The bankrupt generation

By Damien Cave

By Salon Staff
Published April 13, 2001 7:07PM (EDT)

Read the story.

Given its obvious bias toward lenders of revolving debt, the bankruptcy bill currently moving through Congress is clearly a quid pro quo for campaign donors. As always, I find the continuing and expanding influence of money in the U.S. legislative process reprehensible. The bankruptcy bill story is only a byline of the overarching issue, the critical need for campaign finance reform.

I am troubled by the theme of the article "Generation Bankrupt," however. The "victim" mentality exhibited in and promoted by the article (and virtually everywhere else in our society these days) simply provides people with another excuse not to apply reasonable foresight and discipline in their lives. Greed, like any other personal weakness, has bad side effects. The penalties of excessive behavior should be borne at least in part by those who overindulge, otherwise the ideal of personal responsibility will continue to decay.

-- Will Neff

Loved your article about those scumbag credit card companies enticing GenX idiots into living beyond their means with low introductory offers. Nice, too, that placed right next to the article was an ad from Discover offering 0 percent APR and 2 percent cash-back to your readers who, I assume, are the same GenX idiots who live beyond their means with credit they cannot afford. Way to keep generating story material!

-- Jeff Muir

Do you expect to drum up an ounce of sympathy for "Justin" and "Bill" and the other pathetic debtors mentioned in your article? Those are precisely the types who turn my stomach -- spending money they don't have on stocks or fancy dinners and then whining about it when the bills come due. Please. At least trot out a working mother whose husband abandons her and who has to turn to credit to feed or clothe her children. For her I'd have some sympathy. But I have none for allegedly educated people who are "enticed" by easy credit into leading a lifestyle they can't afford. Don't tell me that at every dinner "Bill" blithely charged, there wasn't a voice echoing somewhere in his pea-brain saying "wait a minute, I can't afford this." I'm no fan of big banks and I, too, am annoyed by the deluge of credit card solicitations I receive every week, but they go straight to the garbage. It's not that hard. Blaming the credit card companies for debtor's woes is like blaming supermarket chains for making fat people fat. What the current generation needs is a little backbone and a new mindset where every person takes responsibility for his own actions -- and the consequences thereof. And I'm a Democrat, by the way, not a Republican, so don't just dismiss me.

-- Emery Mitchell

The article reminds me of the quote by Oscar Wilde, "I can resist anything except temptation." If we are not responsible for the consequences of our freely chosen actions, who is ?

-- Anonymous, at work

Just a quick note to tell you that your article about Gen X credit card debt was hilarious. One -- and mind you I'm no great booster of credit card companies -- "Justin" et al. are morons, and I'm sorry they can't manage their money and they think that money is ever-plentiful and their bank accounts are somehow immune to the laws of nature and logic. If he thought that he could just keep playing the market and never take any big losses, all I can say is keep him the hell out of Vegas and Atlantic City. Two, I do feel more remorse to the retirees and welfare families sucked into the credit trap, but charging groceries constitutes a very different pattern of consumption than new cars and the latest PDA, and are oddly out of place in your piece. And finally, you're chronicling a phenomenon -- living on credit -- which has been an American mainstay since its inception. This is not a new thing that's happening, it's the escalation of a very old thing. To live with discomfort and deprivation is not the American Way.

If we spent just a tiny bit of the billions of profit cleared by credit card companies on attempting to address the roots of indebtedness, maybe some change could be enacted. In the meantime, this Just Say No to credit policy is doomed to failure, just like an earlier campaign with a similar message.

-- Margaret Weigel

Salon Staff

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