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Credit Card Nation The Consequences Of America's Addiction To Credit [Hardcover]

Robert D. Manning
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Dec 25 2000
Credit Card Nation is part history and part exposé of the damaging social and political consequences of America's increasing reliance on credit cards. Using original research and consumer interviews, Manning analyzes the growth of the credit card industry and its related businesses by looking at the story of its consumers—the people who use credit for convenience and those who rely on it for financial stability.In addition to providing a consumer history of credit card usage, Robert Manning analyzes the larger societal attitudes toward debt. The history of the credit card industry's expansion is one of the creation of a new class of consumers who utilize credit—and its steep interest and penalty rates—for economic survival. Manning discusses the societal toll that the "credit card nation" is placing on the young, the elderly, and all those in search of the "good life" marketed by the credit card and banking industries.

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No interest for one year! No annual fee! No minimum payments for six months! And, if you want to believe Robert Manning, there's no way out of the debt that we find ourselves in, as individuals and as a country. Credit Card Nation combines debt of every kind--consumer, corporate, and governmental--and creates a vast landscape of profit-spewing lenders and struggling debtors present at every level of economics. Appalling statistics set readers off on a depressing journey: the years between 1980 and 1994 saw annual consumer charges skyrocket from $170 billion to $581 billion, with the average household carrying over $4,000 in revolving debt. Accompanied by the erasure of nearly $100 billion in corporate debt and tremendous tax cuts for ever-merging conglomerates, the end of the 20th century seems to be just the beginning of an overwhelming cycle. While Manning's book is extensively researched, it is also extremely readable. Individual stories of junk bondsmen, corporate raiders, and middle-class consumers are threaded throughout the pages of charts and statistics, with a few surprises. While most media would have us believe that students who rack up charge accounts are totally irresponsible, the reality is that some of these students are helping their families with cash-advance loans to make mortgage or insurance payments. Emphasis is also placed on the tremendous advertising budgets of credit card companies: Manning comments on "how quickly the cultural norms have changed in the Credit Card Nation," we see a poster insisting "money can't buy you love, but a credit card can get you started." This is not a self-help book, and Manning has no 12-step program for debtors at any level. Credit Card Nation simply tells it as it is. --Jill Lightner

