Sunday, December 5, 2004

Living in Middle Predicament






I'm living for the moment in Middle Predicament. You may know the place. It's really large for such a small town, located out there in middle America not too close to Dire Straits and yet a good long way down the pike from High Cotton. I'll be honest with you, it used to be more comfortable here back before my expectations got so high. Sometimes I think expectations are not all that great a thing to have.



For me anyway, living here has gotten to be sort of like running around with a financial shoelace loosened but not yet untied. What I know ought to be tight is working loose, but it's not yet undone and in need of tying. Things like that seem only to happen in Middle Predicament. It's probably different where you live.



Those of us who live here have the rent and groceries covered, in fact we've pretty much got everything we need, just not everything we want. Ah yes, therein lies the rub. Middle Predicament is what made the credit-card business such a good thing to be in. I jump all over refinancing my mortgage when the rate drops a single percentage point and congratulate myself as a pretty sharp customer for doing it. Asleep at the switch? Not me, pardner. And still, shrewd as I am I'm apt to ease the shortfall between need and want with my credit card at 18% because after all, it's a temporary event. For most of us it lasts no longer than a lifetime. I've become sort of an industry leader in that particular area, probably out there a little bit ahead of the curve.



But like I was saying, it used to be a bit more comfortable before all the numbers got so big. Don't get me wrong, it's okay that the Michael Jordans of our world make $38 million a year and Bill Gates paid $40 million for a painting. It makes basketball players look like a certified bargains when every couple years we're bailing out Mexico or Thailand or Indonesia or Korea with thirty or forty billion. But I gotta tell you, it makes me feel just kinda stupid at the same time. I mean, here I am trying to pay off my kids college loans and get the payments caught up on the Jeep, so I can get down to the Chrysler dealer and trade it on a Mercedes and my bank says maybe I ought not to be handling that much debt.



Excuse me?



This is the same bank that upped the limit on my Master Card six times in the past three years. The same bank that merged themselves into another bank, so they could expand their 'financial services.' The same bank that wouldn't touch a loan to friends of mine in Dire Straits, even though their collateral was pretty decent. They think I don't know what's goin' on. But hey, I read the papers. When a loan made to someone like me, right here in Middle Predicament in the good old U S of A goes bad, then all the bank's got to show for it is a bad loan to charge off. That means messy excuses to be made to the board of directors and those fellas all live up in High Cotton. They don't like news like that, it ruins a perfectly enjoyable catered lunch. Those directors are all International players now, they've got global agendas. They know a bad loan to some feller in Indonesia is bulletproof. When his family runs off with the money, the World Bank trips all over itself trying to cover his loans.



But I understand that. It makes sense that credit is tight in Middle Predicament and those of us who live here just better get used to it.



Unless Michael opens a bank. Getting a loan there might be a slam dunk.