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A DEAL WITH THE DEVIL The American Economy and Bankruptcy
Why is there more bankruptcy in America today than anywhere else in the world? As a bankruptcy attorney, I have been asked this question many times. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people find themselves in a situation so overwhelming that they have to declare bankruptcy in order to have any chance of getting out from beneath their crushing debt. I believe this troubling trend has to do with the fact that our economy is consumer-spending driven. As a culture, we have made a sort of deal with the devil in regard to our economy. Yes, by driving our economy higher with consumer spending, the American economy has become the largest in the world — sitting tall at $20.4 trillion. But the boost in consumer spending we’ve seen since the
1980s comes from the fact that we have made it easier for people to spend money they don’t have. This is all thanks to consumer financing. The trade-off of easier consumer spending is more consumer debt. When more people are in debt, more people get themselves into trouble. Sometimes this trouble is self-inflicted carelessness, and sometimes it’s brought on by a series of unfortunate events. No matter the situation, the end result is the same: bankruptcy. It makes no professional difference to me whether someone is filing for bankruptcy because their child got sick and the medical bills became too much to bear or because they’ve maxed out a hundred credit cards buying smartphones and video games. My job is to get my clients out of a bad situation and help them keep from ending up in that place again. The first part isn’t terribly difficult, but that second step requires careful attention. Our economy is built on people buying stuff, or more accurately, using credit to buy more stuff. Everywhere you look, department stores are urging you to sign up for their store card, car dealerships brag about how easy it is to get approved for a brand-new sports car, and credit card companies offer $100,000 lines of credit to teenagers. It takes a lot of effort to navigate our society without acquiring unnecessary debt. To be clear, some debts are necessary. If your car breaks down, a car loan can come in handy to make sure you’re still able to get to work. Likewise,
business debt is about making an investment today in order to make more money in the future. But too often, consumer debt is only about spending money you don’t have in order to buy more things. After World War II, the American economy was booming because it produced things other people wanted to buy. Today, the economy bankruptcy. We can’t snap our fingers and go back to being a society built on production rather than consumption. But as individuals, we can make the conscious decision to say, “No, Target, I don’t want to get 10 percent off my purchase today by signing up for your credit card.” I know the odds are stacked against us. Freeing ourselves from the cycle of debt so prevalent in our society is far from easy, but I do believe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Things have become so over-the-top that people are finally saying enough is enough. They don’t want to go with the flow anymore, so they’re searching for another choice. That’s the first step. When individuals start to change their habits for the better, they’re able to transform their economy and society as a whole for the better, too. is built on us consuming goods produced elsewhere. With this change came more
Our economy is built on people buying stuff, or more accurately, using credit to buy more stuff.
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CONVERSATIONS APPROPRIATE FOR THE DINNER TABLE Dodging Thanksgiving Awkwardness
2. What Thanksgiving dish can you not live without? Without going culinary critic on your grandma’s meal, gush about your favorite dish. Just like with pets, people love discussing foods and recipes. You may start a fun debate or a recipe swap with this question. 3. Dad did what as a kid? Getting to know your relatives, friends, and significant others better will only strengthen those bonds. You’ll likely hear some interesting stories you can share with others and forge a stronger connection with your relatives. 4. Stupid human tricks, anyone? Let’s see those double joints! This one might not be for the squeamish at the dinner table, but it’s a fun, goofy activity that’s best shared over a glass of after-dinner wine. 5. How about we get coffee? Sometimes part of the stress of answering your relatives’ questions stems from holiday pressures. It may force you to address your
Thanksgiving conversation is often a minefield of topics: political divides, your English degree, and Aunt Marjory’s insistence that you meet her neighbor’s cousin’s dog walker’s uncle’s son who’s a fantastic up-and-coming podiatrist. Between constantly passing the potatoes and dodging your relatives’ questions, Thanksgiving can be an exhausting holiday. But it’s a day to be grateful for what and whom you have in your life, so why do so many people leave their annual gatherings feeling overwhelmed and misunderstood? This year, when the conversation begins steering in an awkward direction, try these conversation starters for a more relaxing and fulfilling holiday. 1. What’s your pet been up to? Maybe Fluffy learned a new trick or Oscar is undergoing some intensive grooming next week. Whatever the case may be, people love to talk about their pets.
bank account, love life, and general life choices. If you really do want to talk about your job or your love life with relatives, suggest meeting up again without the holiday atmosphere. While you’re all in one place trying to enjoy a piece of pie, plan a family winery tour, beach day, or camping trip. Family situations will always be a little stressful, but without the pressure of the holidays, you might feel more relaxed.
“Mr. Dunaway was very helpful. I made one phone call, he let me explain my situation, and he resolved my issue in a matter of minutes. He is very knowledgeable and very easy to work with. I would highly recommend him to anyone.”
