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 A Declaration of Independence for the Indebted States of America

 Author:  Topic:  Posted:
Jul 11, 2001
Millions of honest, hard-working USians are today, through no fault of their own, deprived of their Constitutional right to "the pursuit of happiness" by the machinations of the financial sector. Despite working hard and paying their taxes, these people are forced, day after day, to hand over up to half of their hard-earned wages to a shadowy, unlected cabal of multinational organisations, for no better reason that, one day several years ago, they happened to receive a pre-authorised credit card through the mail. By a mixture of clever marketing and (in the case of student loans) outright force, the global banking industry has managed to place a burden of debt on the back of the Average USian which is larger right now in real terms than at any time during this country's history.

It's time to say "Ya Basta - No More". It's time to stop playing by their rules and start living our lives again. It's time to imitate our founding fathers and have a Boston Tea Party for this iniquitous burden of debt -- a bonfire of the usuries, if you will.

Once more, 225 years after the original, it's time for "we the people" to stand up to those who would take the bread out of our mouths in the name of "economy". It's time for a Declaration of Independence for the Indebted States of America.


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First, let's have some facts and figures; the current amount of outstanding debt in the USA is US$4 trillion. Subtracting mortgages and small business loans, that's US$28,000 for every man, woman and child in the USA. Of course, the burden of debt doesn't fall anything like as evenly as that; women and minorities tend to carry far more of the burden thanks to predatory tactics on the part of the banking industry such as "redlining" and "front-end-loading". But taking the average figure as a ballpark, we can see that if the average US citizen applied his entire post-tax income to debt service on New Year's Day, forgetting all about such niceties as food, clothes and accomodation, he would still be in hock three weeks after next Easter! Forget about Tax Freedom Day, we need to celebrate Debt Freedom Day, except that we can't do that because it doesn't look like we're ever going to get away from the debt burden! In fact, all the burden does is increase, thanks to what sarcastic "investment counsellors" and other glorified loan sharks like to call the "miracle of compound interest". And miracle it is -- if you happen to own a bank.

People of the USA, this is not natural, it's not normal and it's not fair. It's not possible to go about building the Land Of The Free and the Home Of The Brave if you have to go home at the end of the day and worry about how the hell you're going to pay off the latest credit card bill. Do you think that Thomas Jefferson carried a twenty grand student loan? How about Ben Franklin? Would John Hancock have ever put his John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence if he had to spend all his time trying to stop his coach-and-four from being repossessed by the finance company? This financial burden is a depressant on the natural revolutionary spirit of the USA, and it's a savage emotional burden on the average USian. It's a problem for us all, and it's time to solve it.

Make no mistake, this debt problem is a creation of the lenders, not the borrowers. As Malcolm X said in a different context, "We never landed on Plymouth Rock! Plymouth Rock landed on us!". Here's some facts for you:

  • Average years education of the average US citizen in 1968: 8.8
  • Average years education of the US marketing industry in 1968: 10.5

  • Average years education of the average US citizen in 1998: 12.4
  • Average years education of the US marketing industry in 1998: 16.8
It doesn't take a rocket scientist (half of whom work in the marketing industry these days anyway) to interpret these figures; the gap between the sophistication of the average USian and the marketing material to which he is exposed has never been larger and is growing every day. Or do you think that the typical US citizen is burdened down with $28,000 of debt because he chose to be that way? Would you choose that kind of life for yourself, if you had the choice? Do you remember ever being offered the choice? That last one's a trick question, because the marketing industry, through its control of the "financial-education complex" made sure that you never were offered that choice. Citizen, you were born to be in debt.

Every year it gets more difficult to live in the USA without a credit card -- the invention of the Net was a big step forward in that regard. Don't want to hand over the sweat of your brow to financial parasites? Well, forget about having a college education, buddy. When the Soviet Union used to keep the children of dissidents out of college, deny them medical attention, make it impossible for them to get an automobile and force them to buy their food in the worst shops in town, we created a hell of a stink and rightly so. But the credit industry does this to us every day and noone seems to care a damn thing about it! Ya Basta, USia, No More!

Some people say that the banks should be punished for creating this unholy, undemocratic mess. That's wrong. Confiscating bank charters and taking people's rightfully owned businesses away from them ain't how we do things in the US of A. And in any case, it's completely unnecessary. All we have to do, is declare independence from our debts. And how do we do that? Easy as pie my friend. Just. Stop. Paying. Them.

