Sunday, April 5, 2009



Are you caught up in middle class hell? Do you make about $550 per week from three jobs to pay $1900 per month in rent, plus the electric bill and a low-grade health insurance premium? Are you responsible for several children? Do you budget out your money months in advance to avoid falling short? Will one day off work lead to your eviction? Have you pleaded with your gas company not to turn the heat off because you could not quite pay the January bill? Do collection agents hassle you about car notes and past due amounts? If you are feeling sick, do you refuse to visit the doctor because you can’t afford it? Are you stressing out about money? You are not alone. In this economy, money is hard to find. But there are ways to overcome the crisis.

As a struggling middle class earner, you have a right to feel desperate. You are doing all the right things. You are working, you are paying your taxes, and you are responsibly budgeting your money. You are even saving when you can. You are taking care of your children. You are acting responsibly. Yet in your eyes, it all seems a cruel joke. You barely make enough to pay your basic expenses, leaving you in constant anxiety that one day you will not make enough. At one time in our Nation’s history, the middle class sustained our economy. Middle class earners worked hard, saved, sent their children to school and slowly advanced to affluence. Yet today, the middle class cannot advance. Crushing expenses devour every dollar they earn, creating a desperate cycle that never seems to end. Middle class earners rightly feel betrayed: Is this what responsibility leads to? A life of constant apprehension whether your paycheck will barely cover life’s most basic necessities? You learned that responsibility was good. You expected that it would bring you rewards. Yet you see now that it brings only desperation as you struggle to appease creditors, landlords and grocery sellers.

Never fear. You can prevail against your creditors. As a responsible person, you obviously have a checking account. You carefully balance your income against your expenses in a daily log. You write graphs to plan how much you will make so you can meet the monthly bill blizzard. Your checkbook and your responsibility will help you overcome your creditors. How? Simple: Write bad checks and let your creditors figure it out. If you owe $1400 per month in rent but you only have $1300 in your account on the due date, write a check for $1400. Act like you have money. Show that you are honoring your obligations, even if you do not have the financial resources to do so. After all, you are a responsible person. You want to honor your obligations. It is not your fault that you are caught in middle class hell. It is not your fault that your son got sick and required a $725 doctor visit. If your son had not gotten sick, you would have been able to fully pay your rent. But he got sick. There is nothing you can do about it now. He saw the doctor. Just write a bad check. Stop letting creditors get over on you. They have created enough misery in your life. Let them squirm a little bit, too. After all, do they really need all your money? They do not work; they just sit at home and open envelopes containing checks. What will they do with all your money, go on vacation? Here you are, struggling to keep your children healthy, and there they are, driving around in Hummer trucks. And they want even more from you? Send them a bad check; let them sort it out.

But “No,” you say, “I can’t write a bad check because that is dishonest.” You need to stop insisting on honesty. What did honesty get you? A dog’s life shuffling between three insulting receptionist’s jobs, insomnia and hungry children whose cries keep you awake all night. A lot of good honesty did you. You did all the right things. You made all your own money. You showed up to work every day. You refused to take public assistance and you never asked anyone for help. You honored your creditors and you cared for your children. You never pole-danced at a strip club and you never sold drugs for easy money. You made your money the decent way, the American way. Now what? Do you like the way you feel? Do you feel good knowing that your creditors can take away all your property if you so much as catch a cold next week and miss a day at the office? Do you feel good knowing that you have expenses totaling $2500 per month, yet you are lucky to make $2700 per month? You aren’t getting anywhere. Honesty landed you in a hole and you are not getting out. It’s time to take measures against your cursed creditors. Send them bad checks.

Bad checks fulfill two fundamental purposes. First, they show that you actually care about your creditors. Second, they allow you to voice your power in a critically unfair relationship. They show you care about your creditors because you are sending them an acknowledgement that you know you owe them money. You may not have the money, but you are not ignoring them, either. In that sense, when you send a bad check, you say: “I do not have enough money to pay you, sir, but I know you hold superior power over me and I acknowledge your power. In a perfect world, this check would give you what I owe. Unfortunately, I do not have the means to pay everything. Therefore, I am sending you a check that tells you I am paying everything, when in fact I have less than the required amount in the bank.” Creditors appreciate your bows and scrapes. Although they would prefer to get your money so they can live more luxurious lives, they still like it when a pathetic debtor like you kneels and acknowledges his meager station. Bad checks allow you to acknowledge your inferior, debtor status while temporarily appeasing your creditor’s demand for cash. They soothe your conscience by allowing you to make a “charade payment,” when in fact you know you have no money to pay it. There is honor in this: You did all you can to make money for the bills. Your efforts failed. Why, then, should you bear the burden for it? You simply followed the path you were taught, and you should not suffer for that.

Bad checks also voice your power in a critically unfair power relationship. When you send a bad check, you force your creditor to pursue all kinds of legal and administrative remedies against you. This takes time. It takes effort. It also causes consternation, frustration and annoyance to your creditor. Best of all, it denies your money to his use for at least a few weeks. That means he may only be able to stay in Aruba for 30 days instead of 31. By impacting his enjoyment of life, you show your power. True, your creditor will beat you legally. Eventually he will use the law—which protects him, not you—to forcibly seize the money you owe him. But what do you care? You have no money to seize. A legal judgment means nothing if there is no property to attach. In this sense, it helps to be a destitute middle class job-juggler; without money in the bank, there is nothing the law can do against you. After all, the law is all about property. Without property, the law has no power. You have no property, so the law has no power over you. Although you cannot go out and murder someone without consequence to your liberty, you can easily write a bad check and let your creditor go through the administrative square dance to hunt you down for a few lousy hundred. In so doing, you will cost him more in legal fees that he can hope to wring from you with unwieldy garnishments, levies and liens. With you, he will lose money, even if a small amount. That is power.

For these reasons, do not worry about writing a bad check once in a while. You are doing all you can to live a decent, responsible life as a middle class earner. You are doing everything you were told. You are not a criminal; you are caring for your children. You are paying your rent and all your bills. You are not living beyond your means. In fact, you are living for your means. No one told you that middle class life would devolve into a cruel joke. No one told you that life would devolve into a frantic contest to make at least $2600 every thirty days. No one told you that you would have to worry about getting sick and receiving $400 one week instead of $480. No one told you it would be this bitter, desperate and hopeless. Yet you can fight back with bad checks. Your creditors are living fine. Yet their obligations reduce your life to an unsatisfying, anxiety-ridden hell. Your efforts give them luxuries, while your reward is to live in a modest apartment without fear of eviction. A fair trade? Of course not. But this is middle class life. This is our system.

You will never make it out of the middle class. But while you are there, you can prove that you exist by sending a few bad checks if you can’t hack the bills one month. You have already enriched your creditors enough over the years. Why not stick it to them once in a while, just to show that you are a person, too? You may be a pitiful debtor who never goes on vacation, but you have the power to force them into exhausting legal procedures that will end up costing them money and annoyance. Let them have it. Send a bad check next month.

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