Saturday, October 11, 2008

Where it all began

Want to know where this financial mess really started?

Other than Adam and Eve wanting to keep up with the Lucifer Jones's, of course.

Last Sunday's Tampa Tribune ran an article written by Patrick May and originally printed in the San Jose Mercury News.

The article, "50 Years Later, How the Credit Card has changed America," told how ... well, here. Read the first two paragraphs for yourself:

"Fifty years ago this month, Bank of America mass-mailed to nearly every home in Fresno a small piece of plastic called the BankAmericard. The credit card had arrived, a shiny corkscrew for each recipient to unbottle thousands of dollars in spending money that hadn't existed before they ripped open those envelopes.

That first taste went right to Fresno's head. By the second year, cardholders had racked up nearly $60 million in purchases. BankAmericard morphed into the Visa powerhouse. And a half-century later, as America embraced and then exported the concept of buying things with money folks didn't necessarily have, the whole world has gotten tipsy.

Let's see. The U.S. Census estimates Fresno's population in 2007 to be 407,508. In 1960, according to the U.S. Census, Fresno's population was 131,595, having grown from its 1950 population of 91,669 -- a 43.6% change.

If we figure an average of four people per household, that's 32,898 households -- give or take a couple.

In two years -- TWO YEARS -- those 32,898 households had, in May's words "racked up nearly $60 million in purchases." That's about $1,824 per household.

$912 per year.

Doesn't sound so bad, does it? But . . .

In 1958, the average household annual income was only $4,650.

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