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.