From Publishers Weekly

A sociology professor whose specialty is the effect of credit card debt on college students, Manning expands his focus here to encompass social attitudes toward all types of debt. Suggesting that debt leads not only to financial ruin but also to moral and social degradation, this dense, technical work is filled with jargon (chapter four, for example, is subtitled "Convenience Users and the Ideological Construction of the Moral Divide"). In the first-person interviews with college students, the subjects are rarely allowed to complete a sentence. Instead, Manning embeds phrases from the interviews into his own argument. Since we never learn more than a few facts about each interviewee (not even a last name or college affiliation), they serve as chorus to the monologue rather than adding weight or complexity to Manning's thesis. When relating facts, Manning puts quotation marks around the many terms he disagrees with, conveying his opinion without supporting evidence for his views. Loaded words substitute for exposition: people do not choose to borrow, they are "addicted to credit"; he does not deem them "borrowers," but "users"; no one simply owes money--instead, everyone is "burdened," "oppressed" or "overwhelmed" by debt, even when the debt seems small relative to their assets and income. (Feb. 2)Forecast: Manning's book may interest professional sociologists, but general readers will find it difficult to understand in some places, dogmatic and unsubstantiated elsewhere. However, given its timely topic, the book is likely to receive serious review attention, and will pick up some sales due to Manning's media appearances (he's been featured on ABC World News Tonight, CNN and elsewhere. But the book's academic gloss will keep sales from rising high, despite the millions of Americans suffering from debt overload.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
I know Professor Manning from his days teaching class at Georgetown and American universities in DC. He was a fairly nice guy and a decent professor, with some fun arguments. My problem with this book was how selectively he researched some of the information. Not that he ignores importent sociological and economic trends, but for example I remember him polling me about my credit card spending as a college student. When I responded that I got the card as part of a through-the-mail low-interest offer when I was 18 and had successfully managed the debt and payments, he seemed uninterested, largely because my response did not fall within the paradigm supporting his book.
All in all an interesting book, with some important facts, but skewed.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Yawn. April 21 2002
Having just finished Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation," I had high expectations for this book as well. I suppose if I were drowning in debt myself I might appreciate it more.
Here are the problems: While Schlosser's book explores many issues surrounding the fast food industry, each of them has clear relevance to the central theme. Not so, alas, with Manning's book.
For instance, chapter 2 seems to be mostly about corporate mergers. Chapter 3 appears to have as its central theme the fact that banks decided they wanted to make more money off credit cards. But while the fact that banks want more credit card money is relevant to the book, the reasons why they want this money, and the statistics that relate to this, are profoundly uninteresting. (Honestly, is is that hard to figure out that everybody wants more money than they have?)
Fortunately, later in the book we get some personal interest material. But the people profiled in these chapters can be hard to identify with. Were those college students really too dumb to know that credit cards have interest rates? Many of them seem to insist, for instance, that credit card companies shouldn't issue twenty thousand in credit to a student who makes nine thousand a year. Perhaps they're right; but then, would they similarly insist that McDonald's shouldn't serve its high-fat food to a person who weighs four hundred pounds? Chalk up one more for the American culture of self-victimization; God forbid I should take responsibility myself for my finances.
Manning's book fails where Schlosser's succeeds brilliantly: showing the human side of things. Manning does give us some anecdotes that help to show the human consequences of credit card debt; but these have to be sought out between the droning statistics. I think that with some heavy editing this could be a great book. Right now, though, much of it is simply a cure for insomnia.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Just a question of free will? NOT! March 2 2002
Several reviewers here of Manning's *Credit Card Nation* take him to task for proposing sweeping regulatory reforms to get Americans out from under the stupendous national credit card debt. These regulations would include reining in the frenzy with which banks, savings and loans, and retailers offer their high-interest cards to everybody under the sun (from young students, to aged indigents, to already over-stretched middle class types). Critical reviewers argue that the regulations are unnecessary and, worse, intrusive. All we consumers need do, they say, is exercise some old-fashioned self-restraint. When the pre-approved credit card arrives in the mail, toss it into the dustbin.
In the best of all possible worlds, this would be the most likely strategy. But this isn't the best of all possible worlds. The consumerist culture in which we live encourages us to spend, spend, spend. It teaches us to measure our individual worth by how many possessions we own and how much buying power we control. Marketing experts study our psychological profiles and target us. Television and radio bombard us with near nonstop ads. Television sitcoms teach us that the average family ought to have hundreds of gizmos and gadgets to make life comfortable. Individuals living in poverty who are painfully aware of the disparity between their lifestyle and the "Great American Dream" are promised as easy piece of the pie by credit card merchants. To his credit, Manning goes out of his way to document and discuss these and some of the hundreds of other ways in which our consumer culture encourages us to spend money we don't have.
So it just won't do to casually say the problem will go away when we toss away the credit cards.
Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars Victims of credit cards or just irresponsible? Sept. 26 2001
Well, the chicken and egg question: Are we victims of credit cards infiltrating every aspect of our lives, or merely not taking responsibility? I'll admit, having been in debt until recently, I felt both at times. Of course people make their own choices. I feel you can not totally blame credit card companies for everything. However, this is a fascinating book on credit and how it has multiplied into every fabric of what we call the American Dream. Growing by leaps and bounds from the late 19th century until the present day. I saw Dr. Manning on C-SPAN 2 book world and seeing him speak made me want to buy this book. While we can't always blame others for our mistakes, isn't it time we took a look at credit card comapnies marketing techniques on college campuses? This was where I fell into my own trap. Mr.Manning explores this phenomena, which is vastly unexplored in many books, very well. He does give some dry statistics, but overall presents the history of the credit card. Let's face it, the companies would rather we be in debt. They also give so little of their funds toward charity, when doing events for charity. It is even possible very little of their money now is going towards relief efforts stemming from recent tragedy. There are those who look down at books like this (one reviwer I saw in particular), but the numbers don't lie. Credit debt keeps growing. It seems, unfortunately, that many people will still need this book. They may need it and others like it. As far as I can see, Mr. Manning has done justice towards how and why credit card comapnies market the way they do. Let the stories resonate with you. Take away something from them. They could be you, or someone you love. For having that intention, we need more writers like Mr. Manning.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive Study of Consumer Debt
A striking and keen assessment of the credit card industry and damning expose'of corporate tactics to lure the unsuspecting and inexperienced into a life of consumerism. Read more
Published on Aug. 27 2002 by Dr. J.D. Stelwagen
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent History, Shoddy Public Policy
Robert Manning has written an outstanding history of consumer credit in 20th/21st century America. He covers the significant changes in federal banking laws and regulations, as... Read more
Published on Aug. 1 2001 by Charles S. Gramaglia
3.0 out of 5 stars What's the big deal?
First off, I didn't buy or read this book. However, all the reviews motivated me to wonder what all these folks were thinking BEFORE they read the book. Read more
Published on July 25 2001 by Mikem
5.0 out of 5 stars You, and The Credit Card's Triangle of Debt
Credit Card Nation is a scathing, pithy,concise indictment on our consumption- driven society, a society in which the average savings rate is now MINUS 1-3% (! Read more
Published on June 30 2001 by Caliope
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read for Every High School Student & Many Adults
This book provides excellent insight into how the credit card industry operates and how they trap ever more suspecting people into a viscious cycle of debt. Read more
Published on June 24 2001 by Frederick S. Goethel
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting analysis of debt.....
Although there is a short attack on Reagan deficit spending during the eighties, this book mainly focuses on America's increasing dependence on short term debt (i.e. credit cards). Read more
Published on June 18 2001 by Austin Grisham
5.0 out of 5 stars Wake Up Call For Americans & Myself
Robert Manning did very objective homework, analysis, and research, in this very interesting book that most of us, myself included, can relate to. Read more
Published on April 14 2001 by K. Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars Mr Manning Should Be Honored By Congress
Robert Manning has provided a vital service to our nation...for many years I was caught in the credit vise, fortunately I entered a counseling program and paid off $30,000 in... Read more
Published on April 12 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A very explosive view of what may be a financial disaster for the individual, but huge profits for Corporate America. Read more
Published on Feb. 24 2001
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