Investors have lost faith in the economy. Employers and consumers, too. In contrast, the nation’s infomercial hucksters still believe in the American Dream. In the darkest hours of the night, they offer hope. Get rich fast? Well, no, that was a 1990s thing. But get debt free fast? That they can deliver.
Remember Don LaPre and his secret wealth-creation techniques that could generate thousands of dollars in profits every week? How about Carleton Sheets and his strategies for buying income-producing properties with no money down? While most of us were content to slave away at dot-com time bombs, a few moonlighting mail carriers and barely numerate stay-at-home moms took the lessons of LaPre and Vu to heart and promptly became millionaires. Then they retired to lives of sun-soaked luxury on private island paradises and left the rest of us to muddle along in dead-end jobs at Yahoo and Lehman Brothers. Deprived of our most astute and capable entrepreneurial talent, is it any wonder our economy eventually tanked?
Now, those of us who were too skeptical or lazy to amass a fortune via tiny classified ads spend our days wondering how everything went so bad so quickly. Forget yachts smartly outfitted with a week’s worth of bikini-clad ballast. Forget dreams of making $20,000 a week selling vitamins online. Today we fantasize about four-figure savings accounts and a life without late fees; even the most dreary exurb townhouse might seem luxurious if only there were no bill collectors pounding on the door.
Luckily, there are still plenty of charlatans around to help us turn such reveries into reality. In fact, they’re working overtime. They know a good thing when they see it, and if there’s anything that can turn a frustrated wage earner into an easily exploitable dupe faster than guarantees of instant wealth, it’s guarantees of debt-free subsistence. Or to put it another way: Millions of impulsive, debt-ridden screw-ups who’ve already proven they’re more than willing to spend tremendous amounts of money they don’t have are now looking for a fast and easy fix to their addiction to fast and easy fixes. Recession? For hucksters, this is the greatest bull market ever!
Debt, of course, happens the same way fat happens. When you eat more calories than you burn, you pack on the pounds. When you spend more dollars than you earn, you pile up the debt. In both instances, the solution to the affliction is just as simple and straightforward as the cause — eat less, spend less — and yet that’s not quite how it plays out in the marketplace. To rid ourselves of unwanted body weight, we resort to fad diets, miracle pills, and dancing office chairs.
To combat years of financial over-eating, we resort to similar schemes. Some professional debt reducers negotiate with your lenders to lower minimum monthly payments and interest rates, or even get them to drop the amount you owe by as much as 70 percent. Others insist that the credit card industry is a sham and that it may actually be your moral duty to stiff the institutions that financed your new Jet Ski or home theater system. These days, newspapers are filled with stories about consumer champions who charge exorbitant fees to do nothing for their clients or even make their financial situations worse, and yet naturally the most appealing outfits are the ones who make the most preposterous promises.
Indeed, if you owe forty thousand bucks to Citicorp, an interest rate reduction from 16 to 12 percent, or even Godly intervention on your behalf can only bring so much relief. But when well-tanned infomercial renaissance man Kevin Trudeau explains how he can help you get “$10, $20, $30,000 in cash that you never have to repay” to eliminate your bills via his Debt Cures system, things don’t look quite so hopeless anymore.
While Trudeau is currently banned from producing any new infomercials until August 2011, it’s hard to imagine him or anyone else topping the efforts of attorney Tim Durkop, aka “America’s Top Debt Elimination Expert.” Within the debt elimination industry, care is taken to position your liabilities not as life-ruining burdens, not even as minor setbacks, but rather as exciting opportunities. Relentless radio advertiser John Cummutta, for example, almost makes it sound as if you need to run up some major bills before you can really start “building wealth through accelerated debt elimination.”
No one, however, makes debt elimination look as sexy, fun, and irresistible as the relatively unknown Durkop. In his Legal Credit Cures infomercial, ecstatic but mute loan defaulters dance around their homes to the insistent beat of dance music as an increasingly hysterical off-screen narrator lauds the virtues of Durkop’s system. Using this system, which appears to consist of six large coloring books, various attractive deadbeats save their homes from foreclosure, stop harassing collections calls, eliminate all their bills simply by pointing at TV and computer screens and nodding enthusiastically, and somehow end up brandishing fistfuls of cash.
If you’ve led a life of fiscal prudence, you will no doubt find yourself wondering what you’ve been missing. You may have a solid credit rating, you might pay your bills on time, but how often do you find yourself dancing in your kitchen and euphorically hugging your spouse? Where are your fistfuls of cash? How come you never experience the exuberant passion for life that those engaged in debt elimination obviously enjoy? Without bill collectors hounding you and skyrocketing interest payments weighing down on your soul, can you ever be truly happy, truly wealthy? Soon you’ll find yourself wandering into Best Buy, into West Elm and Nordstrom, credit card in hand, ready to rack up your own life-changing mountain of debt. The economy thanks you for it. • 30 April 2009