— Andrea B.
“This guy is A+! He helped me take care of everything quickly and painlessly. I will always choose him if I should find myself seeking legal counsel in the future.”
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Why You Should Never Pay Over the Phone WHO’S ON THE OTHER END?
When you’re in debt or filing for bankruptcy, your phone may be ringing nonstop as debt collectors try to get you to pay up. There are plenty of reasons you might not want to answer the phone when a debt collector calls, but here’s one you might not have considered: The person on the other end of the call might not actually be a debt collector. Fraudulent calls, scams, and robocalls increase every year. First Orion, a company that handles caller identification and call-blocking programs, estimates that nearly half of all cellphone calls made in 2019 will be from scammers. Many of these scammers masquerade as debt collectors and threaten to call the cops if their victims don’t pay up. Unless you have a relationship with the caller — as in, they are someone you have been working with for a while — never pay over the phone. If you give money to a criminal, that money is likely gone forever. You can report the crime
to the police, but many of these scammers are located in another state or on the other side of the world. Our advice? If you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer. A legitimate company will leave a voicemail. You can listen to it later and use the information they provide to do some research to determine whether the caller is really who they claim to be. If you have to answer an unfamiliar number and the person on the other end demands you pay them over the phone right then and there, just hang up. This approach applies to emails, too. Scammers often target their victims with faux emails, pretending to be debt collectors or financial institutions. Many of these emails will be full of grammar errors, but others can look like a perfect imitation of the real thing. As a rule of thumb, you should never respond to emails you did not request. Don’t even click on any of the links within the message. If you want to verify
the information, always look up the official number for the company and contact them directly. Don’t get tricked because you’re afraid the person on the other end of a phone call or email might be telling the truth. If a legitimate debt collector is trying to reach you, they will send you a letter via traditional mail services. At this point, you can hire a bankruptcy attorney to help you deal with the situation appropriately.
Spicy, Creamy Sweet Potatoes Recipe of the Month
Sweet potatoes are a Thanksgiving staple, but they’re often the blandest thing on the table. Luckily that’s not the case with this recipe, which features Thai spices and coconut milk.
Ingredients • 5 pounds sweet potatoes • 1 cup canned coconut milk • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste Directions 1. Heat oven to 375 F. On a large sheet pan, bake potatoes until very soft, approximately 75 minutes. 2. Let potatoes cool until they are safe to handle, then peel and mash. 3. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine coconut milk and curry paste. Once mixed, add the mixture, salt,
• 1/2 cup dark brown sugar • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
“I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.”
half the sugar, and half the butter to potatoes. 4. 30 minutes before serving, heat oven to 425 F. Spread potatoes in a baking dish, cover with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. 5. Uncover potatoes and dot with remaining butter and sugar. Broil until brown, crusty, and delicious. Serve hot.
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NSIDE Can We Escape the Trend?............................ page 1 What to Talk About This Thanksgiving ................................................ page 2 Our Clients Say It Best .................................. page 2 Are Criminals Calling You for Money? ........ page 3 Spicy, Creamy Sweet Potatoes .................... page 3 A Burning Truth ........................................... page 4
‘Fahrenheit 451’ by Ray Bradbury A Page FromMatt’s Bookshelf
A few years ago, I went back to read all the classics everyone is supposed to read. I’m talking about the books that are often taught in high school English courses and that I
that paper burns at 451 degrees Fahrenheit. Montag starts out as a mindless cog in the system. But after meeting a young woman who challenges his beliefs, he begins to think about
dramas she and her friends are addicted to on her expensive, wall-sized TV. Millie is utterly indifferent to the oppressive society because she can’t look away from that screen. It’s eerily prophetic. Bradbury wrote this story 65 years ago about a woman who is ruining her relationship because she’s consumed with a massive TV. Today, we let ourselves get consumed by 5-inch screens in our pockets. How does this habit impact our health mentally, spiritually, and emotionally? “Fahrenheit 451” is a short story. You could read this book in an afternoon, and I truly encourage everyone to do so. The novel says so much about the value of books, the dangers of becoming too dependent on technology, and the importance of paying attention to what you consume.
somehow missed out on. One of the best books I read during this endeavor was “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. If you’re like me and “Fahrenheit 451” wasn’t on your high school or college curriculum, then here are the basics: In a dystopian future where books have been banned, Guy Montag is a firefighter. But instead of putting out house fires, Montag’s job is to burn illegal books the government finds. The title of the novel comes from the fact
the system he’s part of, what he does, and why he does it.
Since book burning is central to the plot, there
are clearly themes of censorship throughout the story. However, the most striking thing about the book to me was what Bradbury had to say about technology. Montag’s wife, Millie, represents people as a whole in this dystopian society. She stays home most of the day, watching shallow
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