In Debt We Trust

Have you heard of the documentary In Debt We Trust: America Before the Bubble Bursts? If you have not, I’m not surprised.  This 2006 documentary by Danny Schechter never received the backing of a distributor.  This documentary never made it on the movie circuit, how so unfortunate.

In contrast the documentary, Maxed Out, at least received some publicity and was distributed for viewing at independent theaters like the Landmark chain.

I’ve seen both movies [and presently own both] and I think In Debt We Trust is much more comprehensive than Maxed Out.   In Debt We Trust spends time on credit cards, but also pay day loans, the new (back then) bankruptcy law making it tougher for Americans to discharge their debts, predatory lending (particularly with mortgages), the big banks, the credit reporting agencies (and how they have more data than the CIA), etc.

The movie begins and ends with a Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia where the pastor implemented a “Debt Liquidation Vision” program to help his congregation get out of debt [individual  members’ cards were paid off – not car loans or mortgages].  The pastor mentioned how we as Americans should be serving the Master and not Master Card.  And the pastor warned his congregation about a coming economic crisis.

The pastor was interviewed in late 2005 (based on the poinsettia around the altar).  I bet the members of that church are happy their pastor had the vision to focus on debt elimination.  Maybe they are weathering the Great Recession better than some others.

If you haven’t seen the movie, In Debt We Trust, I highly recommend that you do.  It may all seem uncomfortably familiar now but the scary part is it was made in 2005/2006.  Do you think the individuals profiled in the documentary correctly foresaw are present economic catastrophe?

I highly recommend listening carefully to all the songs played during the documentary.  These songs say a lot.  Go to the website,

and listen to selected tracks from the soundtrack.

I wish Danny Schechter would make a sequel of In Debt We Trust, re-interviewing some of the individual consumers and experts  profiled in the documentary.

Too bad In Debt We Trust was not widely distributed and shown back in 2006.  Of course, such a movie is not everyone’s cup of tea.  But maybe more Americans would have been prepared for our present economic catastrophe.

What’s funny – in August 2006, as a I sat on plane in Sacramento waiting to return to Washington DC  [via connecting flight in Dallas], I had my epiphany.

I had purchased my house in January 2005 and finally got my condo rented in May 2005.  I purchased things for the house such as new washer and dryer [previous owner had a washing machine but no dryer.  I consider the dryer an essential item].  Looking back I really didn’t need the china cabinet but felt I did at the time [and Dave Ramsey discusses how his wife Sharon “needed a china cabinet”].

I visited South Carolina in the summer of 2005.  I rescued my dog from a shelter in 2005.  I was spending money for a variety of things [I never did purchase cable or satellite tv – subject of a future post].  I stopped contributing to my Roth IRA because my mortgage payments (1st & 2nd Trusts) for the house were much larger than the condo.  And I wasn’t saving as I had been with regular monthly contributions to my Vanguard Money Market Fund.

Anyway, on the tarmac at the Sacramento airport (had just completed my first visit to California – Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Napa & Sonoma & San Francisco), I realized I wasn’t saving.  And that I had allowed myself to accumulate credit card debt.  While on the plane I devised a plan to start saving each pay period and a plan to get rid of my credit card debt.  Upon returning to Washington, DC, I implemented my plan.  Long story short, by the time the Great Recession hit, I had no credit card debt, and had started to pay off a home equity loan on my condo.

And, let me say, before purchasing my house, I was at Baby Step 6.

Please, please, please watch In Debt We Trust.


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