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Life With Debt

With so many Americans scraping by, we’re looking at the debt traps and who’s most vulnerable.

Consumer Eva Cevallos with her eleven-month daughter, Quinn, pays with a credit card at Walmart. (AP)

Consumer Eva Cevallos with her eleven-month daughter, Quinn, pays with a credit card at Walmart. (AP)

Comforting headlines last year about how Americans were paying down household debt. Repairing their balance sheets. Maybe getting ready to rock. To bounce back. We sure hope so.

But look again at those numbers and there’s another story there, too. A lot of that “pay-down” in debt has actually been write off. People walking away from old mortgages, credit card debt. And adding new debt to get by.

Borrowing for the basics. It’s an easy trap when you’re up against it. And a lot of Americans know it.

This hour, On Point: tough times and America in debt.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Matt Fellowes, former Brookings Institution researcher and chief executive of HelloWallet financial advisory (@mattfellowes)

Kristin Seefeldt, sociologist and professor of social work at the University of Michigan. (@kristinseefeldt)

Michelle Jones, senior vice president of counseling at the nonprofit financial counseling service CredAbility.

From Tom’s Reading List

The New York Times “The belt-tightening was the easy part. Cancel the cable. Skip the air conditioners. Ration the cellphone, unplug the wireless Internet, cook rice and beans — done, and done.”

The Washington Post “A large and growing share of American workers are tapping their retirement savings accounts for non-retirement needs, raising broad questions about the effectiveness of one of the most important savings vehicles for old age.”

Associated Press  ”U.S. consumers took on more debt in November to buy cars and attend school, but stayed cautious with their credit cards. The Federal Reserve said Tuesday that consumers increased their borrowing in November by $16 billion from October to a seasonally adjusted record of $2.77 trillion.”

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  • http://wh.gov/IVp4 Yar

    Isn’t the debt trap closely related to the wage trap?  Who is hurt the most by inflation?  I want to see a minimum wage tied to inflation, which should be calculated using the cost of energy, education, and healthcare.  A living wage is essential for a stable society.  We are exploitative, both in wages and in debt.  We live in a modern day version of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle. Look at how the foreclosure crisis mirrored his story.  We are part of a machine that is just as cruel today as it was then.  Ask your guests to predict the average annual inflation rate over the next 10 years.  

    We borrow 40 cents on the dollar, we haven’t paid the first dime for the bank bailouts, we don’t even pay the interest on our national debt.  We are living in a economic house of cards.  Demographic, economic, environmental, do we really want an honest discussion?  Divide 56 trillion by 7 billion people, and then consider that half of those live on less than 2 dollars per day.If you want to get into a real discussion spend the hour talking about the economic principle behind Jubilee.  A Monopoly game only last so long before one person has all the wealth and the board has go back in the box, or someone gets mad enough to kick it over.  Tom, this nation is closer to the cliff than anyone really knows.  We have 10,000 people turning 65 every day, most of the wealth to fund their retirement is intended to come from the stock market, except the market is not designed to give back wealth, it is only intended to trade it. Without buyers the value evaporates.  We are living in a bubble.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      Yar,
      _You make a fair point about the stock market not being designed to give back wealth. It is designed on the “Greater Fool Theory”, that is, purchase a share today because “you know” that it will go up tomorrow, because the people who run the company will work hard to protect your interest as a stockholder>>> WRONG ! There is no guarantee that any CEO, President, CFO, etc., will act in the best interest of the stockholder, because there is no “certain method” that an independent governing body can use to hold these people accountable ! Just fungible guidelines ! We know this is true, as can be seen when an officer of the company has to be bribed with stock options that COST THEM NOTHING ! These people tell the stockholders, that they will make them money, if and only if, they are willing to dilute their ownership by GIVING AWAY, corporate ownership, to these racketeers. I know this is true because I AM A STOCKHOLDER, and have been “held up” in the past as are ALL Americans, daily ! This is why we need hard and fast rules ( I personally think, we need an amendment to the U.S. Constitution ) that a guaranteed minimum percentage of earnings be returned as dividends, when ever a company shows positive earnings for the quarter above a given threshold ( This amount should be debated, but should be a somewhat large percentage and, of course, matched to the current “float”. ). These payouts should be taxed as ordinary income ! This would provide FLOW THROUGH PROFITS to shareholders and society at large.
      ***
      _ Many pension plans are tied directly to government debt. Some of the US debt you are referring to comes right back to the citizenry, in the form a pension payouts to the elderly. A fact that never seems to be mentioned by all of the deficit hawks. It would not be a stretch to say that attacking some part of the deficit is, in fact, an attack on defined pension plans and thereby, an attack on the Union movement in this country ( Check with the AFL-CIO, or Teamster organizations to verify this, if you wish. ) ! If the laws of this country demanded forced dividend payments, laborers, and their organizations would no longer have the need to crave Treasury Instruments and would, therefore, have a direct stake in corporate profits and probably a better attitude and relationship with Capitalism !
      ***
      _ We must also confront all forms of “wrong”, when we see it. All day long I see people spending money recklessly and wildly on items that have high depreciation rates and little long term utility. Why ? Just because a person can afford a big expensive car, does not mean they should buy one ! People need to be more aggressive in their efforts to acquire personal equity ! They need to use good and (what used to be ) common sense ! DON’T BUY WHAT YOU CAN’T AFFORD, JUST BECAUSE SOMEONE ELSE DOES !

       
       

    • Steve_the_Repoman

      Continue to be salt and light Yar

  • Wm_James_from_Missouri

    I would like to respond to two of the comments from your lead in page from the New York Times and the Washington Post by first, relating to the readers of this thread something about “ common sense survival.

    _About 25 years ago, when I was buying my first house.
    I had a small 2 bedroom home with an un-insulated bedroom add-on. The add-on faced the south side, ie., the sun side of the sky. Of course in the summer the room was like an oven. It had two windows that just soaked up the sunlight and heat. I was on a very tight budget, so, after thinking thinks through, I went to the hardware store and bought 3 “test” sheets of plastic reflective film. One was copper colored, one was gold colored and one was silver colored. Then I bought 3 cheap $ 1 thermometers. Took it all home, and laid the thermometers down in the back yard in the July Sun, covered each with the three different sheets of film, and waited about an hour or so. I then checked the temperatures stated on the thermometers. I found the silver colored film was TWENTY DEGREES COOLER, than the hottest thermometer. I went and bought some more silver film. I then took the shades that were in the room, and neatly cut and stapled the film to the shades, facing the reflective side out. That room was 10 to 20 degrees cooler, thereafter. The moral of the story is; use your imagination and think things through, you WILL come out a winner ! ( And on the cheap, too ! )
    _Note on tapping your retirement.
    In days of old, we were bold, and had Unions and defined pension plans. A portion of your salary was bargained for, in the form of forced pension contributions. You could not borrow from those funds ! ( Oh, by the way, all those forced pension pay-ins were invested in the USA and helped to create jobs. )
    The so called Union gangsters and thugs were really angels in disguise. For you see, they had a “Vested Interest” in you as an employee. Without you they were nowhere ! It’s funny how we can convince ourselves that we understand the difference between Heaven and Hell, isn’t it ?

  • StilllHere

    Americans are doing the right thing, finally.  They’re not adding to debt to enable consumption of luxuries in a futile effort to keep up with their spendthrift neighbors, but using debt as a tool to make investments that offer the potential to pay off later.  

    Debt is generally an indication of optimism on the part of borrowers.  I hope they are right.  

    Debt is not a trap, it’s a choice.  I hope today’s discussion is fact-based.  

    • Gregg Smith

      That’s such a good point. The entire demand thing is whacked. “Spend, spend, spend” is exactly the wrong message yet that’s the idea; Buy wide-screen TV’s and create jobs. The last the thing the government wants is for struggling families to pay down debt or set aside for rainy day.

      • Don_B1

        What nobody, repeat NOBODY, should want is for EVERYBODY to simultaneously pay down debt and/or set aside for a rainy day!

        Just WHERE do you think the money comes from to pay everybody’s wages!!

        Other peoples SPENDING is what buys the goods and services that your company or the company you work for gets the money to pay your wages!

        Why do you think the big companies are sitting on over $2.5 TRILLION and not spending it on the wages that would employ or pay higher wages to some of the people discussed in the Reading List references!

        That $2.5 trillion is in short-term Treasuries because it is safe even without much interest and there are too few other investments to make because there is insufficient AGGREGATE DEMAND to make a good enough return on the investment and a large risk of losing it.

        By keeping a high unemployment rate, employers are able to pay low wages and keep the company’s profits for themselves! It is one of the forms of rent-seeking.

        But Gregg will just call the above crazy because he HAS NO, repeat NO, ANSWER! And it contradicts his ideology, which cannot stand countervailing FACTS!

        He can’t give a coherent response but because he thinks the people on this blog are STUPID, he thinks he can get away with it!

        Watch:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_l24SvBg3M&feature=endscreen

        or, better:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKZKByt-wTk

        (all three parts).

        • Gregg Smith

          Other people spending other people’s money is fruitless. Supply comes first.

          Your first sentence is exactly my point. Thanks.

          • Don_B1

            When the unemployed have no money of their own, what do you want them to do, starve to death?

            When the government spends money on desperately NEEDED infrastructure, it puts people to work and if the spending is of sufficient duration the economy will continue growing on its own when the extra government spending ends.

            It was the SIMULTANEITY that I was calling out in that first sentence, and only a person like Gregg, who is a one-note samba with two right feet, could stumble on it.

      • nj_v2

        Yet, in the aggregate, spending is essential to a healthy economy. Greggg distracts from that by raising the “wide-screen TV” strawman. Many people can barely afford essentials (food, rent, insurance) never mind wide-screen TVs.

    • Shag_Wevera

      The mouse chooses to take the cheese from the trap.  Does his choice make it less a trap?

      • Don_B1

        When that cheese is all there is, it just makes the mouse desperate enough to “choose” while hoping that it can find a way to avoid the trap.

        But it certainly is still a trap.

    • nj_v2

      ^ A combination of gross generalizations and outright nonsense.

      Not all Americans take on debt as an “investment tool.” Even the traditional mortgage is no longer guaranteed to pay off in an eventual increase in property value. Many borrow just to pay for essentials.

      This “choice” business is just a variant on the right-wing meme of “personal responsibility.” People just need to work harder, spend less, suck it up…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    Americans fail to understand the concept of debt and the tremendous consequences their debt is on the rest of the planet

    Debt is created wealth which the rest of the world is forced to acknowledge by force of military aggression.  This is why there are 800 bases around the world…to maintain the dollar hegemony.

    This allows ordinary Americans to drive SUVs, eat extremely well,  and complain about their mortgages and the value of their spacious modern homes.

    Americans “Scraping by”  you say???   Thats what they are doing in the 3rd world.

    • Shag_Wevera

      Globalization might as well be called equalization.  Gobal labor equalization ruled by a small plutocracy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

        “global labor”???  “Labor” you say ??

        almost 50% of Americans are subsidized by the federal government.  Additionally a large percentage (maybe up to 25%) work in the public sector for local, city, country of federal government, or the military.  Additionally, a large percentage of private sector businesses rely on government contracts.

        Aside from the medical field, pharma and arms production…How many in America are actually producing goods and services?

        SO WHERE IS ALL THIS MONEY COMING FROM ??   …DEBT AND DEBT BASED MONETARY SYSTEM.

    • Don_B1

      Debt is a way for some people without an immediate need to use money they have now but will need in the future let others with an immediate use (to build a house to live in or a business for future income) use that money now.

      Interest is what people pay others for deferring their spending now for the ability to spend more in the future.

      But this does assume that people are able to make reasonable judgments about the risks of the lending and borrowing they do.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

        This kind of simplistic thinking has pacified Americans.  Take a look at the derivative paper casino that produced NOTHING but debt and imaginary wealth and then apply your simplistic rationalization.   Then we can proceed to talk about the thuggery at the IMF and World Bank.

        • Don_B1

          What was the message of my third paragraph?

