Now, I don't want to get off on a rant here, but why are Americans so in love with credit? Simple: WE'RE AMERICANS. We want everything, we want it Bigger, louder, shinier, faster, and we want it NOW. Instant gratification is as American as drive-through microwave apple pie. Of course Tantric sex was invented in India. Here, we want to fuck just to get it over with, so we can go out and buy more stuff.
This country was founded on debt. Hey, right off the bat, we got ourselves into hock to pay for the Revolutionary War. And then, in 1803, we purchased the Louisiana Territory, and they only sent us the clear title for that three weeks ago.
Historians often contrast our love of credit with the frugality and practicality of our Puritan ancestors. But come on: How frugal is it to buy a separate belt buckle just for your hat?
You can't begin to understand credit until you understand its boozy counterpart, interest. Credit is like a friendly bartender, wrapping his arm around your shoulder and telling you it's okay, just put this round on your credit card and take care of it with your next paycheck. Interest is the surly bouncer who hustles you head-first out of the warm tavern and face-first into the urine-stained snow bank, all the while mercilessly punching you in the ribs as he methodically goes through your pockets, until he gets back every last penny that you owe him.
Even the most thrifty among us need credit at some point or another. When you mortgage a house. When you buy a car. When you're on e-Bay and you see a mint-condition ice-packed human kidney that's still throbbing and would go perfectly in your collection ... But who would have a collection like that Clarice?
The irony is that responsible people who pay as they go never build up a good credit rating. And without one, you're considered a bad lending risk. Just try applying for a car loan or a mortgage. Trust me, you'll be ignored like the busboy at Hooters.
There is a whole generation out there who, between ATM cards and credit cards, don't even know what cash looks like. You take out a wad of bills these days, and you might as well be pulling out beaver pelts to pay for that pizza. I have had cashiers take the twenty-dollar bill I've given them and write my drivers license number on it. Of course, we'll always need cash for strip clubs. Nobody wants to see a naked chick swipe a card.
Now, I myself know what it's like to have bad credit. When I was 19, credit card companies would send me letters telling me I had been pre-approved for rejection.
Giving a teenager a credit card to teach them about money is like getting them drunk and putting them behind the wheel of a car to teach them responsibility. The interest rates on these cards make Tony Soprano look like George Bailey.
Bottom line: this country is more dependent on plastic than the casting director for Pamela Anderson's "V.I.P." And true, while I appreciate the convenience credit cards provide, what I really like are the cards themselves. I like their size and weight and as a matter of fact, I have customized mine with razor-sharp tungsten edges and balanced them for throwing with deadly accuracy. I also took the liberty of having a graphic artist rework the little holograms for me. My MasterCard shows a squirrel water-skiing, and my Visa shows an old, fat couple fucking. My point is, credit can be fun if you just let it.
If I have one bone to pick with the credit card companies, it's that they make the place where you're supposed to put your signature on the back of the card too small. And nobody ever checks the signature on the card anyway. When they do, it's just for show; they're not really checking it. I know because, as an experiment, on my most recent card, instead of signing it, I wrote, "Just ring it up, shithead." So far, not a peep.
Now, one of the ways we judge which rung of the ladder you are perched on in this society is by what color credit card you carry. For American Express, the once-prestigious Green card can be replaced by the Gold card. Keep charging, and you are eligible for the Platinum card, which can now be trumped by the upper-echelon Black card. Soon you will be able to just have a bar code sewn onto your ass, so that there's absolutely no way you can leave home without it.
In closing, let me say that today, I am fortunate, because I have the money to pay off my credit cards at the end of each month -- but I choose not to. Why? Well, my logic is that if a killer asteroid obliterates the earth, causing tidal waves and cosmic fires that destroy every submicroscopic trace of life on this planet as we know it, and I still owe three grand on my Visa, I win. [FINGER]
Of course, that's just my opinion. I could be wrong.