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Maxed Out: Hunting down the loan sharks

This year more Americans will file for bankruptcy than graduate from college or file for divorce.


So says James Scurlock’s award-winning independent film and accompanying book, Maxed Out, on general release next month.

The documentary investigates the predatory lending practices of America’s top banks and interviews the people who have had their lives destroyed as a result of credit card debt and sub-prime loans. In tandem, Scurlock highlights the role of the US government in ceasing to protect consumers but instead siding with the corporations targeting those less likely to be able to repay debt – the most profitable customer segment. Highlighted is the Bankruptcy Bill of 2005, which decreases the protection of consumers from predatory lenders – the largest single contributor to the Republican party is MBNA.

Scurlock questions the ethics of handing credit cards to students with no credit history or jobs in two heart-breaking accounts of students whose inability to repay debt led to suicide. He features testimonies from men and women who will not be able to repay their debt over their lifetimes but who are still being offered loans and credit because of the profitability that the interest and late payments will bring.

Finally, the documentary includes accounts from economists and academics who are beyond fearful of the future of America as a result of the burgeoning national debt. That corporations profit from the financially unsavvy might not be news to those in the financial industry but the documentary’s emotional testimonies should stir the conscience of the even the hardest-nosed banker, and raise sensible questions as to why there is little being done to stop this debt spiral.