          Certainly debt was misused by some mortgagees, but some had little choice when they moved (for a job, new or a relocation, etc.) to a new location where real estate values were seriously inflated. Who was making a big public campaign against people owning their homes? Not the Bush administration or Republicans or Democrats in Congress or plenty of others. In fact the was a full-press campaign led by the Bush administration praising the increases in home ownership.

          There was nothing there defending the misuse of derivatives by the big investment banks to exploit those mortgagees or the austerity demands by the IMF which unnecessarily laid debtors around the world low.

          Note that the IMF has begun to rethink the use of austerity in financial crises, which is a good thing, even if too late for many.

  • Shag_Wevera

    I will try to convince my children to live without debt as adults.  It is the one thing that promises life long indentured servitude.  I’m already at a point where my only escape from debt will be my death.  I hope I can teach my children otherwise.  And yes, I include mortgage in my warning.  The paradigm of a home being your best investment is no longer a lock.  Live without debt and be free.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

      It is impossible for Americans to completely rid themselves of debt.  Every US dollar printed is a “Federal Reserve Note” … DEBT.

    • Don_B1

      Please see my post to Paolo Caruso above.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeannie.boyce.9 Jeannie Boyce

    Unemployment statistics do not reveal the reality of the extent of unemployment.  I have been unemployed since June 2007 with “time out” for long term or per diem substitute teaching.  I have an M.Ed. from BU with over 25 years as a teacher.  I was a stay at home mother for 16 years.  I tried to re-enter teaching following a divorce.  Due to IDEA, education reform, etc., my MA license limits my options. I returned to school to become certified as an Orton – Gllingham reading specialist.  I was employed for 7 years but was “released” from that postion.  I turned 65 in July resulting in losing my Mass Health Medical Insurance.  Now I am in the “Health Safety Net” program and cannot continue to see my former health care group.  I have depleted my CDs, IRAs, savings and will most likely have to sell my house in the coming months.  The quality of my life continues spiral down.  I have made well over 1000 job applications, belonged to job groups, had job couselling.  I have lost friends who feel it is my fault that I remain unemployed.  There are many of us with similar stories. We are those not seen, not counted as unemployed.  FRUSTRATED!

    • Don_B1

      That you are not alone is of little consolation, and the fact that so few Americans realize the unnecessary pain that is being inflicted on people like you is horrible.

      There is a wide recognition in the public that job creation should be the prime activity of the government today instead of the false claim that the government deficit must be reduced now, now, now.

      At least half the deficit would go away if the country were at full employment, but, just as in the Great Depression, the political and a portion of the economic elites have decided that though their financial manipulations (pushing the housing bubble and misusing derivatives) caused the 2007-2009 Great Recession, they do not need to do anything or pay any penance for it.

      And those elites are writing the rules so they can do it.

      There was hope that the public was awakening with the appearance of Occupy Wall Street, and it does still exist, but the main stream press has “moved on.” Maybe you might try working with some remnant of OWS and find employment that way. They could use some “teaching” expertise.

      Watch some of the Paul Krugman videos on YouTube to learn some depression (macro)economics. When a financial crisis happens to be so severe that the Federal Reserve can no longer stimulate economic (and job) growth through use (lowering) of its discount rate, a liquidity trap occurs, where businesses (and the wealthy) have lots of money but NO INCENTIVE to spend it because there is no aggregate demand for the goods and services their spending (investment) would generate. Thus the economy lumbers along in a Lesser Depression, which can go on for a long time, until the existing “durable goods” begin to wear out and enough people have to replace them, generating mild economic growth.

  • sam

    I just finished reading “Total Money Makeover” by Fave Ramsey, and although I have already paid off all my credit card debt, I still have car loan and student loans to pay off.
    Before I read the book, I was just going to pay the minimum on all those loans, for years, until they were paid off, but now, I am buckling down and will get on schedule to pay those loans off faster.

    Thanks to Dave Ramsey.
    Things he talks about in his book are all common sense – spend less than you take in – save for emergencies – do not carry / pay off debt, but every person’s situation is different.

    I am a single mom, I pay more in day care fees than I do on my rent. We rarely eat out, I don’t have a cell phone, no cable, I do not buy new toys or new clothes for myself or my child. I have cut my expenses as much as I can, but I am still not willing to find “cheaper” day care for my child, nor move in with someone else to further cut my living expenses.

    There are some things people just are not willing to do to cut their expenses because they choose not or don’t want to or find some other reasons why NOT to do it.

    And I can’t blame them.
    The only thing that I can say is that if you are serious about paying down your debt – you CAN DO IT!

    • IsaacWalton

      I was 25k dollars in debt in credit cards and car payment. And had 35k in debt in school loans. What did I do? Sold the car (at a loss), got a dented older car for $2500 after emptying out a 401k when I get laid off from a start up. Rented a cheaper place, got a job paying less than what I made before. Stopped eating out and partying. Took on tons of freelance work. I am now out of debt, married (wedding was 25k paid all cash) have plenty in the bank for a rainy day, paid off school loan and have a healthy 401k now (tens of thousands). That took about 8-10 years. I’m 40. It can work. You just have to do the work. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

    I hope this show doesn’t get into the weeds about “buying expensive consumer goods” without talking about how much labor buys and how those goods are cheaper every year.

    We went thru the entire cold war being told how few hours of labor Americans needed to buy discrete items (like a TV) or needs (like transportation, housing, etc). But now that we beat those Commies, it’s a statistic which isn’t getting much play.

    My first portable radio cost maybe $8, any number of years ago. Adjust that for inflation, and you can have your choice of much better music players. (And batteries in them last longer than the old 9v!)

  • http://www.facebook.com/davebates82 Dave Bates

    I was unemployed for 3 years and although I was lucky enough to receive benefits, I still had to use credit cards to get by. As a result, I have accrued a massive amount of debt, well over 10k. Although I have landed a fantastic job that pays well, I still have a long road to go before that debt is paid off.

    • hennorama

      Dave – good to hear that you think $10K in CC debt is “a massive amount of debt,” as this may motivate you to pay it off ASAP.  If you were able to get a 2nd job, even 10 hrs./week at minimum wage, you could pay it off in 4 years or so.  Small changes to your income and spending can make huge differences over time, and I encourage you to become debt-free if at all possible, ASAP.

      Financial freedom is truly amazing, especially freedom from debt.  It’s something worth sacrificing for in the short term.  Good luck, and congrats on your new job!

  • IsaacWalton

    I love the photo in the top of the story…woman at Walmart with a COACH (maybe a knock off?) wallet. Isn’t that just the American dream…look like you have money. Don’t get me wrong you can spend it on whatever you like. But from where I sit toooooo many people have the wrong priorities when it comes to money. 

    • nj_v2

      Yep, she should just keep her money in a paper bag.

  • sam

    I have an option to move in with another single mom, closer to work, and the move would save me about 300 – 500 per month in living expenses.
    We (my child and I) would share a room, whereas we now live in a 2 bdrm apartment.
    Everything else would be equal.

    It is a very very tempting proposition. But again, what lengths would you go to to save money?

    I appreciate my independence and autonomy, but I also think that shrinking our household from 2 bdrm to maybe 2 rooms, would be good as well.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      But that gives rise to another topic: If you want to move to a smaller place to save money, how likely is it does that size house or apartment even exists near your workplace or your child’s school?

      Bad zoning really goes a long way towards warping the residential real estate market like this.

      • sam

        That is an excellent point.
        My child doesn’t go to school yet, he goes to day care, so we wouldn’t be switching schools.
        But, where we live now, we are in excellent public school district and where we could move, we would be moving into a worse inner-city public school district.

        Another thing to consider, the new place would be closer to my work, but I would have to find another child care/day care option for him, because traveling to where he goes now would be unsustainable.

        So, there are a lot of options to consider.

        I have thought about renting one of the rooms to another single woman/mom, but then again, you have to find the right person to live with.
        If your home becomes a place of worry and added stress because the roommate situation is not working out, I think at the end of the day, you may spend more, than what you saved.

        I’ve lived with roommates before, I know it can be a challenge, especially when “parenting” is involved. :)

        Thank you all for your discussion/opinions. I really appreciate having this conversation.

        • sam

          I also appreciate having these options.
          There are many people out there who don’t, and who are in different/worse situations than I am.

          I try to remember to be kind to others and do not judge others, because we never know the “whole” story.

          I would love to hear more from the artist who is off to Mali tho!
          His posts sounds fascinating. I would love to be able to travel!

    • Shag_Wevera

      Your post represents the bright American future.

    • IsaacWalton

      Do it. What LITTLE inconvenience you have now will PAY OFF now and in the future. My wife and I shared a 2 bdrm appt with a dog for 2 years. While we saved for our house. It was 700 sq ft. Our new home (not new to use, new home) is stick built and about 1600 sq ft. Sure, it’s not as big as some of our other friends, but we have no kids and living in a smaller place made us accustom to living with less space. Can’t buy tons of stuff to fit in here. It’s all high quality furniture (all wood). Less is more.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        To tangent on your home-buying:

        My (very light) reading on new housing construction tells me that there are very few houses being built of that size. If one wants a 1600s.f. home, it’s not a nice bungalow in an ordinary suburb.

        Many folks don’t want McMansions. But when that’s what’s being constructed, it warps the market so. It’s like going to a store to buy for a meatloaf and finding nothing except tenderloin, porterhouse and rib-eyes.

        (And remember that the original Levittown houses were maybe half the size of your house.)

        • IsaacWalton

          I guess we were lucky in a way. Having spoke with the property owner who was building McMansions in this development in the 350-400k range and getting no buyers. He went with a few smaller scale, high quality, homes for 100k less. We didn’t NEED the extra space but wanted a quality built (and designed) home. Those smaller homes have now sold. And he’s building more. I haven’t seen him build a 2.5k sq ft home of the same quality again. There are a few modulars popping up in some parts of the development…lots of space…low on quality.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Sounds like you did luck out; congrats. But it’d be cool if more folks in your kind of situation could buy something like you did.

        • hennorama

          TF – the seemingly endless increase in the size of newly constructed homes has ended, likely another effect of the Great Recession.  New homes have grown from under 1000 sq. ft. in the 1950s to the peak of almost 2300 sq. ft. in 2007, and about 2100 sq. ft. recently.  The average new home still has 3+ bedrooms and 2+ bathrooms though, even with the smaller size.
          Sources:

          http://www.nahb.org/generic.aspx?genericContentID=145984
          http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/us_home_size_preferences_final.html

          http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-F_HhxTPQ40c/Tj6bWAu5dCI/AAAAAAAAPjo/8QPrn_8-O8E/s1600/homes.jpg

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Thanks. I wonder if it will change with the business cycle.

            I note that the peak in 2007 sorta runs with the beginning of the end in the housing boom. Living here in the Northeast, I didn’t know much about the “secret” foreclosure crisis except for a bang-up job the Denver Post ran at the time.

            We’ll see.

          • hennorama

            TF – the top of the housing market was easy to see, and I called it at the time. When there were multiple TV shows about house flipping, it was obvious the easy money had already been made and we were at or near the peak. The same is true today, with multiple TV shows about buying foreclosed properties. The easy money has already been made in that market, and we are past the bottom.

            As to home size – I think Americans are finally waking up to the realities of the true costs of such large houses, including their carbon footprint. The Great Recession has made many rethink their priorities, and to reconsider the value of owning such large properties, and the value of homeownership itself. In addition, as baby boomers age, one would expect they would prefer smaller, easier to care for single-level housing. Plus, entry-level homes need to be lower-cost due to the difficulties many have in obtaining sufficient credit. Lower cost generally means smaller size.

        • Don_B1

          @disqus_TIS2eXcjBu:disqus @IsaacWalton:disqus @yahoo-JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y:disqus @hennorama:disqus 

          Unfortunately it would appear that sam does not have the ability to have a house constructed for her, but she (and others in more fortunate circumstances) might consider finding (if possible) a group of the local homebuilders that would consider building homes designed by Sarah Susanka, author of “The Not So Big House” and three other books that advocate for well-designed smaller (than McMansions) houses that are not tiny (but certainly don’t have all the wasted space of so many McMansions.

