Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Crack & Credit

Through my involvement with Emmaus-Harlem the past few years, I've had the opportunity to spend time with several recovering crack addicts. My friend, D, shared his experience in the 80's with me when crack was at its peak. D said that the key factor with it's proliferation was price. He said that a hit of crack could be bought on any corner of Harlem for $10. He lived on the streets for over ten years and used his panhandling earnings on crack. While cheap, the high didn't last long, so it was a constant "rat on a wheel" trying to stay high.

We continue to witness the current worldwide unraveling of the credit markets. I often think of D's crack story and see a great correlation between the crack business and the credit markets. D said that he could find crack on every corner. We have 7 banks on the intersection near my house. Commercials on TV at night still advertise easy credit deals. Every time I'm in my bank, they're offering something to me. The crack dealer serves the crack addict. The Federal Reserve fuels the "bank dealers" that serve us, the "credit addicts". Like crack, for some reason our material items acquired on credit only provide us with temporary satisfaction. Once the high is gone, we search for the next hit.

The dealer and the addict have a symbiotic relationship. Without the crack addict, the dealer would be out of business. Both are doing something destructive and both must be held responsible and accountable. When it comes to our current crisis, we want someone to blame. We want the "credit dealer" to be blamed. Those with underwater mortgages want to blame the lender. I enjoyed my 0% car finance deal back in 2002, my mortgage refinance in 2003, and my home equity line of credit. While I haven't used the line of credit, the bank was glad to provide me the opportunity to drain the principal out of my house. Of course, they couldn't make me do that. I'm ultimately responsible for my actions and must take responsibility and accountability for them.

On a larger scale, our country has been high on "debt crack" since the Reagan administration. We have amassed a $56.4 TRILLION "crack obligation". We've recently taken an additional $2 trillion crack hit with an addiction problem that now seems more out of control than ever. It might be time for individuals, corporations, and countries to head to rehab. This addiction is unsustainable.

Back to the original story. Today, D serves as the onsite coordinator at Emmaus. He's a great success story. Once homeless, now he serves the homeless. His street experience and passion for the homeless ministry keeps Emmaus alive and active. To make a donation to the cause...

No comments: