Secret History of the Credit Card

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The average American family today carries 10 credit cards. Credit card
debt and personal bankruptcies are now at an all time high. With no
legal limit on the amount of interest or fees that can be charged,
credit cards have become the most profitable sector of the American
banking industry: more than $30 billion in profits last year alone.
FRONTLINE examines how the credit card industry became so pervasive,
so lucrative, and so powerful.

Secret History of the Credit Card, 8.2 out of 10 based on 13 ratings

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  • andrea

    These companies are unethical to the point of absurdity. And of course it is the poor who suffer.

    The most disturbing part of it is- we are each assigned a so called “score” from these unethical companies. And this score determines wether of not we can rent an apartment, or possibly even get a job.

    But they will never be stopped, because they have plenty of money (our money,) to buy off the govenment regulations.

    • Anonymous

      Yea, I always wonder when will our Martin Luther King will come. Someone who can speak and encourage people to organize mass peaceful protests against all of the abominations coming out of our government right now.

      • ride+bike

        I think, a good way to start to minimize this would be first, educate ourselves about when to use credit cards (which in my humble opinion is, in very necessary cases) and grow the habit of saving instead of borrowing, perhaps this may help to depend less and less on time of these things.

      • Clix (ክሊክስ)

        You’re light years behind the forces out to get you.  They have learned to destroy (without killing) a potential MLK before you even hear of him/her.  What do you think Fox News is for, not to mention CNN, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, ABC and NPR?  They are the modern assassins and guards of the status quo.

        The struggle is much more individual and grassroot nowadays.  And we’re learning fast! :-)   

        • Educated

           it’s “light-years”

  • Luayursula

    Take Finland… They were smarter, and more democratic. No fucking bailout, decided by votation.

    • Luayursula

      …then they voted ultra-right… proving democracy sucks. :P

    • Luayursula

      …then they voted ultra-right… proving democracy sucks. :P

  • Marcvsnilsson

    8 cards?! That’s crazy

    • Ananya

      I tried for the second, but cancelled it mid way. Happy with one, credit card with total control over my mind makes wisest of decisions.

  • Alen

    it would be healthier if you americans stopped whining about how it’s unfair these credit card companies treat you that way and just pay off your debts, cancel all your credit cards and start living “less easy and convenient”. simple as that, you don’t like it, stop using it. but no, you can’t get off of that adiction of shopping frenzies and sprees.

    you live your lives with too many unnecessary things in your houses and around you, just shift your way of live a little bit and you’ll relieve a lot of pressure of yourself. stop being so materialistic, stop feeling like you have to buy something for someone for that person to show affection to you.

    best gifts are made by yourself, not bought from some store. like for instance, for last birthday I was on, a person made this fabulous birthday cake which was also a birthday gift and it was just the best gift. instead of buying him expensive cell phone or toy, it was much cheaper and much much better and more “from the heart” than from the wallet, gift.

    • Clix (ክሊክስ)

      So easy for you to say! You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses, don’t have to watch and be constantly tempted by Snookie and any other Jersey shore trash.  You have never been brainwashed to believe since childhood that true affection is expressed in form of gift wrapped boxes straight from the department store sitting under a fake tree in your living room.  What do you know?  You’ve never known a life where your success is measured by the type of car you drive and other useless gadgets you surround yourself with, despite the numerous prescription drugs you’re on to mitigate the emptiness inside.

      You will never know the feeling of having so much, yet having nothing worthwhile. 

      • Portman21

        BullSh**….It’s all up to choice. If you are a stupid consumer and succumb to the advertising and PR spiel then that is your problem. Live within your means, and stop trying to impress other people.

        • Clix (ክሊክስ)

          Apparently the irony of that comment is lost on you. *Sigh*

        • Clix (ክሊክስ)

          Apparently the irony of that comment is lost on you. *Sigh*

        • Clix (ክሊክስ)

          Apparently the irony of that comment is lost on you. *Sigh*

    • Clix (ክሊክስ)

      So easy for you to say! You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses, don’t have to watch and be constantly tempted by Snookie and any other Jersey shore trash.  You have never been brainwashed to believe since childhood that true affection is expressed in form of gift wrapped boxes straight from the department store sitting under a fake tree in your living room.  What do you know?  You’ve never known a life where your success is measured by the type of car you drive and other useless gadgets you surround yourself with, despite the numerous prescription drugs you’re on to mitigate the emptiness inside.

