Where Did Personal Responsibility Go?
Earlier this month, I wrote about how credit cards are NOT evil over on Sprout Wealth. The topic went over well with a majority of people. John, from Frugal Rules, also put up a post last week about the same subject. It was titled “Don’t Blame the Credit Card, Blame Yourself!” The whole gist of the article is all about taking personal responsibility for your actions. There are few forms of debt that don’t result from poor choices. I am a huge advocate for people taking responsibility for their actions, all of their actions. Nothing irritates me more than when someone blames something or someone for their issues. I think some forget that all people get to make choices. It is like the game of life. You choose to do this or that and then have to deal with what life throws at you down each path. One comment on the post really got my blood boiling. It was a detailed comment and I am glad the person came to the blog to write it. The problem with this person’s comment is they wanted me to stop focusing on people’s choices and focus on the companies that enslave them in debt. We had a detailed chat back and forth and it ended with me truly being sad for those that think in this same fashion.
Where is Personal Responsibility?
Your post seems to ignore the fact that predatory lending does exist—especially so with credit cards. Interest rates can often be obscenely high which is unfortunately something we as a society have come to accept as fair since so long as poor suckers sign a contract. But ignorance and naivety shouldn’t mean people get ripped off or have to live in compounding debt for a huge portion of their lives.
This was part of the comment from the person. My post was never about predatory lending. It has nothing to do with that. My post was just saying that credit cards are not evil. A piece of plastic cannot be evil. The credit card does not make purchases on its own. It does not force you to use it. It is an inanimate object. I also am not going against the credit card companies. Those who know me understand that I have had my fight with credit card companies. I took their bait and paid the price. The issue is that I don’t blame them for lending to me. They offered and I accepted. I wanted to play the game, but I just didn’t know the rules. Now I do!
You’re acting as yet another neoliberal voice telling people that they are solely responsible for consumer credit card debt. Your words were not minced. Your post is bolstering current credit card practices, some of which are (as I argued) predatory in nature.[…]You are saying that by using a credit card, people are consenting. I’m saying that often this isn’t informed consent. And that is a crucial difference that matters. Why lend money to someone you know can’t pay it back? Simple: to rake in loads of money over the long haul from them. Far more than the original borrowed amount. Interest rates are at an obscenely high rate in general, let alone for those who miss payments and are forced to pay compound interest.
I never like when people generalize those they don’t know. Neoliberals are all for free markets and de-regulation. I ride a fine line between loving free markets for their competition, but understanding that regulation has its place. I am far from a Neoliberal. This person is indicating that since I want people to be responsible for their actions that I am consenting banks to do what they want. That is not at all what I am saying or have I said in the past. I DO think people are responsible for their debt. The only one that doesn’t fit that type is medical debt. I never liked credit card practices, but they are using guidelines set by the government. If you want to make the change, then you need to get lobbyists out of Washington. Since that is very unlikely to happen, the only thing you can focus on is your own choices. Your own actions! That is what we have control over right now.
Read the Fine Print
I don’t know about you, but I actually read my entire credit card application, including the terms and conditions. In those documents, each credit card issuer spells out how the credit card works, what the interest rate will be, and all penalties. It also describes how interest is calculated and many other things. They are very detailed. If you choose not to read it, then who’s fault is that? If you don’t understand it, then why in the hell would you sign it? Education is powerful, but it can’t make up for common sense.
Since I have worked in the mortgage industry before, I can tell you there are very few people who understand how their mortgage works. They never read the documents. They never took the time to educate themselves before they signed the papers. That is no fault but their own for not taking the time to understand the debt they were about to sign for. I understand that banks were lending to people who couldn’t afford the loans, but again, there is no replacement for common sense. You can educate until you are blue in the face, but if people don’t know how to apply it with common sense, then you are back at square one!
Have you ever bought something and then wanted to return it for a specific reason? Have you ever tried to return it, yet found out that the company wouldn’t accept the return because it was against their return policy? You forgot to read it, yet want to blame the company for not accepting the return? This is the same thing. You apply for a credit card, yet don’t read the fine print. Who can you blame for that? Look in the damn mirror!
Your post has everything to do with supporting deregulation and free market enterprise since that’s tacitly what you’re supporting when you’re blaming individuals for bad debt instead of companies that continually fight with billions of dollars for deregulation and shift the cost of debt onto those least likely to afford it.[…]I don’t understand why you can’t see that it’s not okay for someone to sign a contract that rips them off. No amount of naiveté or ignorance makes it okay to blame those unable to afford debt, yet given a loan anyway in order to enslave them into debt repayment for years, or the rest of their lives.
Don’t Spread Blame
I don’t remember where in my post I was supporting deregulation and free market enterprise. I guess that is what personal responsibility is then? If you think people are responsible for their own actions, then you are a Neoliberal! The problem that I have with this person’s thought process is they continually think that the company is to blame. While there can be some shared blame for our debt problems, everything and I mean everything still goes back on the individual. I don’t remember when companies started just started creating contracts with people and not having their signatures. There is a lack of education in our society, but that still doesn’t make it OK to blame anyone else but ourselves for making poor choices. How do you expect to get ahead in life when you just lay blame at other people’s feet? I have seen this type of spreading blame mentality coming for some time, but this person’s comment just tells me it is full force. I am scared for society and really scared for what type of world my son will grow up in. Fortunately for him, I will show him how to accept responsibility for his actions and not place that blame on anyone else.
What do you think about this person’s comments? While they do have some points here and there, they not understanding the direction of the article. I will always tell people to own up to their mistakes and their choices. You will never make it in life by displacing blame. You will be stuck in one place and just angry at the world for all the problems you face. All the while, I will be moving on and earning thousands of travel rewards points and thousands in cash back because I use me credit card the right way. I actually read the terms and conditions!