          For those having houses built, do pay attention to the insulation and efficiency of the HVAC and domestic water heating systems. Note that there are NEW code requirements for R-values for walls and roof boundaries, but ensuring that batts are installed properly is incredibly important to its effectiveness. These requirements reflect the current and future cost of the energy for home heating and cooling.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            I guess all those Formaldehyde-reeking FEMA trailers, or impoverished children living in still-lead-painted houses, caught the attention of some folks who are now trying to put their ingenuity to use. Good stuff.

  • Trudie

    Husband 63 lost his job, unable to find another, 19 year old in college, trying to survive on 36k a year. Cut out cable, phone, no smart phone, heat turned down to 55, groceries cut to 50 dollars a week, have to keep internet as I work from home. Have cut everything I can think of, have needed to take a loan on my 401k to pay property taxes, and keep current with my mortgage. May have to actually withdraw funds this year just to keep my home.

    • Shag_Wevera

      Don’t worry, Social Security and Medicare will be there for you soon.  Oh wait…

    • Don_B1

      And Republicans (and some Democrats) so no problem making it harder for you to get help so that the rich, who created the Great Recession and then use false arguments to keep a recovery from occurring, can get big tax cuts and keep getting the majority of the growth in profits in the current “Lesser Depression” economy.

  • sam

    If you are at the point where you have no money to pay for utilities, rent and food, there are social and government programs setup to help you during that time.

    Everyone goes through hard times in their lives, and we should be understanding, kind and loving to everyone, no matter their social status.

    With those programs, there should be financial education included, help with budgeting, debt, etc.

  • stillin

    The stress of living under unmanageable debt is killing Americans. Their life spans are less due to that very fact. The simpler life styles are not going to make the news, or the headlines…but that lifestyle..simplify and take it all down a notch is hugely beneficial. We are bombarded with consumerism and our children are as well. As an artist, I always remember, it is far more gratifying ( and healthier) to create anything, a meal, a t-shirt design, a drawing..than to buy it. Always. ( And oh yea, I cut wood for my fireplace heat when I need it, I cook from eggs, milk, flour….I use up what I have…I don’t live extravagantly but I do TRAVEL to those third world areas and watch them….watch their ways of life, to observe, and learn).

    • IsaacWalton

      More clear…American’s lives are short because they are fat. Fat because they make bad choices…which doesn’t surprise me that so many are in debt (bad choices). Feed your sorrow, feed your face.

      • stillin

        That’s a very judgemental view.

        • IsaacWalton

          And what’s your point? View or fact. We are the fattest nation in the world. Consumption of food, consumption of material items. Bad choices all the way around. I’m a few pounds overweight myself. I got here because I ate the wrong things and don’t exercise. I got in debt because I wanted to buy happiness (things and experiences)…I feel much better now with no debt and not eating like a cow. SO tell me, where does the drive to buy something WITHOUT the money in the bank come from? What NEED is that filling?

          • stillin

            You sound so miserable I don’t see any benefit with me communicating with you on this, sorry…I am onto Mali. Oh and the answer to your question is it IS cultural. End of our conversation.

  • Shag_Wevera

    On Point, please stop the pop-ups. 

    • http://wh.gov/IVp4 Yar

      It seems if you go to the bottom of the page (CTRL end)and close the pop-up, it stays away longer.  I may be wrong. I only started doing that today.  I noticed the pop-ups are connected to scrolling down the page. I agree, the pop-ups are annoying.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Try NoScript. Enable wbur and disqus, do not enable cloudflare. (Disclaimer: Don’t break your computer then come running to me ;-) . No idea what your setup is and if you can install things on it.)

    • TomK_in_Boston

      If you know how to block sites, block cdnjs.cloudflare.com and they go away. If you’re unix-based, I do it with a /etc/hosts file

  • CDinSF

    This guest is an idiot—clearly IT IS LOW WAGES and not having enough income to save for emergencies—not that millions Americans don’t know how to budget all of a sudden

    • sharlyne1

      I couldn’t agree with you more!! Americans have tightened their belts and made life style adjustments to their extravagance or perceived thereof. It’s still not enough with ever increasing cost of living and decreasing wages. America used to be a single income per household and now two incomes aren’t enough. This is not all about extravagant lifestyles. As a nation we’re still facing a crisis of low wages, price inflation, and interest rates.

    • IsaacWalton

      I would argue that most American’s haven’t been able to budget (hence all of the debt) and now that there is low wages and no jobs they REALLY have to stop spending and pay it down. People use debt when they THINK they have the money coming in to pay it off…if it ain’t coming in they’ll start paying it down if they can. 

      I REALLY doubt American’s got in debt buying things they really NEEDED. I’m not talking about people who fell on hard times (loss of job and bread winners).

  • sam

    Sooo… which ones of you with a ton of debt will be eating ramen noodles today?!

    I AM! :)

    I don’t eat ramen every day, and I don’t use the “spice” bag that comes with all the toxic chemicals, but I do mix in tuna, hot sauce and soy sauce.

    I know, it sounds disgusting, but it is cheap and nutritious and tasty. I like it. :)

    • Shag_Wevera

      The meal you describe is quite popular in county lockups, minus the tuna.  Inmates actually can take ramen noodles and hot sauce, wrap it in paper, and make a tamale.  Necessity is the mother of invention?

      • sam

        Ramen+tuna is not for everyone and I absolutely do not push that on anyone.

        But, there are so many recipes/things that you can make/cook that are fairly cheap. I find that planning ahead works very well with reducing the cost of each meal.

        I used to scout the sites for cheap recipes and followed articles where people manage to feed a family of 4 on like $35/week. That’s a lot of sacrifice, but … you gotta do what you gotta do. :)

        Ohhh… instead of tuna you can add cut up hot dogs, and those you can “cook” in a microwave before hand! :)

        Oftentimes I make 2 large meals on a Sunday that feed us during the week, that way I don’t have to cook when I get home late at night. I know it can get pretty boring, but pre-cooking some things, like making a pot of rice or pasta, and then mixing in some veggies, reduces your dinner prep time during the week.

        Necessity is the mother of invention. :)

        Oh and I don’t get manicures or pedicures, ever! not because I don’t LIKE IT, but because it is an expense I don’t want to pay.

    • Don_B1

      While it is hard, watch the sugar content in those sauces. It is used to cover added salt, too, which is used to make you thirsty after downing a drink.

      If you can grow vegetables in a garden or even herbs indoors, they make great flavoring without the detrimental processing of so many prepared foods. It also encourages more adventurous eating by children who raise their own food.

      • sam

        I absolutely agree.

        Although, having killed many indoor plants in my lifetime, I still persevere and try to raise indoor herbs and greens.

    • DrewInGeorgia

      Some instant mashed potatoes mixed in with your Ramen will thicken them up and help them be a little more filling. Many will point out how bad ramen is due to the high sodium content, ditto for smashed potatoes. What’s more detrimental, high sodium content or starvation?

  • Shag_Wevera

    Walmart makes me sad.

    • IsaacWalton

      Amen.

      • sam

        Wal-mart makes me sad too.
        I don’t shop there.

    • StilllHere

      Why?  I love it.  I know I’m getting a good deal, plus it’s one stop shopping.  There’s a Kohl’s and a Target next door and I would never go there.  I don’t care about the experience, it’s about resources: time and money.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        You’re lucky to be in a suburb.

        Many square miles of the US have WalMart as the only retailer in town, and their prices aren’t so competitive when there’s nobody competing against them.

        • sam

          You’re right. I am lucky to be where I am.
          Living in a suburban US with many options to shop.

          I get how Wal-Mart prices are considered the cheapest. But, I find that for basic staples, plus using coupons/sales, I can find better deals at different stores, and I absolutely do not advocate that you change your shopping habits because this works for me.

          Everyone’s situation is different.
          But, I also know that today, with all the online retailers, price comparison shopping is easier than lets say 10 years ago.

          So, I think we are all lucky, in some respect or other, to be living in the US with the opportunities and freedoms it affords us. I know I am grateful for it every day. :)

          -cheers

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

            Walmart is “considered the cheapest”. That’s part of their schtick.

            To talk about another segment of Americans, my oldest relative, at 90 years of age, doesn’t have to do her own shopping (for little or big things). It makes me rest easy because she’s not a computer user. That’s quite a difference from what you and I enjoy while doing something as simple as buying birthday gifts.

            (And of course I’m not extrapolating anyone’s individual practices here as “I do it so it’ll work for you” advice.)

      • Shag_Wevera

        I want life to be about more than the bottom line.  You could certainly argue that I am a fool.

      • nj_v2

        And what could possibly be more important than StillAtroll getting a good deal?

  • sam

    I am not perfect. I got into credit card debt and paid it all off 3 times.
    But this time – I am DONE.

    It has to be an absolute change in the mind set.

    What are you willing to give up for your peace of mind and security?

    Oh and the lady in the picture has manicured/painted nails. :)

  • sharlyne1

    going to try that recipe even though it sounds disgusting ;)

  • GeorgeHewes

    Our entire world is based on debt, and most money ends up in the hands of those who offer nothing substantial for the world, and who actually detract from the world.  

    The problem is getting further from real physical currency.  Our current system makes sure that the dollar decreases in value.  In doing this, our Federal Reserve (a giant, secret, private, global bank) makes sure that in order to retain the value of your past work and efforts (value of your savings), you absolutely must use the banking system and loans.  You can not simply hold onto dollars, and to use gold or silver, you must pay crazy fees.  No other methods of payment, such as silver coinage by another entity, can be used legaly in the US.  Today you can not use your retirement to launch your own, possibly debt-free, business.  You must invest in large companies which nearly always use debt.

    A single gold $20 coin from before the time of the federal reserve could buy a trip for a family of four to Disney World for a week.  How much does the Federal Reserve $20 get you now that they have depreciated our currency, and outlawed our constitutional currency?  We would be better off with competition in our currency system, and without the Federal Reserve.  We would not be pushed to debt, but to buying dependable green products which are long-lived and practical.  We would not be building sprawling debt-filled suburbs  but more frugal market-based developments (which happen to be both more green, and more financially conservative.)  We would also have fewer wars for oil related to the middle east, but those who end up with the capital of the workers, probably like that part of the deal.

  • nj_v2

    Personal debt occurs in a wider context. The current economy is ever more rigged against the interests of working people.

    Since Reagan, the economic system has evolved so that the rich and corporations pay less—or in many cases, no—taxes; the demise of organized labor (along with many other factors) has resulted in lower wages; trade policy ships jobs overseas; corporate influence and control of politicians results in lack of prosecution of corporate crime (as in the Wall Street fraud/collapse); neocon right wingers endeavor to dismantle what’s left of social programs…

    • nj_v2

      Rereading this, i shouldn’t have used evolved. That makes it sound like some kind of natural, organic development.

      It actually was—and continues to be—a deliberate effort on the part of Republicons (mostly, but aided and abetted by the Dimocrats) to implement policies to favor monied and powerful interests over those of everyone else.

  • toc1234

    let’s see.. a prof of social work, a non-profit counselor and some guy from brookings… I’m going ot go out on a limb and say there will be little to no discussion of personal responsibility.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

      Yeah, time for those lazy workers to become more productive and give up their food stamps so the JahbCreatorz can work their magic!

      • DrewInGeorgia

        Hey Bullwinkel, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat! Wait a minute…that’s just more labor reduction. I know there’s a rabbit in here somewhere…

    • stillin

      There are many people living in this country who are PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE but have no way to play the game anymore. I can, but there is little difference between me and them, we are ONE.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

    The guest talks about the “Last Great Recession” as if it is over.  He should be talking about the “Next Great
    Depression”.      As far as manufacturing output, individual debt, and strong family structure (as opposed to 50% divorced families),  the US was in far better situation in the 30s than it is now.
    And if your listeners haven’t noticed, other countries such as Brazil, China, Russia and Japan have figured out the US
    ponzi scheme and are jumping into the debt and the oncoming currency wars.   The US cannot win
    this time.
    The unfortunate aspect of this is that the US is working towards the same solution that got you out of the last recession…. WORLD WAR.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      If you really feel this way you need to go to the international teller, of a major bank in your area, and buy the currency of your choice, as an investment !

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paolo-Caruso/1778940602 Paolo Caruso

         Currency isnt a true investment… its a casino gamble in a fiat paper money.   Investments should be in people and businesses.  

