altering as to challenge the very nature of our nation. Men like my father and grandfather worked because they would have gone hungry (and did a few times) if they didn’t work. People of my generation worked because that was the way that they were raised. We have always had credit if we needed it. Our generation was not inclined to abuse or overuse credit simply because of the examples set by our parents.

In the 60 to 80 years between generations, our country has become a debtor nation. It is probably difficult to discover someone who has not overused credit cards. Too many young families have declared bankruptcy. In fact, an entire industry has arisen to help people learn to manage finances and debt. I am sitting here shaking my head at that thought.

Today we watched Congress and Wall Street labor under some of the problems that our irresponsible behavior has caused. We cannot blame a political party, a section of America, a generation of people, or even an industry. Complex problems are compounded in this upheaval simply because too many have failed to protect themselves from the consequences of greed, gambling, and other forms of avarice.

I suspect it will be awhile before we know exactly what breed of animal has been begotten, but in the future many people will be firm believers in the use of some sort of prophylactic for our economy. Meanwhile, someone is going to have to get around to burping this baby. I can hear it already!

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