I adore documentary films which spark lively debates and discussions. For this very reason, I have had the film “Maxed Out” on my list of docs on my Netflix Queue for quite a while now. “Maxed Out,” if you didn’t gather from the title, references that final dreaded moment when your credit card runs out of a credit line (gulp), and also the credit industry and its effects upon the people and economy of the United States. Now that it is finally become available on Netflix’s Instant Queue and I decided to settle down and watch it with some snacks in hand (paid for in cash, thank you).
Starting off in America’s epicenter of conservative spending, the “Fabulous” Las Vegas, Nevada, we see the boom in growth of planned communities and the soaring housing prices and sizes, causing glee in the hearts of house flippers everywhere. The cheeky sounds of Sinatra’s “Volare” play as we see the enormous houses being built in this desert community.
I wonder how much James Scurlock really knew he might be foreshadowing with his film in 2006.
This takes us to a hilarious, archaic 1950’s educational video called “The Wise Use of Credit” where ‘Mr. Money’ schools two other-worldly naive youths, who it’s a wonder even know what currency is, in the value of a dollar and credit history. The funniest part about all of the clips shown of this ridiculously outdated educational video is that if credit companies had continued by these rules such as lending only to those who could actually ever be able to afford to pay back the money, then debt in this country would have never gotten out of control.
Oh, those silly 1950s people who thought you actually needed money to buy things.
The urgency of Queen’s classic song “Under Pressure” plays in between bits of interviews with Robin Leech, financial author Dave Ramsey, consumer advocates, and presidential speeches on the economy. These bits are amusing and scary simultaneously because they are stating the obvious, which is we are in more debt than ever before in the U.S., and are forewarning against getting into more debt, which our citizens and government continue to do to this day. Clips from comedian Louis C.K.’s standup act break up the seriousness of the subject with some interviewees facing home foreclosure and lawsuits.
The core of “Maxed Out” is really about how credit lending in this country became predatory and wildly unrestrained. One part shows the effects of credit card companies signing up kids on college campuses as one target.
When I was just out of high school, I wondered myself why I was getting lines of credit with American Express, MasterCard, and other assorted creditors since I did not have a job or any other source of income at the time. It is dangerous for most 18 year olds to have access to that sort of money and have no restraints, and the parents and students who are interviewed really attest to that. There are many parts of the film the average consumer can relate to, like dealing with your credit score, and falling behind on credit card payments; it is something every consumer with a credit card should watch.
I would recommend highly that people watch this documentary now because it highlights a big problem in this country of mounting debt and predatory lending, that in the long run is not advantageous to anyone.
The fact that the film is available on Netflix’s Instant Queue, where you can download and play unlimited films with a reasonable plan should not raise any concerns of ‘maxing out’ anyone’s finances.