        You “Soros wannabee” Americans just don’t get it.

  • Wahoo_wa

    Wish I could negotiate my student loan debt.  A 6 figure debt load is a bit much.

    • IsaacWalton

      WOW. Did you have to go to that school? Has it guaranteed you a high paying job? If it did then you should be able to pay that off. It’s what you promised to do when you borrowed the money. BTW, did you go to UVA? Wahoo? If so there were other schools to go to in that area. Good choice?

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

        Good branch of the topic. And I’d like to suggest we talk about the hollowing out of the public university systems, speaking of “why people are in debt today when we* were so much more frugal”.

        *I’m way out of college. Don’t know about you or Wahoo. Many people of my era are still blindly wondering why recent graduates get their bachelors with so much debt today.

        (Not talking about UVa, which I don’t know, so no opinion there.)

        • nj_v2

          Imagine, many developed countries offer higher education as part of the benefit of citizenship, with little or no added cost to attendees.

          Yet, in the “richest country in the world,” this is all but unimaginable.

          We have been so accustomed to accepting what meager crumbs our corrupt system offers us.

          • IsaacWalton

            I guess like a lot of things in America, “you get what you pay for”.

          • Wahoo_wa

            That’s true.  I understand the U.S. does have the best colleges and universities in the world. 

        • Wahoo_wa

          I think one of the challenges is that the generation ahead of my own could get an advanced education at a far lower expense.  Education costs have skyrocketed in the inter-generational period.  While I think I was given good advice, I was not fully aware (and did not do enough personal research) of the factors affecting my ability to repay the entirety of my loan…and neither was my mentor.

          I will pay off the term of my loan using the income based plan (20% of my salary).  Once the term of my loan ends I have been told that I “may” be responsible for capitol gains tax on the portion of the discharged loan remaining.Ironically enough I have a phenomenal credit score!

      • Wahoo_wa

        In my instance I took advice from a mentor in my field and chose to continue my education with a master’s degree.  A master’s degree in my field is a 3.5 year commitment and starting salaries are low.  There is, however, no guarantee in any field that one will earn a high paying salary.  Circumstance is a greater part of financial success than some realize/accept.  Almost a third of my debt is interest.  I have been paying on an income based plan since I started repayment.  I did go to UVA and there are other less expensive places to earn an advanced degree but the quality of education drops off significantly.  Would I do it again?  Absolutely.  Would I look for more grants/scholarships?  Absolutely.  I love my field and my education has given me a world view and strength of character I would not have if I did not go on to earn my degree.  I take responsibility for my debt….just wish I didn’t have it.

        • IsaacWalton

          Hi. Madison grad here. I didn’t accept my acceptance letter from UVA—no design program. I took on 35k in debt. That was 17 years ago. I was not happy to take it on, it was the only way. I am proud that I paid it off and did not ask for help in doing so. I could have, asked for money from parents or deferred it (even when I was laid off), but I was smart enough to have some money in savings to cover me, emptied out a 401k from a startup, sold a new car….and moved to a smaller town, tough choices but the responsible ones to make.

    • stillin

      ALL student debt needs to be redone…nobody can afford to pay all the bills AND exhorbant student loan bills. My son for one, owes a lot of money for loans for school, and is not working in his field although he is a hard worker and always looking to..he is HOUNDED by sallie mae.

      • Wahoo_wa

        The generation before my own was able to escape high student loan debt through bankruptcy.  I have been told many in high paying fields such as law and medicine made up a good portion of those discharging debt leading to the clamp down on the bankruptcy rules.

        • stillin

          If declaring bankruptcy would clear his loans I would advise it, but it doesn’t affect his student loans or so I am told. And I never advise it.

          • Wahoo_wa

            Yup….student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. 

  • JP_Finn

    From a younger perspective, I’m 28 and not exactly uneducated (I have an MBA), but in terms of personal finance, it seems I may as well have fallen off the turnip truck yesterday. I fell into the trap of wanting a modicum of financial independence, rather than constantly going to my folks for help through college & grad school–and ended up with thousands of dollars of CC debt to show for it. For other students it’s not a choice; their families can’t afford to support them at all.

    While I’m not a personal finance wizard, I do understand the concept of compound interest, and thus the truth that the earlier you start saving for retirement, the better. However, I am only employed part-time and don’t have a 401(k) (or any savings at all, for that matter). I’m worried that my credit situation may be hindering me in my ongoing fulltime job hunt, as I know hiring employers run credit checks.

    I take total responsibility for my own past financial decisions; at the same time, I believe it is absolutely imperative that we as a society mandate courses on personal finance in high school, so that young adults know what they’re getting themselves into when they hit 18 and can start borrowing on credit.

    James

    West Hartford, CT

    • JP_Finn

      I may be wrong about the ‘hiring managers running credit checks’ part (see Dan Davis comment above). I certaintly don’t wish to contribute to the wonderful world of Internet misinformation dissemination!

  • http://www.facebook.com/debby.holman Debby Holman

    Listening to you program, and I want to cry.  Why is it that people such as your “expert” do not understand the daily lives of American people.  I was a single parent from the time of my husband’s death when my son was 9 months old.  I got loans, went back to school, and earned a Master’s degree in special education.  I work for a non-profit agency that provides services to children and adults with disabilities (and am grateful for my job as so many teachers in this area are unable to get a job in their field).  I have been in my job for 13 years and in that time have managed to save a little over $20,000 in my 403B.  I do not have a huge mortgage payment ( could certainly not rent for what my mortgage payment is) and am in the process of finishing a paying off a chapter 13 (?) banruptcy ( times w/out health insurance, emergencies, groceries, etc.).  By the time my bills are paid, groceries bought, money set aside for taxes, and money set aside for Christmas, there is NO money left to save beyond what I am already contributing to my 403B.  I DO NOT and have never lived an extravagent life style.  Every time I turn around, everything that I have to spend money on increases: food, gas, utilities, clothing.  There is NO money left over.  And I need a new roof on my house, my refrigerator is 30 years old and needs to be replaced, and my gas stove should be replaced as it was state of the art in the late 60′s and does not have an electronic ignition and, consequently, wastes huge amounts of gas.  My furnace is over 33 years old and my car is is a 2001 model.  If something happens to any of these, I could be in big trouble.  I pack a lunch, eat at home, don’t go to movies, etc.  And, to top things off, I got my first paycheck of the new year which was $32.00 less than the previous one due to the end of the Social Security holiday!!!!  Honestly, I just despair about thsi country.

    • sam

      I feel for you.

      But, if it was me, I would find used “new” stove and fridge either through a freecycle or craigslist or discount furniture stores. Time to look is now, before it finally went out, because when and if it does, you won’t have a chance to “find the best deal”.

      I would, put ads on craigslist and offer tutoring and babysitting for extra pay or in exchange for roof repair/furnace replacement.

      I would divert any and all Christmas budget set aside to fix the furnace.
      I am sorry, but there are places that you can turn for help. There are churches and charity organizations that give gifts to kids for Christmas and in my family we do not gift to adults. And kids get a toy, maybe two.

      I was shocked to learn that in other families kids have Christmas LISTS and parents get everything that is on that list for their kids.

      SHOCKED!

      I would also start selling anything and everything that I have of any kind of value that doesn’t hold personal meaning to me. Put ads on craigslist for doing extra chores for people.

      I think there are so many ways in today’s world that we can make extra money from short term side jobs, than at any other time. And I would also go to the food pantry.
      You may think that you don’t qualify, but you won’t know for sure until you ask/try.

      Good luck!
      The best thing you can do – is not to give up.
      I know that times are hard, but they won’t always be this hard, and you have options and choices and ability to improve your situation.

    • TheDailyBuzzherd

      I hear ya, Debby, that’s the way it is. Problem is, alot of our leadership come from good jobs and are well-connected and go to DC thinking that THEY’RE representative of the average Joe. Is it any wonder that the people who wave the flag the hardest are the ones who think the country is stronger and infallible than it actually is?

  • ewilson1000

    I know people who simply can’t tell the difference between “want” and “need”.  When did a smartphone become a “need” that someone can’t live without?  Why won’t a simple phone do?  Or that huge flat-screen TV that’s “needed”?

    I have deep sympathy for people who lose their jobs or get sick and build up debt.  But when living close to the edge is because of wants that become needs, I start to bristle.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      That’s true. Also, I can understand why a financial con man would “want” to pay a 13% tax rate, but does he “need” it? I don’t think so. A CEO may “want” a salary that is 500X that a worker, but does he “need” it? 

  • TomK_in_Boston

    This is a huge problem and a front in the class war. The plutocrats grab ever more of the wealth and income, leaving everyone else with low wages and a motivation to borrow to maintain the “American dream”. Then the RICO financial institutions take whatever they have left with interest, penalties, and fees.

    What I hate the most is student loan debt. Once the states were committed to providing almost-free public higher education, with State Us funded by taxes. Now with tax cut mania running wild, the states have drastically cut their support. Some “state” Us have less than 10% state funding! The result is soaring tuition.

    IMO the states should raise income and real estate taxes to whatever level is required to recover the old model. Note that I’m not suggesting anything new, but a return to our old system that worked before we fell victims to voodoo econ.

    Unfortunately we’re so brainwashed that some families that would save thousands or tens of thousands if State U tuition was what it should be, in return for a chump change tax increase,  would scream about big gub’mint if we did that.

    • StilllHere

      Tax cut mania … you really are a hoot.  Wrong, but funny. Life-long pensions and healthcare don’t come cheap.  Don’t forget facilities.  
      But please, send in an extra check next time, anytime for that matter.

  • ToyYoda

    What’s the formula for avoiding the debt trap?  

    Don’t get married, don’t have children, live in neighborhoods 2 classes below your income status, don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, don’t get ill, don’t grow old!!

    • http://profiles.google.com/rickevans033050 Rick Evans

      And, save.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gary.kay.7777 Gary Kay

      Just dying would be the quickest solution.

      • Clark MGB

        Nah, dyin costs too much. alien abduction would work.

    • stillin

      don’t live.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1408098372 Mari McAvenia

      I’ve known folks who have embraced the lifestyle you describe here (they are overwhelmingly male) & have found that they are usually lonely, dissatisfied, depressed, grumpy & miserable. However, it’s their unilateral choice to live that way. When women go there it’s because they HAVE to, with no choice in the matter. This is only 1 reason why the quality of an average American  life has declined in tandem with overall life expectancy. Who WANTS to live to be 100 (or 60, for that matter) when it’s all downhill from where you already are? Existential questions must be asked when the economic hammer- wielded by the wasteful minority of powerful rich people-
      keeps banging frugal, simple & decent folks down lower. How about a show on that topic?

    • hennorama

      Toy Yoda – it’s even simpler than all that – spend less than what you earn, or conversely, earn more than you spend.  As I tell anyone who asks how to get ahead financially, there are three ways:
      1. Earn more
      2. Spend less
      3. Do both
      “Doing both” gets the job done fastest.  But the essential idea is “Live below your means.”

      • nj_v2

        4. Game the system and steal from everyone, like the banksters and Wall Street.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/JXSANCUDPIKQSPID5KT2U4XK5Y TF

          Now NJ, that’s only for rich folks. You and I are riffraff by comparison (or at least I am), and my role in this world is to accept my serfdom rather than behave like anyone owes me anything because who do I think I am, someone who owns a suit for every workday of the month and showers before work?

          • nj_v2

            Yeah, you’re right. Wouldn’t want to engage in any kind of “class warfare,” now, would we?

      • StilllHere

        4. Whine about why you can’t on NPR comment boards.

        • hennorama

          StilllHere – TY for continuing to be a shining example of non sequiturious asshatitude.

          • StilllHere

            You started it, and are my inspiration.

            BTW, thanks for proving my point.

        • nj_v2

          ^ Troll

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.kay.7777 Gary Kay

    We are seeing the creaton of the New World Order. A one-world political and economic union based on slave-labor economics. It’s only a question of when it comes into being.

    But it’s definitely “in the works”.

