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Documentary sheds light on credit card debt problem

Posted Oct. 15, 2007

Some were appalled, some were not even surprised at the truth behind swindling credit card companies that prey on the weak and cause devastation for citizens alike was revealed in James D. Scurlock’s "Maxed Out."

Scripps College hosted a viewing of "Maxed Out" Oct. 4 in the Garrison Theatre. With a nearly packed house, students and members of the community filled the small auditorium to watch the documentary directed and produced by Scurlock.

"Maxed Out" is meant to be a comical yet truthful portrayal of how credit card companies enable both fantasies and turmoil for U.S. citizens young and old. The film documents the lives of several different people affected by both the positive and negative attributes of credit card abuse and debt.

According to the documentary, certain credit card companies target people who will continuously pay only the minimum balance allowing for an increase in interest rates, which is where the companies primarily make their profit.

“Unpaid credit card debt is evil,” Professor of Economics Patricia Dillon said. She ran a discussion following the film and dropped pearls of wisdom on awestruck college students.

The documentary unveiled the truth about how credit card companies target young unknowledgeable college students, some living for the first time away from home.

Two mothers were interviewed throughout the film, building the story of their children’s credit card problems while away at school.

Toward the end of the film viewers learn, these young adults took their own lives as a result of intense credit card debt they could no longer control. These two mothers were virtually ignorant of their child’s problem until after they were gone.

Some staggering students following the viewing of "Maxed Out" were outraged at credit card companies receiving information on students and targeting their product at individuals with no previous credit card history.

Although there was a voice for the uninformed, many students were aware of the back door policies credit card companies use to trap consumers in.

“They should have talked about loan debt,” musicology graduate student Scott Strovas said.

He felt the majority of students are keen to how credit card companies work and debt is not due to ignorance but due to a choice that the person made.

According to Strovas, students should have been advised about impending student loans over how to properly use and pay a credit card.

As well as platforming credit card debt among college students, the film highlighted what credit cards do to individuals who have lost their significant others or employment causing them to suddenly depend on a single income.

These are American citizens who have lived 20 years with more means and must suddenly use resources like pawn shops and yard sales to pay bills.

The documentary brought to light some serious issues and concerns with American consumerism and how credit card companies are only perpetuating these problems. Scurlock portrays the rich and the poor, the knowledgeable and the ignorant, and how credit card companies have made billions off them.

Scripps college hosts the “Unequal We Stand: What future for the American Middle Class?” film serious every Thursday night at the Garrison Theatre located on the Scripps campus. All events are free and open to the public.

Jordan can be reached at