What I'm proposing is a one-off, unilaterally declared amnesty, covering credit cards, student loans, auto loans, all forms of consumer credit other than mortgages. It would be perfectly possible without changing the law, it wouldn't cost too much for the banking system (which must realise that half of this debt is never going to be paid off anyway, for the simple reason that it can't be -- that's why they offer you "consolidation loans" in recognition that the only way the average USian pays his interest bill is by taking out a new loan), and it sure as hell would give the country a shot in the arm. We need to say to the banking system that, while they provide (or used to provide) a valuable service, this does not give them the right to take over our lives with their save burden of interest payments and their rinky-dink, mind-games marketing tactics. Doing something about credit card marketing might be a priority for the future -- personally, I can't see how regulation of credit card advertising would be consistent with the First Amendment. But clearly, for now, the most important thing is to lift the dead weight of debt from our democracy. If you'll permit me an analogy, when you've got a monkey on your back, you don't worry about how you're going to clean out the cage you're going to put him, or how much you're going to get when you sell him. Your first thought has to be; how am I gonna get this damn monkey off my back. And the answer always is; smack him upside the head and stop feeding him bananas, you chump. And that, in a manner of speaking, is what I propose that we do to the banking system. Except that they ain't no monkey. They're a ten ton gorilla, and they're sitting on Lady Liberty.

So let's start off with our own Boston Tea Party. When your next interest bill comes through the door, just throw the damn thing in the river. They can't put all of us in their debtors' prisons. And when you're driving down the street in your new debt free new-model Beetle, give a thought to good ol' John Hancock and Sam Adams, won't ya?


How about this for a start (none / 0) (#10)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Jul 11th, 2001 at 09:52:36 AM PST
OK, I do have and use a credit card. I pay it off every month without fail to avoid the interest. I have a shiny new (well, 6mo old) car. It is not leased. It was paid for the day I drove it off the lot. I paid for it by saving up money for several years while driving an old beater. I have created simple spreadsheets of my monthly bills, examining my spending and savings. I can figure out on average how much per month I have to spend on non-necessities (computer parts, movie rentals, etc).

In short, I have a budget and I stick to it. Why can't some people understand the concept of spending within your means?

get real (none / 0) (#12)
by jsm on Wed Jul 11th, 2001 at 09:59:29 AM PST
This modern economy doesn't work on "sticking to budgets" and "living within your means". Citigroup didn't become a $200bn company by people "living within their means". Look up Keynes and the Paradox of Thrift before you start being so sure that the path of virtue lies in being a skinflint.

In actual fact by refusing to consume, you are helping to create the current recession -- a deeply antisocial act. People don't "live within their means" because the modern, credit-based economy cannot survive if they do, and therefore the financial industry will go to any trouble necessary to ensure that they do not.

That was sort of the point of the article.

... the worst tempered and least consistent of the editors
... now also Legal department and general counsel,

Citibank makes plenty off of me (none / 0) (#14)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Jul 11th, 2001 at 10:23:47 AM PST
They and every other credit card co gets 2% or so from every purchase. They can make plenty o' money without resorting to trapping people with exorbitant interest.

Ok... NOW I see where this was going... (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by Anonymous Reader on Tue Dec 18th, 2001 at 06:07:20 PM PST
I rather enjoy your articles (especially the Linux ones - thank God someone else gets the idea that if you make your money selling service and support - there's precious little motivation to make the software easy to install and use... :) and this one had me scratching my head. I was waiting for the 'well ferchrissakes - don't USE the bloody things' line... which never came.

But this is even better.. the notion that we MUST spend to keep the economy going - the indentured consumer.

If you think about how capitalism works, it's a pyramid scheme - the total earning value of all the goods produced *has* to exceed the cost of manufacture or you don't make profit - and that includes the wages of all the workers and management (which are 'controllable') and the cost of raw materials (which is less controllable).

That means that it is literally impossible for everyone to buy back the very stuff they (collectively) produce. Enter credit - a form of welfare charged against the future where people are 'given' money to be able to buy the excess production on the hope that the economy will continuously grow enough to give them enough earnings to pay not only for what they need at the time, but for the money they've borrowed AND the interest (profit) on the loan in the first place. Sheesh - can it get any stupider? Doesn't anyone notice that no matter when you slice it - you're going to still need MORE money to cover current purchases and the past ones (and the profit taken for loaning you the money?)

Eventually, and wonderfully contradictorily to the nearly religious view that free market capitalism works perfectly - the system will be so over burdened with surplus production that companies have to cut employment and wages (the only part they can completely control) - which of course, depletes the consumer side of the equation - causing MORE overproduction.

