Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Maxed Out


Film: Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders
Director: James Scurlock
Distributor: Truly Indie, Netflix
Technical: Digital Video
Date: 2007
Length: 90 min

The main point of this film seems to be, the financial institutions force you to play their game with credit, and then divide and conquer. The extreme profits made in interest, late penalties, and fees, all tied to FICO scores (supposedly a measure of how much "merit" you have financially) seem to be predicated on a business model that assumes people borrow too much because they don't make enough, so they become the news slaves, like sharecroppers or coal miners paying rent in the company town.

There is a scene showing debt collectors in Minneapolis. The managers claim that they can call neighbors, but that is not true. I worked for a while as a debt collector for Risk Management Alternatives (RMA) in 2003 in St. Paul, and mostly we followed the FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) strictly. In most states you can't talk to anyone but the debtor or legal spouse -- not even children.

Elizabeth Warren (author of the book The Two Income Trap) provides a lot of commentary in interview mode.

Picture: Katrina damage near Love Canal, New Orleans, Feb. 2006.

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