    • http://wh.gov/IVp4 Yar

      New?  This is the old word order, it has always been in force.  It is just expanding to what used to be the middle class. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/gary.kay.7777 Gary Kay

        No. This “New World Order” is going to be far worse than anything that has ever happened in history. When the “Old World Order” existed, mankind did not have the means to destroy itself. Since 1945 it has developed that means. The “Old World Order” is nothing compare to what’s coming.

      • Steve_the_Repoman

        Currently reading Alec Motyer commentaries on Isaiah.

        Yesterday evening, Chapter 24.

        You may be interested based on your past comments on sustainable economic systems and jubilee.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        The USA was once an exception to the old world order, because of economic policies that caused wealth to be broadly shared. Now we’re discarding those policies and going back in time. Geez, a lot of the righty pols are even discarding science. Where does it stop? 1890? 1600? 

  • allansir

    We’re not looking at the bigger picture that as union busting started the decline of real wages took off. When investment income is demanded, low wages and moving jobs overseas is the result. An economy that only rewards investment will at some point cause a revolution.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1269291688 Brady Weinstock

    I agree with the prior guest about the lack of budgeting being an issue now that electronic banking exists — for those of us with enough income to pay bills easily and do not “need” to compare prices. Perhaps if I watched my daily balance falling, I would shop much more wisely! His statement should not be discounted. Clearly, for the poor who literally do not have enough funds to cover the bills, it’s a different story.

    • StilllHere

      Use electronic budgeting tools, like Mint.  You can know in almost real-time where you stand.

  • yipsister

    Credit card debt is by design. This is the result of Ronald Reagan’s “supply side economics.” Remember, “deficits don’t matter.” Debt is a profitable business. Reagan,Greenspan and Co. intentionally kept wages low, and credit card companies were then encouraged to offer easy credit. Buying on credit has become an American way of life for 2 generations. Wages are still low.

  • http://twitter.com/jt_ny_twit joey tgribiani

    Please tell me what is wrong with using up 401K for debt or whatever when the market can destroy it into zilch (2009 401Ks died over 50%) with the wall-street fat cats eating off the top?

    • StilllHere

      The market was up more than 30% in 2009, so being down 50% must have been the result of shorting stocks.  This is probably not appropriate for retirement assets.

  • http://www.facebook.com/whagist Warren H.

    My grandparents lived through the Great Depression, and were frugal spenders their whole lives because of it, even during the post World War II boom. But I think the baby boomers could afford financial ignorance because of the prosperity they grew up in. Maybe my generation will be more prudent after this Recession – I know I certainly will

    • StilllHere

      Excellent points.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      You’re right that us boomers grew up in an incredible economy (era of high taxes and regulation) with little worry about finding a job. Geez, you could take off a few years to “find yourself” (ie party) and hop right back into a nice position. Also states were collecting enough taxes to make public education nearly free, which acted as a competitive damper on private unis too, so there we no such thing as student loan debt.

      Fortunately I remained a cheapskate and have no debt. Without doubt, the younger generations have got to adjust, cut expenses, be dam careful about borrowing, and get active about pushing back against voodoo econ class warfare.

      Nothing will get better when plutocrats like romney are paying 13% tax rates or less!!!

  • Scott B

    What 401K? When the economy tanked in 2008 we both lost our jobs, with a baby on the way.

    Ours is a household of three people totaling under $30K@year.  We did everything right: Got a modest house with a vanilla mortgage, we’re not underwater, and NEVER missed a payment. But we can’t get refi’ed from BoA because we “are not profitable enough” for them.  We
      We lost $200@month in food stamps a couple years ago because, at the time, we made $20@month too much. That’s $180 more that has to be found in a already stretched budget. 
      We also are losing our Medicaid, and I’ve had cancer and several operations. Our child get free treatment at Shriners, but her braces and repairs to them aren’t free. Now we have to by the employer’s insurance, which is another $200@month:disqus  and the co-pays for visits and meds are significantly higher. Now what do we cut into to make up the $400 a month that we have to have to for basics, not to mention all the things that come up, like repairs for our daughter’s braces, overdraft fees because some idiot didn’t cash our check for 6 months, something on the car needed fixed, food and gas went up AGAIN…
      We’ve had to bounce credit card debt, from before the economy crashed, around from zero percent offer to zero percent offer, and when the one vehicle that’s needed to get to work dies, guess what has to get used to pay that?
      We shut lights off when we leave a room. We wear layers of clothes in the house. We add up groceries as we shop to just about the penny, and leftovers and soup are half our meals. Food prices rise, pay does not. The tax refund is already spent as soon as it shows up, paying for some repairs that cannot wait, and the rest, hopefully, goes to paying off at least one credit card.
     It’s hard hearing how this is all the fault of the people with debt; that we’re all spending on plastic like it was going out of McMansions we can’t afford. But it’s the troublemakers that stand out, and ironically and tragically, are the ones that seem to be getting the help. Or, worse, it’s those that don’t need the help, that get it; the ones with the 800+ credit rating that get the great rates, and loans, and approvals.
    For most of us this is not even staying in place. It’s not even close to two steps forward and three back.  It’s slowly circling the drain.

    • hennorama

      Scott B – thank you for sharing your story, and sorry for your struggles.

      Unfortunately, you’re far from alone.  The Great Recession’s impacts were so severe that millions of Americans still feel its effects.  Nearly 5 million workers (4.8 million) are officially classified as “long-term unemployed” and this number has been stubbornly high.  And there are 2.6 million workers “marginally attached to the labor force,” also a stubbornly high number.

      http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm

      One significant problem is that some politicians and pundits would read your story and label you as part of “the 47%” and therefore “…dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.”

      Did millions of Americans suddenly get lazy in mid-2008, quit their jobs, then sign up for SNAP (“food stamps”)?  Did they see Barack Obama becoming the Democratic nominee for President on June 3, 2008 and suddenly say “Whoopee!  Now we can get lazy and irresponsible and dependent on the gov’t!”?

      Not bloody likely.  An enormous calamitous economic upheaval occurred, and millions of people suddenly needed help. Many of these people who suddenly needed help had never thought they’d be in such a position. They had worked hard all their lives and had never asked for or taken any help from the government before. Like you, they simply got overwhelmed by an enormous tidal wave of negative economic outcomes.

      These people are not lazy or irresponsible or dependent. They are the backbone of America, and are struggling diligently to dig themselves out of the huge hole they suddenly found themselves in.  Yet we have some politicians and pundits stubbornly parroting “We have a spending problem …. BAWWWKK! … We have a spending problem …” and doing nothing about job creation.

      Thanks again for sharing your story.  I wish you good health and better outcomes.

      • Scott B

         I’m still trying to find work. The thing is, if I do, where do I find a job that will let me stay home when the kid’s sick or need to Shriners? Or when I need recurring treatment? Or that will pay for daycare and leave me with a couple bucks in my pocket?

         The Conservatives call Obama the “Food Stamp President” forgetting that Dubya was the one that expanded it to include more people. It’s a good thing he did, because his wars and policies made an awful lot of people need them.

          The thing that gets me is that the programs look at pre-tax money. Did we get to spend any of that money on food, heat, clothing, medicine, et al?  The programs say that my wife makes too much.  We’d sure like to know were that pile of cash is, because it ain’t around here, and BoA and all the other mortgage and loan companies (and even our own credit union) say that we don’t make enough for a refi or a loan consolidation.  Sometimes we swear they’re in cahoots.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000753377770 Joachim Kriegel

    We educating people in Universities where Professors make $500K and more and the people coming out getting jobs at Walmart or those low paying jobs. Why do we have to put up with corrupt banks that make money of the students when all it does is holding the country back from moving forward. 

    • nj_v2

      What are you talking about? Average annual salary of U.S. full professors is about $100,000, less for associate.

      • IsaacWalton

        Wow, that’s a lot of money. Isn’t it?

        • nj_v2

          Yep, it’s the damn teachers that are the problem. That and welfare queens. And people who expect the government to do everything.

      • StilllHere

        Reading comprehension fail. How thick are you?

        • nj_v2

          ^ Troll

  • http://www.facebook.com/gary.kay.7777 Gary Kay

    This is what we get for over-populating the world. Our rulers have become so afraid of us that they find they must put us in slavery for their own protection. (Sounds a lot like the Biblical story of the Nation of Israel being enslaved in Egypt for the very same reason, doesn’t it?). In spite of what we have been told, the world’s wealth is finite; not infinite. The more people there are, the more the wealth must be spread around. Except greed prevents this from happening, and the result is appalling poverty.

    So obviously the “World Aristocracy” is afraid. Very afraid. And they can’t really be sure that their military forces can protect them. Hosni Mubarak could tell you a thing or two about that.

  • gregorclark

    Ditto to what Matthew just said!

    My wife and I both have credit score in the low 800s, yet our bank just turned us down for a home equity loan, which we wanted precisely because it would allow us to borrow at a lower interest rate and pay off some high-interest credit cards. It baffles me that a bank I’ve been doing business with for 10 years would refuse to loan to me, and collect interest from me, given my sterling credit history. I’ve paid off two cars and five student loans in full and never missed a credit card payment in 30 years. So why can’t banks loosen their lending standards? For God’s sake, we the taxpayers have just bailed them out to the tune of several billion dollars!

    • stillin

      see how your good work is rewarded?  It isn’t, bottom line so why bother?

    • StilllHere

      A FICO score has about as much predictive ability as a bond credit rating.  That is, next to none.

      They can’t loosen because they’ve still got lots of bad loans on their books that they haven’t fully written down yet.  As they do, higher capital standards (greater regulation) will require them to reserve even more; that is, make even fewer loans. 

      Finally, as low as a risk as you think you are, the banks are being encouraged to keep money on deposit at the Fed (that is, lend to the Fed) because they get a reasonable return with no risk and no increased reserve requirement. Moreover, they have to hold onto your loan, as opposed to securitizing it; so they are paying much more attention to risk. 

      Welcome to the cash-based society!  The only entity lending is the government through GSEs, and they don’t do HELOCs.

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Where’s the discussion of how the Debt Industry functions at its core in the US? Companies buy debt, many times it seems with no other goal than to use it to pad their balance sheets. Bob buys 20K debt at a ‘discounted’ rate from a company that has already tacked on their Loan Sharking equivalent fees and penalties. Now Bob adds his fees and penalties to a debt that was not collectable at the time he acquired it. It’s Musical Debt, insert fee here. That’s not a bigger problem than unjustifiable spending? And how about the sliding scale of pain that ramps up exponentially the less one ‘qualifies’ for ‘credit’?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/IBOSEJ6GOFNHZRTDEAADHNF7BA ak7666

    I don’t know why people put up with this stuff, we have the real power, if we all refused to pay the debts and they gave us all a bad credit rating, who would they lend to? Its us, the people who have the real power!

    • sam

      It’s a little more than “not just paying”.

      When you got that credit card and bought that thing, you signed on that dotted line saying that YOU WILL REPAY THIS BILL!

      It’s about honesty and integrity, and no I don’t need to look at other people/companies who abandon their debt as MY guideline.

    • StilllHere

      You go first.

      • stillin

        that’s so funny…I love humor when things get so hard…

  • http://profiles.google.com/rickevans033050 Rick Evans

    Sadly the guy with no credit history misunderstands the FICO or maybe I should say unFICO score. If you have no history of borrowing you are considered risky because you have never demonstrated an ability to pay money back. This is a good reason to make INTELLIGENT use of a credit card. For example if you use your credit card to buy gas and pay off the balance monthly you build a credit history.

  • Jake Fishbaugh

    .

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019970534 Dan Davis

    Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act it is not legal for anyone to access your credit report without your written consent.  If an employer accesses your credit report without a signed release then you would have a cause for civil action against them.

    • JP_Finn

      Interesting–I was not aware of this. I must have been misinformed somewhere along the way, as I thought checking applicants’ credit was fairly standard practice and could happen as soon as an application is submitted, without the applicant’s approval.

    • John_in_VT

       I don’t believe that’s true of your score. This was a way for someone like a car dealer to assess your credit worthiness without requesting a full credit report.  In the case of the caller without a credit history; from the score alone he looks like a deadbeat.  The system is rigged so you need to have some credit history – use too little or too much and you have a low score.

      • StilllHere

        Only the government can afford not to care if you’re going to pay it back.