Enter the Stock Market Crash... one great way for a society to reset is to crash and simply wipe the slate clean. That's what happened in 1929. By the '20s, productivity was very high, yet unemployment was going up because they couldn't sell everything they had. So, the supply side economists said 'make more - it'll get them to buy more' but of course, the problem wasn't a supply side problem - it was a consumption side problem. If your customers don't have a job or enough money to buy the products, it doesn't matter HOW much of the crap you produce.

But we have all this worked out now, right?

Wait for it...

"The only things that grow indefinitely are cancer and sharks... and I don't really want either of them..."

Bravo! (none / 0) (#11)
by CaptainZornchugger on Wed Jul 11th, 2001 at 09:54:41 AM PST
You, sir, are completely correct! I remember when I was a young, impressionable college student, who didn't know anything and rightly expected the corporate world to teach me (After all, given the fair competion of the free market, only those companies who treat consumers the best can possibly hope to survive) the first credit card I recieved in the mail was covered in a replica of Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night. Now, many of you don't know this, but I have a rare medical condition that causes me to react in strange and unpredictable ways to anything that has lots of swirls. Quickly I called the activation number, and then I blacked out.

When I awoke, the company believed they owned my soul. I was told by friends and family (yes, even my own parents!) that if I did not pay the bills they sent me promptly, terrible things would ensue. Believing them, I took out student loans and other credit cards just to make payments on these infernal bills. As the years passed, I was subjected to no end of mind control from the subliminable messages on television which caused me to whip out and expose my starry night for everything I saw in the stores, from male tampons to plastic fish that sing George Thourougood songs everytime you get within fifty feet of them! And more and more, the credit card company demanded my RIGHTFULLY EARNED money that I had worked HARD for sitting at a desk and posting to weblogs!

Well, no more! I'm right behind you, jsm, and I can only hope the rest of the population will follow! Together we shall be free from this horrible corporate tyranny!

But what about our credit? Declare Bankruptsy? (none / 0) (#15)
by Orion Blastar on Wed Jul 11th, 2001 at 10:29:21 AM PST
Do you want all USians, to just declare bankruptsy at the same time? Kill our economy?

I agree half our income goes to paying off debt, one thirds of it to paying various taxes, and we have to live off of what is left.

That means no more credit cards or car loans, if you get an offer for some in the mail, shread it! Also only buy things that you need to live and for your career and nothing else. No sports cars, no yatchs, no big screen TV sets, no Expresso machines, no breadmakers, no stuff that they show on late night infomercials. Don't live the materialistic lifestyle, and then help screw our USian economy!

In a word: yes. (5.00 / 1) (#17)
by Anonymous Reader on Wed Jul 11th, 2001 at 10:38:57 AM PST
Come on. How are we supposed to live in the US, as it is today, without supporting its "materialistic lifestyle"? I suppose we could all go out and build shacks in the woods and hunt for our food, but that's hardly a reasonable request, is it? The fact of the matter is, much like the "Microsoft tax" on our computers, there's a "credit tax" on everything else we buy: the overhead we pay to support the banks who finance American economic expansion.

There's no reason that this capital couldn't come from the people, if we were organized and dedicated enough. But, like you say, we have to "kill" (to use your term) the current economy and redistribute capital for this to be an option. If everyone simultaneously declaring bankruptcy would do the trick, then yes, I'm all for it.

Bah (5.00 / 1) (#16)
by Sylvester Q McNamera on Wed Jul 11th, 2001 at 10:31:55 AM PST
You seem to be overlooking one thing, the reason that all those people have all debt is because there are 5% of us who trick the 95% into thinking they need to spend a ton of money and drive a nicer car than their fat neighbor does, or they are worthless human beings. It's all fair game and it's not our fault if people are so weak that it works. In fact this is what makes the USA the greatest country on earth, it's a God damned free-for-all here and may the best man win.

What you see here is a form of natural selection, where the rubes pay and the smart people succeed, and have lots of gratuitous sex with busty 21 year old women. Even if you called a "do-over" and wiped out the debt you would not change anything because the smart people would go right back to tricking, er uh, marketing to the morons and the cycle would continue on. This is, in fact, the one great truth which separates the USA from third world countires such as Britian. This also, in a backhanded sort of way, helps to drive the innovation that other lesser countries take advantage of. Because we need to trick Joe Bagadonuts into thinking he's a steaming pile of dung unless he has the best computer it drives American companies to build better computers, and to invent things like the Internet and email, which everyone gets to use.

I hope this helps to clear up a few of the misconseptions you have about commerce and freedom, perhaps your next story will be a little better thought out than this one. This isn't up to par with the hard hitting journalism that Adequacy dot org is known for.

Best wishes,
--S.Q. McNamera


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