We Don’t Talk About That…

January 11th, 2016 by elaine

I just happened to notice on a recent credit card statement in very tiny print, I do not mean Eighty-and-then-some tiny, I mean really tiny print, the following sentence to explain the Payment Period Remaining:

If each month you pay the Minimum Amount Due only ………7 years 9 months

By which they mean if I pay $20 a month and don’t buy another thing in 7 years and 9 months, just on the present balance which is not due until the end of the month, it will take me that long to be free and clear.  They do not mention how much interest I will have paid in that time, but since I have a Preferred interest rate of “only” 19.75%, it will be huge of course.  Lucky them!  Lucky me, they also have a Standard Rate of 23.99% and a Basic Rate of 26.99%, and I could get one of those if I miss a payment or am late with one.

Now here’s a bit of a mystery:  from a different institution I have another credit card on which my current balance is $100 more than on the other one, and my interest rate is 19.99%.  Here I am more pleasantly informed: Time to Pay If you make only the Minimum payment each month, ($10), we estimate it will take 6 years and 8 months to fully repay the outstanding balance.

I am not bad on interest rate math, honestly, but this is way beyond my capabilities.  Why if I have a hundred dollars more to pay at a slightly higher interest rate (19.99 instead of 19.75) and half the minimum payment ($10 instead of $20) would it take me a year and a month less time to get to ZERO?  Something is kind of smelly here.

But I am not doing my investigative reporting gig here, I am doing my socially humanitarian THAT’S NOT FAIR!!! gig.  I am able to pay my credit cards in full every month (both are joint accounts), but I know there are lots of people who cannot.  This is the INEQUALITY that’s not talked about.  This is the DESTINY of the working poor.  This is surely a form of slavery, indentured servitude; this is surely stacking the deck, loading the dice, stealing from the poor to give to the rich.

I grew up in the 1930′s Depression.  There were no credit cards at the time and there was not much money around, but there was credit.  My mother had a “charge account” at a department store.  I think the deal was you got 30 days to pay.  I’m not sure.  But I heard my mother on the phone, with great dignity, assuring the credit department she would pay, she would pay, she would pay…. not to worry.  The other kind of credit was friendlier: a man would come to the kitchen door every Thursday or every other one, or whatever, to collect for the insurance company.  In fact, it reminds me of the  milk man, the paper boy, and there must have been other collectors as well.

To all those voices who are calmly insisting If you can’t afford to pay, you shouldn’t buy! – PLEASE!  You are only revealing your ignorance of pure poverty, real need, the way the world is today. The fact is if you don’t have money you cannot make money. The fact is you cannot GET credit if you don’t have a credit card.  And no one can survive without credit.

Here is a true story:  a person has been out of work for some time; the factory where she used to work moved to Mexico or China.  She finally gets the offer of a good job 30 miles from where she lives.  No public transportation will get her there and back in the time she needs to be there and home again when her children need her most.  She goes to buy a used car hoping the small amount of money she has been able to accumulate will serve as a down payment.  She eventually finds a car – of course the sales person assures her it is in top form.  Whether or not the down payment is adequate, the interest rate on the balance is 26.95% or more.  It will take longer to pay back this loan than the car will live.  In fact, half way through the deal, or less, the car’s value is less than she still owes.  This scenario does not include food, clothing, or shelter; it does not include repairs to the vehicle, snow tires, or gas.

I suspect it is a side effect of advanced years – men as well as women – to weep very easily.  Perhaps it is understandable that when one has seen such INEQUALITY, such UNFAIRNESS over a great number of years, the well of sadness and fury overflows with the merest addition.

Did I mention fury too late?  How come interest rates for credit cards never go down even as the interest rates for any modest savings account one might have in a bank have shrunk to close to zero?  How come people who are poor get squeezed to death?   How come people who make tons of money can lie and manipulate and criticize their victims?  How come those who foster and encourage corporate greed are not found guilty of crimes against humanity?

We don’t talk about that…

©Elaine A. Zimbel 2016

Posted in Eighty and then some..., Letters to the corporation, Uncategorized


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