Maxed Out: Documentary About Debt in America

I watched a documentary Maxed Out on DVD over the weekend. It’s about debt in America, especially credit card debt. It featured people who are in debt, people who lost their loved ones to debt, a Harvard Law School professor, Dave Ramsey, debt collectors, a pawn shop owner, and many other people involved in debt in one way or another. It presented a multifaceted picture of the debt problem in the United States. Here’s the trailer on YouTube.


I got the DVD from Netflix. I think it’s worth watching. A user on Netflix said this film is to the credit card industry like Super Size Me is to the fast food industry. I agree. I hope after watching this film everyone will vow not to take on credit card debt ever. By the way, Super Size Me is also very good. I rarely eat burgers any more after watching that film.

Maxed Out is of course not without shortcomings. I got the impression that it blamed the debt problem on the availability of credit. It stopped short of exploring why people got into debt in the first place. Just because credit is available to someone doesn’t mean that one must borrow. Just like McDonalds having a restaurant around every corner doesn’t mean that I must eat there. They sure make it easier to fall into debt or eat junk food though. The industry’s marketing of easy credit to the masses is a problem. People who spend more than they can afford is also a big contributor to the problem. It’s the classic “guns kill” or “people kill” problem. The interviews with the pawn shop owner sort of hinted at the overspending problem, but the film didn’t delve into that angle.

Overall I think it’s a good film. Debt is a big problem in this country. We can’t expect a 1-1/2 hour documentary to cover every cause let alone solve it. To the extent it raises awareness, it’s good. I’ve read about people’s complaints about Dave Ramsey — how he opposes to debt at the cost of everything else. But in a world inundated with marketing for debt and overspending, I’d rather have more Dave Ramsey’s as offsets even if he’s not 100% right or accurate.

Rating: **** (Good).

If you have Netflix, I highly recommend Maxed Out for your queue.

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  1. Silla says

    After I watched this, I got so scared and paranoid. I just signed up for the Gap Card a week or so ago. Have not received it yet, now after watching this, I get scared that it got sent to the wrong person, and that person is charging it by going online. And of course, if that were to have happened, this documentary didn’t make me feel any better about getting that problem fixed. I never owned a credit card and this is the 1st one I have or should be getting hopefully. I won’t be using it and plan on closing my account.

  2. Jeremiah says

    Who was the one that asked for the money? Was it the credit cards and banks that forced the people to use the money, or was it the borrowers that went looking for the money?

    Every time the average person uses a credit card it is because they do not have enough cash money to buy the things they “want.”

    If you were to live with in your means, then you would not need to borrow the money. And we all know that banks are in business to make money, so they are going to charge interest on their loans.

    When the people in this documentary lost their jobs or spouces, then they should have made a life style adjustment in order to be able to live with in their new means. Why didn’t the old lady sell her house when her mortgage was $4,000 a month and she knew she wouldn’t be able to afford it? She sold some of her posessions, but not the house, which was her largest bill.

    There are a ton of programs outthere for deployed Military, heck, there are a ton of programs out therefor Military that are State side. I was there and used them when I was in a situation as well.

    I do not feel sorry for one person in this documentary, other than the propagandist that made it.

    Bush changed the bankruptcy laws in order to make it harder for people to claim bankruptcy because ther were aton of free loaders that would get credit cards, cars, houses etc. and know from the beginning that they never intended to pay it back, then wipe their slates clean and do it all over again a few years later. It had nothing to do with making the rich richer and the poor poorer. So if you want to blame someone then go blame the freeloaders and scammers for the change in the rules.

    As for the gentleman at the end of the credits claiming that there is a “special list” for certain high profile and or special people, that is an out right lie. No one is so special that their credit report is altered. The people he is talking about simply have money and are able to pay their bills.

    Again, I do not feel bad for anyone. I too had to claim bankruptcy due to the fat that I lost my job, got a divorce and foreclosed on my house. Unfortunately I let my ex-wife run up the credit card bills and bought a house that she had to have that was just with in our means. I should have taken controll earlier and not allowed her to have the things she wanted, and made her understand that I will provide for her the things she needs and if there is any money left over after setting aside for savings, then maybe we could splurge on something in the wants list.

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