Some notes on American capitalism

* I wanted a pay-as-you-go sim card. A Radio shack in Greenwich Village offered me the sim on its own for $35 or the sim in a motorola phone for $20. The sheer lunatic profligacy is what strikes one first: that this really quite complicated piece of machinery is essentially given away to sell sims for less than is charged on their own. Then I reflect on charging $35 for a sim on its own. This is just naked punishment for trying to save money.
* A [“heartbreaking story”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/19/us/19debt.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin] on the front page of the NYT about a couple and their credit card debts. They earn about $66,000 a year, both working full-time:

bq. Their credit card debt came to $22,228, including $380 in monthly finance charges. Interest varied from 12.1 percent to 32.24 percent. The Moellerings also have a mortgage of $93,000 and a home equity loan balance of $68,574, at 8 percent interest.
“We have friends in the same position,” said Ms. Moellering, who earns $30,000 a year as an administrative assistant. “One was off his insurance for a couple weeks and he broke his arm, and they’re out 25 or 30 thousand. We’ve talked to them about it. It doesn’t matter what you do, you always have that credit card debt.”

You may say that they don’t need any of the things they have borrowed money to buy. I’ll bet they don’t. But the rapacity of the banks involved makes me wish the Pope would spend more time denouncing Usury:

bq. On March 27, Mr. Moellering used a debit card rather than a credit card to make nine purchases, ranging from $5.38 to $48, hoping to avoid finance charges. But he miscalculated their checking account balance. Each purchase incurred an overdraft charge of $32, or a total of $288 in penalties, more than the $221.82 cost of the purchases. (After some pleading, the bank, National City, forgave four of the charges, leaving the Moellerings with $160 in penalties, plus interest on both the fees and the principal.)

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