    • Wm_James_from_Missouri

      It is very unlikely that you will get hired if you don’t sign everything that a prospective employer puts in front of you. If you start saying things like, “ I am not going to do that because…” , this becomes a “red flag”, right away. Coercion is everywhere.

  • John_in_VT

    Want break free and learn to use credit as a tool? Watch & listen to Suze Orman, get one of her books.  School yourself in money. Chances are you were brought up in a “have it all now” household and your parents and role models lived their lives on credit.  Living within your means but below your wants is Suze’s current mantra and it’s a good one – for those with jobs.

    • nj_v2

      She may offer some good information, but the sound of her voice to me is like finger nails dragging across a chalkboard or a screeching cat.

      • harverdphd

         So…we should care what you think…?

        • hennorama

          Think you what care should we…so?

          Not a reflection exactly, but you might simply reflect upon your own words.

          • StilllHere

            You’re defending the guy whose criticism related to the tone of her voice as opposed to what she says.  Pathetic.

          • hennorama

            StilllHere – StilllWrong, unsurprisingly.

          • nj_v2

            ^ Troll

        • nj_v2

          ^ Troll

    • StilllHere

      Great advice, but some prefer to whine. see below

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1019970534 Dan Davis

    In the case of rental denials based upon a credit score, there must also be a signed release.  Further, if the landlord owns more than four rental units, they must adhere to the requirements of the Fair Housing Act.  All prospective tenants should be informed in advance as to the minimum required credit score.  That can help you avoid the negative affects of multiple credit inquiries.

    • hennorama

      Those releases are included as standard in rental applications, and in virtually all employment applications.  There are also other situations where the FHA does not apply, per the excellent DIY legal site nolo.com:

      “Property Exempt from Federal Antidiscrimination Laws

      •owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer rental units

      •single-family housing rented without the use of advertising or without a real estate broker, as long as the landlord owns no more than three such homes at any one time

      •certain types of housing operated by religious organizations and private clubs that limit occupancy to their own members, and

      •with respect to age discrimination only, housing reserved exclusively for senior citizens. There are two kinds of senior citizen housing exempted: communities where every tenant is 62 years of age or older, or “55 and older” communities in which at least 80% of the occupied units must be occupied by at least one person 55 years or older.

      “Fortunately for some tenants, however, many state fair housing laws cover properties or situations that are exempt under federal law. For example, owner-occupied buildings with four or fewer rental units are exempt under federal law but are protected under California law.”

      http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/free-books/renters-rights-book/chapter5-2.html

  • Markus6

    Great program. I see in these comments the usual hyperbole around evil bankers, a ruling elite, all the rest. I’m very surprised that the Koch brothers aren’t mentioned. 

    But obviously, it’s a huge problem. And I think a good part of it is there is so little room for error. When I went to college in the 80′s I could do stupid things and recover. I paid for my college but it was manageable without incurring much debt. And without outsourcing, a global workforce,  and so much immigrant labor doing construction (what got me through), you could find a job that paid ok even if you earned the wrong degree at the wrong school, or didn’t have a degree at all.

    At an age when people do make mistakes, they can’t afford to make them without them affecting the rest of their lives. 

    • jefe68

      Talk about hyperbole.

    • nj_v2

      What’s the “hyperbole” Markus?

      That the largest banks have only gotten larger since the crash/fraud of 2008?

      That the banks have cost households $20 trillion, wealth they destroyed since the fraud/crash?

      That they barely lend to small businesses (18% of their commercial loan portfolios?

      That they laid off thousands of workers even as they make increased profits since the crash/fraud/recession?

      That they paid huge bonuses in 2008?

      That they’ve systematically worked to eliminate regulations in the past few decades?

      C’mon Markus, you must have information to demonstrate that all this is just “hyperbole.” Enlighten us, please!

      • StilllHere

        played like a fiddle; thanks for the laugh Markus

        • nj_v2

          ^ Troll

    • JGC

      Grrr….I told you to never mention the Koch Brothers! There, you’ve gone and really done it, now… 

  • DrewInGeorgia

    Credit and background checks prior to employment are what led me down the Homeless path. I had nearly perfect credit (780 Beacon), a small house I remodeled myself, a paid for pick up truck, and entirely manageable debt the majority of which was from material costs for the remodel. Unbeknownst to me, each time a Credit or Background Check was run a result of multiple felonies and fraudulent financial activity was returned. By law you are supposed to be notified if denied credit or employment based on background information. Thousands of Companies broke that law. The standard response I got after successfully applying and interviewing for a position when I inquired as to why I had not been contacted was: “The position has been filled” or “We’ve decided not to hire at this time”. Law Schmaw, out of literally thousands of companies I applied for work with over the past 15 years only one told me that I was ineligible for hire do to the results of my background check. It must be my fault because of my irresponsible spending habits.

    You can’t pay your bills if you cannot gain work, I was laid off and due to the false criminal background I was unable to gain employment. Roughly 25K in debt ballooned to almost 80K in less than two years’ time. Fees, penalties, and extortionist level increases in interest rates were applied despite having documentation from The Department of Justice demonstrating why I had been unemployable. My house was foreclosed on, guess what happens when you are foreclosed on? You are forced from your home and can still be held accountable for various debt and fees. Deficiency Judgements are one example. Pad those balance sheets on the back of unrecoverable debt. Sound familiar?

    I’m certain many wind up in the hole because of irresponsible spending, living beyond your means isn’t the only way to wind up buried alive by debt though. The primary problem is that those who can afford the least are required to pay the most. Millions of people are struggling to escape a cleverly engineered quicksand pit that they were shoved into, disparaging their spending habits does nothing to address the true underlying problems.

    • hennorama

      Damn, Drew.  Thanks for sharing your story, and sorry for your struggles.

      One thing I’d like to point out to everyone – you can get your credit report (not your FICO score, but the actual report)  for FREE from each of the Big 3 reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion & Experian) every year, here:

      https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp

      One simple strategy you can use is to request the free annual report from a different agency every four months, then repeat.  This allows you to see the report 3 times/year for free.  Any inaccurate info can be disputed, including background info such as Drew described.

      For more on understanding credit reports, and on background check, see:
      http://www.aie.org/managing-your-money/credit-scores-and-reports/Understand-Credit-Reports.cfm#cr2
      http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0157-employment-background-checks

      • DrewInGeorgia

        If you really want to know what your Identity is up to, you’ll also need to have a criminal background check run on yourself through law enforcement.
        You may be a Criminal and not even know it…

        Guilty until proven innocent. That’s not cynicism, It’s reality.

        • nj_v2

          Posters like Drew and henn (and a number of others) on the forum here more than make up for having to step over and around the mindless dreck spewed by adherents to idiotic, mindless rightwingery our conservative friends.

          Thank you! …But sorry to hear of your travails, Drew {8^(

          • harverdphd

             He needed a liberal lawyer…maybe you could send him a recommendation or money….

          • StilllHere

            nj’s an idiotic and mindless liberal hack, though he’s an artiste with punctuation marks, his only redeeming quality

          • nj_v2

            ^ Troll

          • DrewInGeorgia

            Thank you, not sure I deserve the compliment.

            Thanks for your concern, no need to worry though. I’m doing pretty good, hundreds of millions of people around the world are in far more more dire situations.

          • hennorama

            Ditto as to Drew’s 1st sentence.

    • Steve_the_Repoman

      “cleverly engineered quicksand pit”

      Very much like this phrase.

    • harverdphd

       ..no WONDER you’re so mad at the rich….did you get a liberal lawyer?

      • DrewInGeorgia

        What makes you think I’m mad at the rich?
        You’re about as funny as a case of pancreatic cancer.

  • NrthOfTheBorder

    Here’s a Canadian observation.  We hear constant moans and groans from the US about the state of your economy, gov’t debt, gov’t dysfunction etc etc.  Yet, when we visit we can’t help but notice how bloody prosperous y’all seem to be.  Pass a mall and the parking lot is full of late-model cars. But maybe what you got is two economies:  Keep a job - preferably one with gov’t that comes with benefits – OR – be thrown on the rocks of a service economy that constantly threatens to uncut your standard of living.This sets the stage where those with steady employment look askance at those less fortunate and want to accuse them of laziness, and those struggling are resentful that opportunity remains stubbornly elusive.  What a dilemma…what a hard fix.

    • sam

      Half of those cars on the parking lot are Canadian!

      I live close to the border and the malls and shops are swarming with Canadians crossing the border to get a better deal. :)

      (joking-ish)

    • JGC

      For folks who are just considering post-secondary education, for themselves or their children, consider getting your college or university education in Canada.  Google “imagine education in canada” and you will be led to a Canadian government website that is a real eye-opener.  There is major push out of Ottawa to get international students enrolled in Canadian universities, and from there, Canada is very welcoming to making it an immigration portal, if that would be something to be considered. The cost of a Canadian education is a bargain, and you will gain some of that important international experience and outlook that is in demand by many employers. Also see the recent Frank Bruni editorial in the New York Times about how college students should get out of their comfort zones and look for outside challenges.

      Education is so important, but the cost in the U.S. is a scandal.         

      • NrthOfTheBorder

        When I went to McGill in the 70′s 15% of the student body were Americans – taking advantage of tuition rates that were,  even at the time, less than a quarter of what they would have paid states-side.  

        Americans, everyone felt, introduced a level of competition to both academic & student life.  Their company was enjoyable but they could be given to grandiosity .. a stridency foreign to Canadian, & especially, French-Canadian sensibilities.

        Significantly, I remember seeing the lights of the Chinese Student Association study room brightly lit late into the evenings – every day of the week.  And being advised to make friends with them because they were going to be the movers and shakers of the then Communist society once they tasted the fruits of a free market economy. Dots, in retrospect, I would have done well to connect.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          When I went to grad school at U of California in the 70s the cost for CA residents was $75/quarter.

          • StilllHere

            Tell us all about it grandpa.  How much was a loaf of bread? How much was an iPad mini?

    • TomK_in_Boston

      You can pass a mall and find it to be deserted, too. Very post-apocalyptic those deserted malls. 

      http://deadmalls.com/index.html

      You’re absolutely right. We have two economies, as we change from a middle class society into one of aristocrats and peons.

      • StilllHere

        LOL, only aristocrats shop at the mall!

        • TomK_in_Boston

          LOL, at the malls I’m talking about, the only shoppers are looking for crack and limbaugh’s drug of choice.

          • StilllHere

            Maybe Canadians and aristocrats decided not to go there anymore.

          • JGC

            But I am certain there was a sighting of Lord Conrad Black at the Costco in Plattsburgh…

          • StilllHere

            A twofer.

      • NrthOfTheBorder

        My sentiments exactly.  I just didn’t want say it. 

        The bigger and fascinating question is where to from here?

      • JGC

        (and they will only become more dead, if it is possible to have degrees of death, as people continue to increase their purchases online.)

  • hennorama

    Credit cards have been around since 1958, and used to be “loss leaders” for banks trying to get new customers for their other services.  Banks would simply mail the cards out in bulk, preappproved and ready to use. 

    Credit was much more difficult to obtain at the time – there would generally be a couple of local banks in town, and one would apply for a loan, then be approved or not by the guys with green eyeshades.  Credit might also be obtained from retailers – buying the TV or refrigerator for a dollar a down and a dollar a month or similar.  But these loans were INSTALLMENT loans, with fixed payments and length, and if one failed to pay, the TV or refrigerator would be repossessed.

    Credit cards are different.  They are REVOLVING credit, with variable terms and no fixed length.  That’s a big reason many fall into the debt trap – they see that they can spend right now, and can make low payments over a long time.  In fact, they can make credit card payments practially forever.

    When credit cards were invented, there were usury laws in virtually every state.  These laws limited the interest that could be charged, generally to 12% annually, and were designed to prevent loan sharking.  This became a problem when credit card issuers got squeezed by high short-term interest rates in the high-inflation period of the late 1970s and early 1980s.  They were paying more than they could charge.

    The 1978 Supreme Court decision (Marquette National Bank v. First of Omaha Service Corp.) changed everything.  This decision held that national banks have to obey the interest-rate caps of the state they are chartered in, not that of the state where the customer lives.  There was a sort of “land rush” of banks moving their credit card operations, primarily to South Dakota and Delaware, which abolished their interest rate caps.  In 1980, Citibank got support from the South Dakota governor, Bill Jankow, and moved to SD.