      You will never know the feeling of having so much, yet having nothing worthwhile. 

    • Clix (ክሊክስ)

      So easy for you to say! You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses, don’t have to watch and be constantly tempted by Snookie and any other Jersey shore trash.  You have never been brainwashed to believe since childhood that true affection is expressed in form of gift wrapped boxes straight from the department store sitting under a fake tree in your living room.  What do you know?  You’ve never known a life where your success is measured by the type of car you drive and other useless gadgets you surround yourself with, despite the numerous prescription drugs you’re on to mitigate the emptiness inside.

      You will never know the feeling of having so much, yet having nothing worthwhile. 

  • Johnny

    Ultimately the banks and credit card companies and everything are just part of the system(though they also created it), for them to change the system itself must change.

    May I suggest a simple but “radical” 5 step change to try to fix at least some of the problems today without actually dismantling the system or even significantly changing our society?

    (note: I’m speaking mainly from a Canadian perspective, but most of these apply pretty much anywhere these days)

    1a) Currently the commercial laws are such that the primary legal responsibility of all corporations are the profits of their shareholders.

    Change the laws – Make the employees the primary responsibility of the corporations and have all employees be shareholders themselves; make the clients or customers the secondary responsibility and make other public shareholders the third priority, followed by serving the community and being ‘eco-conscious’ and what have you.

    1b) Require any corporation based in *insert your country* to have at least 60%-75% of it’s workforce based in that/your country.

    Capitalism does NOT work when corporations ‘here’ are selling cheap crap here being made ‘over there’ so the people here don’t have the jobs and thus don’t have the money to buy the crap the corporations are selling here.

    Cheaper foreign production contracts may increase corporate profitability in the short term but it destroys the domestic economy in the long run in favor of making a small number of executives and major shareholders super wealthy now.

    2) Create new corporate policy laws that put a cap on executive salaries for corporate executives(and employees in general) at 1 – 2 million dollars annually(income tax free via #5 here).

    3) Focus domestic industries on addressing needs for upgrading and maintaining and repairing the crumbling domestic infrastructure, ahead of any foreign business contracts.

    4) Eliminate income taxes completely (via #5 here) and possibly eliminate corporate taxes as well if fiscally possible.

    5a) Partial nationalization of all corporations based in *this country* with over say 500 employees and/or that are involved in business beyond *this country’s* borders.

    50% of shares of those businesses would come under government control and the legal shareholder profits to that tune(provided on a regular basis, not just from ‘cashing out’) would go to funding government systems and activities.

    If that isn’t enough to cover government operations then perhaps smaller companies, say between 100-500 employees could have the option of paying minor corporate taxes or having the government ‘opt-in’ as a minority shareholder taking profits directly that way.

    Although I’m not a big fan of taxing small businesses or having government interference with them as small businesses are the true backbone of all economies but with the right laws/regulations limiting the actual government ‘interference’ it could possibly work alright.

    5b) Complete nationalization of the oil and gas industries with the focus on maintaining a stable market that accurately reflects the domestic situation and high employment domestically.

    Although a focus should be on developing new ‘clean’ energy sources the fact is oil and gas are and will be very important and valuable resources for some time to come, they should be under domestic control to make sure that the people of *this country* benefit the most from the oil and gas coming out of *their country*.

    All executives in the oil and gas business would be government employees being paid standardized government salaries(reasonable ones though reflecting the importance and responsibilities of their position, maybe 500k-750k a year) and under well structured pension plans and what have you – typical government benefit packages.

    With the government controlling all revenue and with the money being saved on the currently ridiculous executive salary side of things increases in pay for employees and more comprehensive benefit packages and what have you can be factored in while still providing a very large revenue source for the government.

    I know it looks like communism but it’s actually ‘state capitalism’, which is actually technically what the Soviet system was as well though this system would be quite different than that I assure you…

    Heck, if enough revenue could be generated through the oil and gas industries and partial nationalization of large corporations and other measures then potentially the citizens of a given country could live to see their government paying THEM taxes just to ‘spread the wealth’ and promote economic stimulation(which would be step #6, but it’s really a purely ‘if the situation is right’ idea).

