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In honor of the Superbowl, I’m going to talk about commercials. A particular series from the Discover It Card has been appearing on the boob tube for over a year now, with the slogan, “We treat you like you’d treat you.” I’m sure many of you readers have seen them. I’ve probably seen them about ten thousand times watching hockey games.
They advertise late-payment forgiveness and credit monitoring services, claiming the Golden Rule¹ for their trademarked slogan. Seems mighty magnanimous, doesn’t it? But Beelzebub is in the background….
These services are probably not all that helpful, contrary to some opinions. For late-payment forgiveness, they grant you a one-time fee cancelation. Then it costs $35 for every other late payment. They also won’t hike up your interest rate for this one-time slip-up. Every time after that, they’re just like any other credit card, apparently, only more so. So you’re still pretty likely to go into debt and repay the principal amount several times over in interest alone.
With the FICO credit score service, you have the added comfort of a once-a-month gander at you credit score. These services, too, require a good credit score to begin with—676 / 800. So if you suffered from a foreclosure in the recent economic malaise, or if you couldn’t find a job that paid enough for you to keep up with your student loans, you are S.O.L.
Discover claims this service is meant to help you “avoid surprises” with your credit score. If we made accounting a compulsory class for every high school student—you know, teach them math that is useful and applicable to daily life, unlike algebra—then few would really be surprised when their credit score took a nose-dive. Maybe they wouldn’t have the trouble to begin with, because they’d be educated enough to see through the deception.
And it seems to me that all of this is meant to lull people into a false sense of financial security. They say, “Hey, we’re just like you! You can trust us.” And how do we know they’re just like us? Well, the person in the call center always looks like the caller.
But beyond that, you have to look in the background to see how they’ve transmogrified the second person pronoun, “you,” into the third person, “it.” The people offering you their immaterial labor also have a whole lot of stuff that’s just like yours: Coffee cups, polished rocks, sports preferences, sartorial proclivities, little yellow toy bulldozers (Seriously?—how old are they—five?), and so on.
The underlying message: You are what you buy.
(Obey. Consume. Reproduce. Repeat.)
So here I’d like to counter with a quote from Oscar Wilde, from his essay, “The Soul of Man under Socialism” (1895), in which he makes a key inference from the same source as the Golden Rule:
The true perfection of man lies not in what man has, but in what man is.
Well said, Oscar, as always.
So let me be clear: Credit card companies are not your friends.
In other commercial news, this just in… Did Bob Dylan really just sell out for Chrysler? Bob, I thought you were only ever going to sell out for lingerie!
1. The Silver Rule comes from Confucius, who sez, “Don’t impose upon anybody what you wouldn’t impose upon yourself.” The negative of Jesus’ Golden Rule, perhaps the credit card companies could, you know, actually follow that advice instead of paying no heed to it.
Recently, I heard a news program on the radio posing the question, “What are we going to do with all the silver Sacajawea dollars?” Nobody’s using them, apparently, which shouldn’t come as a surprise. When was the last time you used one?
The problem, I am told, is that people don’t use coinage over 25 cents or that paper money is easier to use. That answer, though, just begs another “why.” I know why, but it doesn’t have anything to do with paper vs. metal.
Hardly anything you can buy costs a dollar or less. A twenty oz. pop is typically $1.50, and a candy bar is a dollar now, the bigger ones more. And forget about the days when a gallon of gas cost less. Countless items used to be priced at a dollar or less, but are now more. Why congress didn’t realize this in 2007 when they minted a couple billions of these coins, I can only guess. I mean, it’s kind of a cool coin and all, but…seriously? Are we still minting these things and losing money? How can you lose money while making money? That’s a paradox a robot can’t even solve!
But I have an answer to the problem of what to do with them all. Make the silver dollar Sacajawea coins worth $2.00.
Time to accept the monetary reality we’ve created for ourselves—and time to accept that the almighty dollar, to quote Devin the Dude, “ain’t what it useta be,” and that “hobos useta aks ya for a dollar, now the mothaf—-s aks ya for three” (Waiting to Inhale, 2007). Of course, you’d still have the paper dollars, but now, you’d have a perfect use for all those coins. The Sacajawea coin program could actually prove useful, instead of a boondoggle.
Maybe my economist friends will say, but wait! You can’t just do that! That’s currency manipulation. Maybe I can’t, but I know They can, and They often accuse the Chinese of doing this. But we’re warned that when none of these coins have been circulating, and then, suddenly, they become part of the money we all use, it’ll cause inflation. True enough, but why not take an equivalent value of paper dollars out of circulation. Men will have plenty of reasons to keep that change jingling in their pockets (to the inexplicable annoyance of their wives), and less cash giving them reasons to go to the chiropractor. Problem solved.
(Okay, it probably isn’t that simple.)
Kovy, I know you’re busy trying to score the longest and most lucrative NHL contract in history. $102 million over the next 17 years sounds like a nice paycheck. But sit down and let me relate to you an analogy. If you’re having trouble understanding it, have your agent step in to help.
Once upon a time, I owned just one cigarette lighter and I’d often lose it. In an attempt to stop this never ending search through my pockets and the nooks and crannies of my car, I decided to buy eight lighters. The logic, at the time, seemed water-tight, infallible. After all, if I lost one, I’d have seven others to fall back on, and I’d have time to find the one I lost eventually.
What I didn’t realize is just how fucking wrong I was. I soon lost all eight of those lighters, and, within a comparable amount of time, I was in the same lighter-less position as before.
Now, what does all this have to do with you? Well. Your contract, sir. It is very large, but don’t be fooled. Your agent has a lot to do with that. His commission on your contract grows with that contract, so his advice will only always be to get as much as you can.
Let me submit to you the logic of the great American writer and thinker, Mr. Mark Twain, as told through the slave, Jim, in chapter 14 of Huckleberry Finn:
Blame de point! I reck’n I knows what I knows. En mine you, de real pint is down furder—it’s down deeper. It lays in de way Sollermun was raised. You take a man dat’s got on’y one or two chillen; is dat man gwyne be wasteful o’ chillen? No, he ain’t; he can’t ‘ford it. He knows how to value ’em. But you take a man dat’s got ’bout five million chillen runnin’ round de house, en it’s diffunt. He as soon chop a chile in two as a cat. Dey’s plenty mo’. A chile er two, mo’ er less, warn’t no consekens to Sollermun, dad fetch him!”
Now Kovy, you tend to value more what you have little of, and less what you have a lot of. So do you think it matters much if you receive $80 million instead of $102? Either way, it’s a fortune compared to what your rural comrades make in your homeland. And either way, you can still lose it pretty quick. In fact, you’re more likely to lose a lot of it quick, because more or less, what’s a million here or a million there?
Just look at Theo Fleury, Jaromir Jagr, Sergei Fedorov—nice company to be in, eh Kovy?—they all made millions, but also squandered millions. Why do you think Fedorov is suing people and trying to sell his mansions? Alcohol, drugs, gambling, women, and frauds—these can become costly in a hurry, so mind who you keep company with. Especially in New Jersey.
If you are going to spend that fortune frivolously, spend it on charities and such. That way if you fail to pay, they’re a lot less likely to come over to your house and break your legs.