(A computer keyboard-lashing) February 23, 2002

Though our economic decline was aggravated by the instability caused by the attack on America, it was deeply disturbing to see the results of financial excess and irresponsibility of the 1990's.

Indeed, when bankruptcy filings increased 19% to a record 1.5 million in 2001, a deeper look into the consumer credit market reveals even more troubling matters.

Of the 1.5 million bankruptcies, 1.45 million were consumers, which underscores the massive accumulation of $1.65 trillion in consumer debt by the end of 2001. And when the average America household with at least one credit card had $8,563 in card debt, it begs for answers.

Contrary to political belief, it was not the newly elected Clinton administration that raised the economy out of the 1992 recession blip to the '"irrational exuberance" of Wall Street. Rather, it was the unabated growth of investor mania and unabated consumer spending driven by relentless commercialism and unscrupulous credit card companies.

Most of the 8 million consumers who filed bankruptcy since 1996, and many millions more, have experienced the unconscionable predatory practices of credit mongers who, not unlike drug dealers, have hooked people on getting high on easy money from plastic, including college students and even high schoolers.

But no one tells them that they can be blacklisted by creditors for 7 years for negative credit information provided to credit reporting agencies, or for 10 years beyond the bankruptcy stigma, that is, until it's too late. Of course, that's when credit vultures like Providian drop in to pick their bones with unlimited interest rates and penalties.

Alas, in the fury of spending "feel good" money that people don't have for many things they don't need, coupled with average savings on the negative side, it seems almost impossible to return to the idea of paying for everything up front, except for cars and houses. SUV's shouldn't count, simply because the auto industry made enough of a $killing on them already.

Daniel B. Jeffs, founder
The Direct Democracy Center