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   Vampires Who Suck Liberty: How Banks Keep Americans Indentured to Debt


Vampires Who Suck Liberty: How Banks Keep Americans Indentured to Debt

by Philip Chadbourne

”Most Americans suffer from a form of modern-day serfdom....65 million families maintain revolving debt. Interest rates are normally between 18 percent and 22 percent.”
George W. Bush wants to "liberate" Iraq. Although Americans are eager to share the principles of the Founding Fathers and Mothers with their Iraqi sisters and brothers, they do little to protect their own individual liberty. Most Americans suffer from a form of modern-day serfdom.

According to Debt Free Consolidation, 65 million families maintain "revolving debt . . . Credit cards are the largest form of revolving debt, but store credit and other short-term, high-interest rates help contribute to this problem." Interest rates are "normally between 18 percent and 22 percent." There's actually a bank in Georgia that charges over 35 percent.

I once thought that bankers were legitimate-looking criminals who slithered around in suits. Nay. They are far worse. Bankers are vampires--without soul, integrity, or conscience -- who suck liberty out of their victims. Sadly, America, a nation of consumers, thinks that vampirism is acceptable.

It is incomprehensible why unbridled capitalism that enslaves people to debt is not outlawed. Just do the math. A credit card rate at 18% will take the victim decades before the balance is paid. And that's assuming the victim doesn't make additional charges.

Twenty years ago, 18% would be illegal. Today, the sky can be the limit. Credit card interest rates are capped only at the state level. A federal law is long overdue to both cap and cut rates.

The sleaziness of bankers is underscored by the numerous unethical gimmicks they engage in. A victim might be maxed out on their credit card, but often the bank will authorize the store to approve a transaction and then hit the consumer with a penalty. Why was the transaction ever approved? Why is this legal?

If a person is out of work and is having difficulty making the minimum payment, why does the interest rate go from 18% to 21% or 25%? If the unemployed victim is having difficulty making a payment at 18% how does a higher interest rate help the situation? You've become an indentured servant.

Oddly, banks have squawked about the number of bankruptcies, due in part to credit card debt. They've asked Congress, most of whose members get campaign contributions from these vampires, to make it more difficult for consumers to declare bankruptcy. These are the same people who ask for congressional bailouts every time they've made poor investments overseas or in monster shopping malls.
”Oddly, banks have asked Congress to make it more difficult for consumers to declare bankruptcy. These are the same people who ask for congressional bailouts every time they make poor investments overseas or in monster shopping malls.”

Of course, bankers, like some exotic creature of the night, want to be your friend. In some cases they've set up "non-profit" organizations to discourage a victim from filing bankruptcy. After all, they contend, it will ruin the person for life. Funny, but every person I ever knew who went bankrupt ended up getting a credit card about a year after filing.

Miss a few payments and your credit rating is down the tubes. So if you're credit rating is going down due to illness or loss of job, go with gusto! (By the way, I'm not making recommendations or offering legal advice.)

The success of the banking industry is based, in part, on people staying in debt. The credit card industry has thrived on such encouragement. Think about what they do to college students. Some young men and women, with only a minimum wage job, get a $10,000 credit line. Why?

The trap is set. Encourage debt. Tack on fees and interest. The bank has a revenue source for the life of the victim. Of course this goes well beyond college students. The elderly routinely rack up debt because they have no other way of buying prescription drugs. As noted above, millions of ordinary middle class families are indentured servants and don't even know it.

It's just dandy that Cowboy Dubya has liberated the Iraqi people. In doing so, however, let's hope he doesn't introduce Iraq to unbridled capitalism thereby creating the illusion of a free society driven by cheap consumerism rather than a dignified quality of life.

Philip Chadbourne considers himself a reasonable voice in an unreasonable world. He may be reached at

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This story was published on May 8, 2003.
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