    “With bipartisan support and backing from South Dakota’s banking association, Janklow proposed a special “emergency” bill. “Citibank actually drafted the legislation,” he said. “Literally we introduced it, and it passed our legislature in one day.”

    “The arrangement ultimately brought 3,000 high-paying jobs to South Dakota and a host of new suitors from banks across the country. Citibank seemed to just be the beginning.

    “It did fall out of the sky,” Mr. Janklow said. “I was going to sleep at night thinking that we were the new financial center of America.”

    “But other states were quick to catch on. Delaware, which passed similar legislation the following year, would foil Mr. Janklow’s dreams. “By that time, we’d captured a lot, but we thought we were going to get them all. Chase, Manufacturer’s Hanover, Chemical — they all went to Delaware. They were coming here,” he said. ”

    Source:http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/credit/more/rise.html  (an excellent article)

    That’s how credit card issuers can charge such usurious rates.  The top card issuers are now in states with no cap or very high limits – South Dakota, Delaware, New Hampshire, Virginia, Utah and Arizona.

    • anon

      Interesting – thanks for that link. I remember all my credit cards coming from Delaware… Glad I’m Muslim now and don’t deal with interest at all.

      • hennorama

        anon – TY for your response. As a Muslim, you have returned to the original idea of usury – that charging interest or taking any compensation for a loan was immoral and illegal.

        The history of credit cards is indeed interesting and is yet another example of bankers writing their own legislation to overcome the inconvenience of existing law. Some think credit card issuers are usurers and should be placed where Dante put them – in the Seventh Circle of Hell.

        • anon

          As someone who was raised Catholic, I was interested to learn (in an article about Islamic finance) that Catholics and other Christian churches had forbidden usury in the past. (And maybe still do, if usury is defined not as all interest but as exorbitant rates of interest?)

    • JGC

      Thanks for that history, hennorama.  Explains a lot…

      • hennorama

        JGC – you’re welcome. The history of credit cards is indeed interesting and is yet another example of bankers writing their own legislation to overcome the inconvenience of existing law. I’m old enough to have experienced usury being illegal, and gambling to be immoral and illegal. Now they are only illegal when they compete with the interests of big business.

        This has negated hundreds of years of English common law, and millenia of natural law. Even the Greek philosophers argued about usury.

        For more:

        http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/jones.usury

        • JGC

          An aside:  My almost nonagenarian mother in Pennsylvania still writes her own checks to pay her bills; I always assumed that her Citibank Visa bill, due to a remote South Dakota banking address, was a ruse to ensure that her snailmail payment would arrive in a circuitous fashion – fashionably late and due to be kicked up to the 30 per cent club. 

  • DrewInGeorgia

    My comment prior to this one was long-winded but I think this quote from it really gets at the root of today’s show:

    “The primary problem is that those who can afford the least are required to pay the most.”

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Exactly. I grew up thinking that progressive taxation was the American way: the rich pay at a higher rate. It sure seemed to work well.

      Shifting the burden onto the lower brackets is class warfare 101. romney types paying 13%, LOL. In Louisiana, Gov Jindal has proposed eliminating the state income tax and making up the difference with a higher sales tax, which is extremely effective at making “those who can afford the least are required to pay the most.

      The USA is not turning into an oligarchy because of inevitable economic forces or “acts of God”, the problem is one of our own choosing.

      • 1Brett1

        Now, now, Romney was just paying that 13% because he was running for president and his tax lawyer suggested he take less charitable deductions to boot it up from 9%. (Of course he has three years to claim those deductions, so he can still get that 4% savings…now that he’s not running for office.)

        • harverdphd

           It’s the law…

          • 1Brett1

            …so glad we have a harvard phd to point us to the obvious…and your point was? I hope to never hear you malign the poor for not paying taxes, as that is also “the law,” as it were.

          • StilllHere

            Ouch, don’t be too envious.

          • 1Brett1

            Is that projection or just plain old presumptuousness? -No, wait, it’s just your pat response to anyone questioning economic equitability; I forgot.

          • 1Brett1

            Sorry SH, I just realized your comment wasn’t one of your pat ones; it pertains more to the “harvard phd” bit: I don’t envy using a moniker in an obvious  attempt, in such affected                  ostentatiousness, to impress…

          • nj_v2

            ^ Troll

        • TomK_in_Boston

          My bad, I forgot that he twiddled his rate UP to 13% for the campaign. Reminds me of his statement “I can’t have illegals working for me! I’m running for president!”

      • nj_v2

        [[ I grew up thinking that progressive taxation was the American way: the rich pay at a higher rate. It sure seemed to work well. ]] —TomK

        It was (and is), and it did (and could again).
        It was the American way back to the founders.

        It’s a depressing signpost of how skewed and ignorant the political discourse has become that the right-wingers can label—and not get laughed out of the room—attempts to reduce income inequality as “class welfare.”

        • harverdphd

           But they’re not getting “laughed out of the room”

          • nj_v2

            Reading comprehension fail. Try again.

        • TomK_in_Boston

          Exactly. The Official Talking Point is that anyone who recognizes that they’re in a raging class war and have the nerve to mention it are practicing class warfare.

        • hennorama

          nj_v2 – Your post brings to mind a recent Newsweek piece from British novelist Martin Amis:

          “It has to be admitted, meanwhile, that Uncle Sam is highly distinctive, even exotic, in his superstitious reverence for money. In every other country on earth, the Republicans’ one idea so far this century would never be mentioned, let alone tabled, passed, and given a second term. Tax cuts … for the rich? And this plainly indecent policy is already an established failure. According to the Pew Research Center, only 8 percent of ordinary Americans—and only 10 percent of the “upper class”—think the rich are taxed too much.”

          http://www.thedailybeast.com/newsweek/2012/09/09/martin-amis-on-god-money-and-what-s-wrong-with-the-gop.html

          American exceptionalism, indeed.

          • pete18

            Yeah, 70% of the tax burden isn’t enough, make ‘em pay 100%.

          • hennorama

            pete18 – no one is suggesting that, but it is somewhat obscene (or “plainly indecent” per Amis) for “the rich” to not only complain about their taxes, but also to try to get them lowered further.

            You and I have had this discussion before, and I will simply repeat the following (again):

            “…this focus on only Federal Income Tax (FIT) misses the larger picture of overall taxation. TOTAL taxes include state, local, sales, payroll, excise taxes, corporate taxes, estate taxes, etc. When one examines the TOTAL tax vs. income picture, there are only modest differentials between the shares of TOTAL taxes paid vs. TOTAL income shares:

            Here’s the data for the shares of TOTAL taxes paid vs. income, by quintile:

            Lowest 20%: TOTAL Tax: 2.1% TOTAL Income 3.4%

            Second 20%: TOTAL Tax: 5.3% TOTAL Income 7.0%

            Middle 20%: TOTAL Tax: 10.3% TOTAL Income 11.4%

            Fourth 20%: TOTAL Tax: 19.0% TOTAL Income 18.7%

            Top 20%: TOTAL Tax: 63.1% TOTAL Income 59.6%

            There is some progressivity to the overall picture, but it is not enormous. This is due to the fact that State, Local, payroll, and sales taxes tend to be regressive, which counters much of the progressivity of FIT.

            Any counterarguments?” Sources:

            http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/the-taxes-americans-really-pay-in-two-graphs/2012/04/16/gIQA6o4yLT_blog.html

            http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304356604577338122267919032.html

          • pete18

             And I will repeat the obvious, the federal rate can’t be adjusted to make up for real or perceived inequities of the state rates. The are two different animals both constitutionally
            and economically. People in each state have to determine what is the appropriate and fair rate for their
            needs. The payroll tax
            is also a completely different entity, although I do favor a limit to what upper earners could collect on it, as well as raising the retirement age a couple of years (over a
             ten year period). Much better if you just reformed the whole system and allowed younger people the option to switch out of it into some sort of voucher system.

            The rich should complain when they already pay far more than their “fair share”
            and politicians and
            big government types continue to vilify them and try to pick their pockets further to clean up the messes they’ve created. Disgusting.

          • hennorama

            pete18 – TY for your response. I understand and respect your views. Clearly we have different opinions.

            As to Federal payroll taxes – I find it impossible to leave them out of this discussion, in the same way that it’s impossible to leave out Federal excise taxes, corporate taxes, estate taxes, customs and duties, etc. That’s because these other revenue sources are more than half of all Federal revenues. Payroll taxes alone were 35.6% of Federal revenue in 2011, while Individual Income taxes (FIT) were 47.4%.

            Even taking all this into account, and focusing only on FEDERAL taxes, those with the highest levels of income do not pay much more of the total revenue compared to their share of total income. And this is BY DESIGN, as many with low incomes were purposely removed from Federal Income Tax rolls by the Bush II tax cuts. “The 47%” pay no FIT legally. As another poster pointed out ” It’s the law…”

            Martin Amis’ point was that “the rich” everywhere else recognize that they have a responsibility to AT LEAST pay their fair share, and acknowledge their added responsibility to society due to their fortunate status. The may complain about their taxes, as nearly everyone does, but they perceive the truth of Luke 12:48 – “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

          • pete18

            The devil is in the term “fair share,” which is a moving target for
            big government/ tax the rich types. Please, can you tell us specifically how one measures “fair share”?

            And you’re wrong about the percentage of taxes paid versus income at the federal level, the rich pay far more than they earn:http://www.american.com/archive/2007/november-december-magazine-contents/guess-who-really-pays-the-taxes

          • hennorama

            pete18 – again, the linked article refers ONLY to INCOME taxes and ignores all other Federal revenue sources.

          • pete18

            Just a follow up from your note below; income and payroll taxes  make up the bulk of the federal tax burden (81%). Corporate taxes, which affect upper incomes the hardest are 9% of the share, excise taxes are 3% and estate and gift are 1%. This is why the income tax gets the most attention and has the most significance in this debate on the federal end. 
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Federal_Receipts_by_Source,_2010.jpg

            I don’t think the payroll tax can be included in this calculation because
            by law and function it serves a completely different purpose from the other federal taxes.
            However, even if you do, it in reality is NOT a regressive tax, even though it appears to be
            at first glance.

            http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443684104578063140488175464.html

          • hennorama

            pete18 – TY for your response and the links. I understand and respect your views and the arguments you present.

            My view is simple – if money is collected by the Federal government, it has to be part of the overall discussion, regardless of whether “by law and function it serves a completely different purpose” as you say. Since payroll tax receipts are not segregated from other revenues, i.e. there is no “lockbox,” they simply get spent as soon as they come in. The discussion would be quite different if they were not, as Social Security surpluses would not be available to pay for other Federal outlays. Plus Medicare is not self-funding, getting about 40% of its funding from general Federal revenues and borrowing.

            Finally, as I’ve said before, Mr. Romney included the Self-employment taxes he paid as part of his “tax burden,” which should end the argument about whether they are part of the overall Federal “tax burden.”

            BTW – Heritage has 2011 Federal revenue by source info here:

            http://www.heritage.org/federalbudget/federal-revenue-sources

          • TomK_in_Boston

            Geez, talking points again.

            Guess what, pete18, the more income the rich have, the more income tax they’ll pay. If they get all the income, they’ll pay all the income tax, and I guess you’ll be be telling us what a tremendous burden they are bearing.

            The reality is that the only meaningful indicator is the effective tax rate, and that is at a post-WW2 low for the rich.

            http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e8/US_high-income_effective_tax_rates.png

          • pete18

             Exactly, that’s why there’s no need for a progressive rate, which is inherently unfair. People should be treated equally under the law, so make the rate flat. The more you earn the more you pay.

          • nj_v2

            A progressive rate is treating people fairly.

            People (and corporations) who make more from public systems and infrastructure profit disproportionally from those who make less.  

            They should pay a higher percentage for the services —banking system, legal system, transportation system, etc.—that they use disproportionatley more.

          • pete18

            They don’t make money from the public systems, which they already pay for with their tax dollars, they make money based on what they do.