    —-

    Those are only the first steps to truly fixing the system and they are things that would not be easy or problem free, but it would maintain our capitalist system and society more or less the way it is now only without a large portion of the corporate greed that is now and will always be a plague on the current style the system is managed under.

    Some people will say ‘the wealthy people will just take their businesses elsewhere rather than go commie’ – I say so what?

    If they decide they want to do that the government seizes their business interests in *this country* and takes over their assets here and figures out a way to put them(factories and such) to use employing people here in some way.

    Unless they are going to pay to demolish or physically move the buildings and such out of this country just to spite us there really isn’t much they could do in this situation except hurt themselves by giving over total control to the government because they don’t like the idea of them taking partial control…

    Sure they could take their money which is quite substantial, but again since the system here would still be capitalist in nature they’d have to be willing to walk away from all that money they could make rather than just taking a cut to their profits.

    And if need be nationalization of the banking system isn’t out of the question, as long as the government is willing to back it up they can print money themselves – perfect example being JFK who printed 400 billion U.S dollars worth of U.S government backed currency just before his assassination. (I’m sure it had nothing to do with assassination though, wink, wink, nudge, nudge)

    Personally I’d rather just burn this whole system to the ground and start from scratch to be honest, but this is a type of fix that still keeps more or less the same type of system in place but that I could live with alright and would be much improved from the current status.

    Call me a dreamer or a commie (or a Nazi based on other views of mine), but I do believe real change is possible.

    And not that fake Obama brand ‘You won’t believe it’s not really change’ crap.

    Our future generations are going to fucking despise us if we don’t do something to get our collective act together and fix this shit soon.

    Delaying the problem and maintaining the same system with ‘band-aid’ fixes will only lay the problem off on our children, grandchildren, etc.

    The idea of this disgusts me personally, I don’t understand why so many others don’t seem bothered at all, or in many cases are completely oblivious to the actual problems.

    *sigh*

    I’ve ranted enough here for now.

    • Johnny

      Note – the ‘(or a Nazi based on other views of mine)’ statement is not referring to any racial views, simply my views on historical revisionism and specifically the mass extermination claims of the Holocaust.

      Although I do frequently get called a racist or Nazi for my views in that regard and in regards to the Israel-Palestine conflict I have yet to have anyone even suggest I was racist outside of those two subjects(minus worthless trolls).

      My support of ‘Affirmative Action’ and other ‘pro-integration’ type policies to help increase employment among minorities usually puts me on the opposite side of racial issues, although I think the way such programs have been handled is absolutely retarded.

      Affirmative action should be about finding ways to create new jobs to employ minorities, not tossing them into the existing job market and having them compete for or “steal” jobs from other people of other ethnicities.

      I could think of probably a hundred different programs that would require only minimal funding and could put large numbers of lower income people to work doing positive things to improve their own communities(and others).

      One of my ideas was to put people to work in places like Detroit where there are a lot of abandoned and rundown properties by deconstructing and recycling materials and cleaning up the neighborhoods and making them far safer(abandoned buildings make good crack houses, whore houses, rape locations, etc.).

      I was very happy to see that The Good Will had the same idea and has already done some great work through such a program in Detroit.

      Anyways, the type of state capitalism I could support is a kind of middle ground between modern Liberal ‘nanny-states’ and a Conservative ‘corporatocracy’, it’s still economically best for the minority in control but that is the government itself which uses those benefits to then benefit the people as a whole by not having to take so much of their money as taxes to fund it’s operations, and possibly even giving money to the people(not tax ‘rebates’ or ‘refunds’ or giving back money that you paid them, but them actually paying you).

      I don’t like the general idea of a society based on money, but at least if you have such a society and money is abundant in it then it becomes less of an actual priority in life even while being the primary factor driving the society.

      Is that really so radical?

    • Clix (ክሊክስ)

      I’ve ranted enough here for now.

      Ya think?!

    • Clix (ክሊክስ)

      I’ve ranted enough here for now.

      Ya think?!

  • smitty

    I know I will be the most hated person here but really I think it is the individual’s fault. If I were to loan my money to a complete stranger and they fail to pay me, I am raising the interest rate in hopes to recoup my loan. I think the practice of ‘bait and switch’ and wordy contracts is never acceptable. But really people need and want credit cards so they (cedit card companies) will exist and profit based on that need and want. So I don’t think credit card companies are evil, which is what this Doc is trying really really hard to do.

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