by Mad Dog
The bank went on to tell me that if I managed to pay the
total off over the next 36 months rather than the rest of my life I’d
save $7,299 in interest. Yeah, and if I paid the whole thing off this
month I’d save that interest and much, much more, but don’t you
think I would if I could?
||I’d never dreamed
anything could be more shocking than looking at my credit card balance,
but that was before I opened this month’s statement. There, staring me
in the face, was a new message informing me that if I paid the minimum
balance each month it would take 31 years to pay off the credit card.
Okay, the message wasn’t staring, after all it’s just a message. But
I swear I could hear it laughing.
Think about it. Thirty-one years.
That’s longer than it takes to pay off a mortgage, longer than most
marriages last, and almost as long as Geraldo Rivera has been annoying
us on TV, though it feels much longer. At least after a mortgage is paid
off you have a house and can finally stop boring the kids with the lame
joke that you don’t own the house, the bank does. But with the credit
card? What do you get after 30 years, a statement with a zero balance on
it? Gee, I wonder who you could sell that to?
That wasn’t the only good news the
bank had for me. In an attempt to temper the shock and help me start
breathing once I finally got up off the floor, the bank went on to tell
me that if I managed to pay the total off over the next 36 months rather
than the rest of my life I’d save $7,299 in interest. Yeah, and if I
paid the whole thing off this month I’d save that interest and much,
much more, but don’t you think I would if I could?
To give Congress a little credit, their actions probably
stemmed from believing Sir Francis Bacon when he declared that knowledge
is power, but like my getting behind the wheel of a Formula 1 race car,
too much power can endanger my well being.
This homage to the Marquis de Sade—I mean, important
information—came courtesy of our federal government. The Credit Card
Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 to be exact. It
was passed by Congress last year as a means of proving that the old line
about one of the world’s biggest lies being, “I’m from the
government and I’m here to help” works much better as a joke than as
reality. While there may be bigger lies—“I never read People
magazine,” “Of course that’s a recent photo on my profile,” and
“I swear I’ve been faithful to you, Sandra” come to mind—the
point is, who thought this would be a help? Now I’m not only in debt,
I’m depressed too. I could have sworn the drug company lobby had its
hands full with the health care reform debate, when did they find the
time to make sure this went through so they could sell more Prozac and
Wellbutrin to delusional people like me who thought they’d live to see
their credit cards paid off? Though now that I think of it, if it
doesn’t look like I’ll live long enough to pay off the credit cards
then why should I pay more than the minimum?
To give Congress a little credit,
their actions probably stemmed from believing Sir Francis Bacon when he
declared that knowledge is power, but like my getting behind the wheel
of a Formula 1 race car, too much power can endanger my well being.
That’s why I’m strapping in my five-point seat belt, putting on my
helmet, and double checking the security of my roll bar while I wait for
the next wave of government mandated disclosures. You know, like a
strengthening of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and
Disclosure Act that requires a notice to be printed on every credit card
charge slip before you sign it telling you that “Making this purchase
will increase the amount of time it takes to pay off your credit card so
the idea of a 31-year pay-off will feel like a Nobel prize winning
idea.” Or a scrolling message across the bottom of your TV screen that
says, “If you keep watching four hours of TV a day you’ll have spent
60 full days—two months!— of this year being mindlessly
alcohol can increase the chance of pregnancy, which can lead to
children, loss of independence, precipitous drop in expendable income,
and the need to drink more alcohol.”
Don’t be surprised if one day soon a message pops up on your
Facebook home page saying, “Filling in status updates like that may
supply co-workers, your boss, your mother, people you only vaguely
remember from high school, and those others you agreed to friend even
though you have no idea who they are with more information than they
should ever know.” And liquor bottles will have a warning that
“Drinking alcohol can increase the chance of pregnancy, which can lead
to children, loss of independence, precipitous drop in expendable
income, and the need to drink more alcohol.”
Of course there’s one place where
we really need a disclosure but the odds aren’t good that Congress
will mandate this one. Suppose that, printed on the ballot for the next
presidential election, was a notice that said: “Voting for either of
these candidates may mean four years of frustration and bad legislation
which will take three elections and several Supreme Court decisions to
Now that knowledge would be power.
©2010 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them instead of your credit card statement disclosures.