          • TomK_in_Boston

            You say a progressive rate is unfair, I say it’s fair. It was taken for granted as the American way for a long time. 

            Paying 20% on $1 million is a lot less of a burden than paying 10% on $50 K.

          • pete18

            “It was taken for granted as the American way for a long time. ”

            So was slavery and men only voting.

            I didn’t realize “fairness” was determined by a subjective measurement of burden., I thought it was equal treatment under the law.

          • nj_v2

            Good idea. Seriously.

            At some point, say $1 billion, make the rate 100%. There is no benefit, and clear detriment to concentration of wealth beyond a reasonable point.

            Outlaw billionaires.

          • pete18

            Yeah, another good idea. Outlaw Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, then you wouldn’t have any way to post your crazy proposals online.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/AKBAMLGYGI64O6MWVH4OL5UVCI Monti

    For the last 2.5 years I have been looking for permanent full time employment (with descent pay) and have taken temp. or part time employment to make ends meet. I am not eligible for unemployment and have bills to pay. My last job ended the end of Nov 2011. I own my home but have a home equity loan (25K) and a credit card (6K) balance. I have utilized all my savings (you need more than 3 months by the way) to live except for my IRAs – a very small retirement ($18K) with a huge fee to withdraw. Cashing this out is my last resort and will be happening if employment does not come soon.
    Monti

    • JGC

      I am afraid if you are looking for a job with ‘descent’ pay, employers are only too willing to accommodate you.  On the other hand, if you are looking for ‘decent’ pay, that will be much more difficult to come by.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QMDZ3LH5U2B4GAT7J2HS4TCP6E Jim

    My suggestion to people… ask your government and corporations to bring back the pension plan… and ask them to stop this gimmick scheme.

    btw. 401k is a way for owners and rich corporations to move their fiduciary obligation to take care of their fellow employees to the employees. and the government allows it.

    lastly, why do you want to pay Fidelity and these retirement companies to take care of your hard earned cash? you are paying them ADMINISTRATIVE FEES to manage your money when 98% of them can’t even beat the index funds? NOW, that is insult to injury.

    i rather spend my hard earn cash and place some of them in US Treasuries and German bonds.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      …and that’s why the pols who are the pawns of the financial RICO just LOVE privatized SS.

  • 2Gary2

    When I had to cash in my small 403B during the time I was unemployed my choice was to either give up eating and living indoors now (I was 43) or worry about retirement 20-25 years down the road.  With 4 young children and only low pay jobs available (one of which I took at 1/2 my former wage) it was not a difficult choice.  While I agree that folks should save for retirement, in this low wage environment that is mostly not a realistic choice.  With the extreme wealth and income inequality in this country I see many folks never able to retire.

    • Clark MGB

      I think that is the 1%’s plan, have all us prole’s work ’till we die……the American dream is dead.

  • spages

    I think a big problem is that when times are good and people are doing well, they don’t choose to save. It is only when they hit a bump in the road that they become resourceful.

  • harverdphd

    OMG…a show for Cory Thatcher

  • harverdphd

     You lost again…you may need a new hobby.

  • harverdphd

    Depends…how much cheese does the trap hold…and what is the mouse’s threshold?

  • harverdphd

     But most can….you raise the some are poor strawman.

  • WaynePardue

    I

  • StilllHere

    Debt is clearly a choice.  Some choose to live within their means.  Others borrow from their future.  Debt is a tool, so read the instructions and don’t operate while intoxicated. 

    • Suzinne Sayles

      Not everyone gets into debt because they’re buying themselves big ticket items and taking vacations.  Sometimes people lose their jobs, unemployment runs out and as a last resort they depend on credit to put food in their mouths.

      As you look down from your lofty tower, things are not as simple as you view them.

      • StilllHere

        I’m sure that’s true for some small minority.  With 93% employment, it’s not true for most.  In any case, I would think that credit would be hard to come by in those circumstances and even less appropriate.

        • jackiero

          Not true. My sister blew through her savings within weeks–and she had excellent insurance–when she got cancer. So sure, if life or death was a debt choice, then she is surely guilty. No matter that it ultimately claimed her life and her husband is saddled with that debt. But lucky her for dying because she never could have afforded the new premiums. Judging by the number of folks in her cancer group facing the same things, it’s hardly a minority.

    • 1Brett1

      “Some choose to live within their means.  Others borrow from their future.”

      Seems a profound lack of imagination, at the least, to consider one’s choices could only ever possibly between these two. (Of course, if I’m being presumptuous, I do apologize; you may just be getting into character for next year’s repertory production of A Christmas Carol…of so, congrats on being chosen for that role; you are perfectly cast.)

      • StilllHere

        Just reality actually, you should try it.  But you seem to have made a career out of playing the victim of circumstances supposedly beyond your control.  Maybe your Golden Globe will come next year.

        • 1Brett1

          “…you seem to have made a career out of playing the victim of circumstances supposedly beyond your control.” 

          How so, specifically? Being that you know nothing about my education, career, lifestyle, finances, etc., what, specifically, are you talking about, or what would lead you to make such a false conclusion? 

        • nj_v2

          ^Troll

    • GrnMachine

      That is a pat answer to a complicated question.  Of course, some are irresponsible.  But a lost job, catastrophic illness, a sudden death, or other unforeseen problems can easily lead ANYONE into a downward financial spiral.  For many among us, debt is not a choice, and an uncaring dismissive response is not helpful.

    • http://www.facebook.com/adam.plager Adam Plager

      I couldn’t agree more with you.  In 99% of the situations, I here the person confusing a choice with a need.   Beyond an unexpected medical situation, it’s a choice.   Borrowing money to pursue a degrees which have no commercial value is simply a bad choice.   Borrowing money to make the down payment on a house is a bad choice.   You can rent a house and you can succeed in the US without a degree.   The problem is that people don’t see that when the choice occurs.   It occurs when you take out that massive student loan to obtain a degree with no commercial value or when you take out a loan to buy a house you can’t afford.   Once you’ve made those choices, NPR is right, you don’t have a choice but to take out loans.   However, it was the choices made long prior to the bad situation that got you into this.   

  • fox_mdx

    I’m new in US (for 4 years), I’m thinking to buy a house. 
    Still trying to understand the expenses that I’ll have to face it.  

    1) I just can’t understand why the Closing Costs is so high ~$4500
    With today’s IT technology should be no more than $450

    Also because I cannot pay off 20%, monthly I’ll have to pay +$200 for Mortgage Insurance
    For what? The house should have some minimal price, and for overpriced portion it’s ok to buy “mortgage insurance”.
    No risk for lender. From my understanding, the purpose of this insurance is to ensure that lender will have their money back.

    So at the end, 4K portion from Closing Costs could go to pay down more with +4K
    And monthly payment more with $200

    2) Why the lender can sell the loan (if they want) at the nocost,
    but the homeowner change have to go through Closing Costs and other fee?

    For example if I bought the house and want (or I have to) to sell it the same year
    I will lose at least 4.5k 

    By focusing on minimal home price and by minimizing transactions fee homeowner is flexible, easy to sell, easy to buy. Can’t afford it, sell it faster, no foreclosure…
    Everyone is happy, except army of lobbyists and huge fake fee based industry. 

    • green_grrl

      All these topics (and more) are covered in Home Buying for Dummies, which I would strongly recommend reading before you make a home purchase.  They cover  everything from the home buying decision (evaluating the neighborhood and school system, how much house you can afford, which houses you shouldn’t consider), to different types of mortgages, how to negotiate/research the price, interest rates, points, credit score, and even discuss including buying a house if you are planning on moving within five years.  Good luck!  

    • hider007

      wait for a while, at the moment you’re not brainwashed enough, to think differently

    • hider007

      .

  • http://twitter.com/arvindnswamy Arvind Narayanaswamy

    Listening to Kristin Seefeldt and Michelle Jones, I can hear a lot of what Elizabeth Warren was talking years ago – see this interview recorded originally in 2004 – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GHg3GAeQ1Y

    The same problems persist.

  • TomK_in_Boston

    Congrats to Gov Patrick in MA for doing the right thing by proposing to raise the income tax rate while cutting the sales tax, which makes the code more progressive, opposite to what Jindal proposes.

    Now if we could only get the income tax rate to increase with increasing income instead of being flat. However, even a flat income tax is more progressive than a sales tax.

  • Regular_Listener

    Ouch – pretty grim picture.  I don’t personally know many people who are in the situations discussed here, not that I move in such affluent circles.  Possibly most people prefer to keep these kinds of problems private. 

    And I thought everything was supposed to be getting better!  That is what the media has been telling me.  Housing prices rebounding, the job market improving or at least levelling out.  Maybe what we are seeing here is a new normal.  But it seems like in America that is the one thing you cannot say.  You can talk about race, sexuality, religion, drug use, et cetera – but you cannot suggest that the economy is no longer in a state of constant growth.

    • ExcellentNews

      What really makes the picture grim is that the billionaires who are behind the credit card lending business pay 10% in taxes (not to mention that the rate of return on their investment is over 20%…)

  • Chelsea Sargent

    Yes! My husband and I are keeping close track and pinching pennies, but my husband has a different work schedule every week, it’s not enough hours. He’s taken a break from applying for more steady work to build experience by taking a class (another expense) and doing an internship, but planning for anything like a side job is difficult with his irregular schedule – not to mention us having time to see each other.

  • Kevin B

    I definitely believe that the middle class has been just crushed.  I am entirely sympathetic.  However, it is very clear to me that we need a great deal of education.  The young couple without 20% and wishing to purchase a house does not understand some simple facts.

    1.  You should NEVER, EVER borrow from your 401K.  The fees and interest are not the issue, although they certainly add  to the problem. You are borrowing money that is tax deferred and repaying it with taxed dollars…setting yourself up for double taxation.  When he pays back the loan, he will essentially be putting money that was already taxed back in his 401K and then when he takes it out when he retires, he will pay taxes on it again.  If you borrow 100K and are taxed at 29%, that just cost you 29K…that’s IN ADDITION to whatever the terms (fees, interest) were on the loan.  Dollars to donuts he would have been better renting a place for a year or two, saving and then buying.

    2.  One of the best predictors as to whether a borrower will be able to pay the loan back is if he or she has the discipline to save the 20% down payment.  The fact that he wants to borrow more than he really should AND the fact that should the market fall 10% (if you have 10% down), he could just default and walk away most certainly makes it a bad credit risk.

    • ExcellentNews

      Why don’t you just borrow money from your Dad, like George W Bush the III, Mittens, and Grover Nordquist did?

  • ExcellentNews

    “Using their credit cards to shop at WalMart, while the billionaire oligarchs get rewarded with more tax cuts for cutting jobs and wages”.  This will be the epitaph of the great American Republic.

    • ExcellentNews

      Indentured servitude is alive and well. We the people voted out slavery and indentured servitude, but the oligarchs figured out how to get around the problem…

ONPOINT
TODAY
Apr 23, 2014
In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, file photo, Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., shows a tablet displaying his company's technology, in New York. Aereo is one of several startups created to deliver traditional media over the Internet without licensing agreements. (AP)

The Supreme Court looks at Aereo, the little startup that could cut your cable cord and up-end TV as we’ve known it. We look at the battle. Plus: a state ban on affirmative action in college admissions is upheld. We’ll examine the implications.

Apr 23, 2014
Attendees of the 2013 Argentina International Coaching Federation meet for networking and coaching training. (ICF)

The booming business of life coaches. Everybody seems to have one these days. Therapists are feeling the pinch. We look at the life coach craze.

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Apr 22, 2014
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As a new Tyrannosaurus Rex arrives at the Smithsonian, we’ll look at its home – pre-historic Montana – and the age when dinosaurs ruled the Earth.

 
Apr 22, 2014
Security forces inspect the site of a suicide attack in the town of Suwayrah, 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, April 21, 2014. Suicide bombings and other attacks across Iraq killed and wounded dozens on Monday, officials said, the latest in an uptick in violence as the country counts down to crucial parliament elections later this month. (AP)

We look at Iraq now, two years after Americans boots marched out. New elections next week, and the country on the verge of all-out civil war.

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Friday, Apr 18, 2014

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Some Tools And Tricks For College Financial Aid
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