Sunday, May 04, 2008

I occasionally write satire for a local magazine. I wanted to post one of them here...

Debtor Nation

Recently flipping through the mail, I opened Time Magazine to read an article regarding the sad state of real estate and the ballooning mortgage crisis (yawn). Suddenly the article tossed out the hard-to-believe fact the over 60% of our population is in debt. Really?

The article nattered on about economic facts and fears, but frankly it could have gone on to announce the discovery of free gasoline. My brain was stuck on that darn statistic. As a product of the Florida public school system, I instinctively reached for a calculator and a beer.

If 60% of my neighbors are swimming in debt… tap, tap, tap...and the remainder is not… that leaves… Damn! If only I had learned how to use the percent function on my calculator. Even with my limited math skills, I could understand that bunches and bunches of people have very little debt.

Who are these wealthy, unfettered people? Are they newly arrived immigrants from Free-Cash Island, unaware of our long tradition of credit card spending and a culture of “buy now, foreclose later”? Welcome to America, strangers. We are a proud shopper nation!

I could picture them huddled quasi-naked in darkened (but debt-free) alleys, with their empty pockets, blissfully unaware of the seduction of Whole Foods, Calvin Klein, or Jimmy Choo. Oh, the humanity! Hopefully, they had cobbled together some sort of lifestyle from dusty thrift bins and local shelters. At least they could meet their investment bankers with heads held high. Even so, had this mythical 40% never encountered the money-mafia? Debt dealers like Bright House, AutoNation, or (shudder) Countrywide Home Mortgage? Even a brief fling with one of these titans could reduce Melinda Gates to a twitching payday-advance addict.

Then the answer hit me like a bad credit score.

This strange minority of Americans is… older people. They are practically an entire civilization! They don’t need credit cards. Pension payments and dividends land on their shoulder like bluebirds. They nibble on little plates of food. They clip coupons while watching Jeopardy on tiny screens. Worst of all - they save money.

Glory! I don’t have to worry about my personal volcano of debt because I’m still relatively young. I can eat out, chat with my Five Favs, and pay-per-view myself into a stupor every night.

I dropped the magazine and glanced at the next piece of mail: a cheerful red, white and blue envelope. It was an invitation to join AARP.

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