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Every now and then a film comes along which should be viewed by every single American. Such a film is the recently released In Debt We Trust- America Before the Bubble Bursts. This is a video by highly acclaimed documentary director, Danny Schechter. Among his more than 20 other recognized films is the award-winning expose Weapons of Mass Destruction.
His newest release, In Debt We Trust is inspired by the works of an individual who is no stranger to this site - Dr. Robert Manning, a Research Professor of Consumer Financial Services at Rochester Institute of Technology and the author of Credit Card Nation (Basic Books, 2000). The film gives great insight into the impact debt is having on young people and our society, and offers ways to empower the public with information on avoiding the traps of debt and dependency.
A frequently invited expert at U.S. Congressional hearings, Dr. Manning's consumer credit research has influenced public policy debate on consumer debt issues. He has become one of the most outspoken critics of the nation's consumer spending habits and lending practices.
According to Dr. Manning, the documentary helps expose several disturbing patterns, such as banking deregulation:
"...deregulation of the banking industry in the 1980s has unleashed powerful forces that encourage banks to over lend and seduce consumers to overspend....People could be managing their lives better, but the odds are stacked against them."
I caught with director Danny Schechter. Danny's comments were as hard-hitting as his film:
"In Debt We Trust... is about a growing inequality that some experts fear will lead to a new 21st century serfdom. It’s about the transfer of wealth from working people into the vaults and accounts of a relatively small number of financial institutions and real estate interests. The lenders are profiting by charging usurious rates and doing so legally, in part, because they have mastered the art and science of marketing products and then manipulating media, politicians, and political institutions.
Most often, credit card abuses are examined in terms of individuals and consumer scams like identity theft. My film started with that approach but evolved into a much deeper look at what’s been called “financialization.” This is an institutional problem involving a growing debt-and-credit complex that threatens the very fabric of our nation, not just in terms of a possible financial crash in the future but how it is impinging upon our lives and livelihoods right now."
As a fellow consumer action reporter and counselor, I strongly encourage every reader to look for this film in one of its 4 versions: 30 minute television production, DVD version, full length theater version, or international version. Regardless of which version you watch, be prepared for a strong call to action.
In the words of the director:
"Many at the TV news networks whom I have worked with over the years say you can’t cover complex issues, especially on economic questions, because “the dismal science” is boring and a turn-off.
My film is out to prove them wrong. The American public needs to know why debt has become “the enemy,” in the words of one of the people we interviewed. All Americans need to know what we can do about it.”
I can only hope that the documentary garners mainstream media attention as it is a much-needed wake-up call. We simply can't continue on the same course for very long.
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