My name is Bob,and I am a Credit Abuser.

When I was but a wee lad growing up in a small town in Central Texas, there was a purchasing strategy called, "layaway"

Using the layaway plan, a person could arrange with the merchant for a desired product to be held by the merchant, until such time as the person could pay the full purchase price. These plans worked for years, but changed as time went on ...minimum amounts to hold the product, minimum payments, maximum time allowed ...and finally a small surcharge for the service.

The layaway program grew until the merchant faced an inventory turnover problem. The merchandise was still being counted but it was not on the shelf, for sale! At this point many merchants began offering "credit" to their regular customers. Afterall these people were dependable, and the merchant could make a few extra percentage points on interest, and keep saleable goods on his shelves ...hell, the banks even considered this extension of credit as an asset, allowing the merchant to borrow more money to keep his inventory moving.

This program grew and prospered, and the merchant was having such good success with it, that he began to expand the credit base beyond his most trusted customers. It did not take long for the inventory problem to become a cash flow problem. The lenders began discriminating between "good" debt and "bad" debt, and the merchant was stuck with all of it because he was the source of the credit to begin with ...bad debt was no longer eligible for asset designation and became a tax write-off for those unable to get the "deadbeat" customers to pay their bills.

At this point credit tightened up as these programs were severely curtailed; and in larger metropolitan areas, the merchant had no ability to know a reasonable percentage of his customers well enough to break even on the interest against the write-offs. But, there is always someone able to tackle even a proposition such as this, on a large enough scale to make it profitable.

Enter the financial institution credit line. This allowed the merchant to receive his money for merchandise in a timely fashion -- for a small fee -- and the larger institution could balance the larger number of creditors. Any losses could be absorbed by raising the interest rates on unpaid funds ...pass it along to the consumer. And since the product here is money, the financial institutions were already in a position to pursue those who were less than responsible with their payments.

Business was so good, it had to be expanded; statewide, countrywide, worldwide ...and thus was born the credit card.

At first they were difficult to get ...and in some places difficult to use. But as their use became more widespread, and their acceptance more global, the merchants and the credit card companies acted upon the need to expand their market by increasing the ease of acquisition. The flow of money lubes the economy, and just like insurance, the more people involved in creating debt, the wider the dispersal of fault became... and the companies could still increase the interest rates at any time.

In all of this growth of a major industry, the responsibility for its control was left solely to the consumer. Each of us was expected to act responsibly regarding our debt structure ...and yet daily, we are bombarded with offers of cards of gold, and platinum, and titanium. We are offered 90 days like cash, Zero interest until the Diamondbacks win the Pennant, a discount on your current purchase if you will use the card...

Why wait? Prices will never be lower! And you don't have to make a payment until next year... many states now, if you as a private citizen, serve liquor to your friends at a private party, in your home, you become liable for that person's physical and mental abilities until such time as it can be determined scientifically, that no alcohol remains in his system.

Excessive use of alcohol is recognized by almost every country on earth, as a societal problem, and a personal disease.

I am a credit abuser. I am now in a program. I will eventually retire my debts, and strive daily to live within a cash budget. I will be tempted every moment of the rest of my life to "buy now with four easy payments of 33.95 on your credit card."

It is up to the alcoholic to admit he has a problem before he can get help. Meanwhile, our society has become of the opinion that the suppliers of that substance, and others, share responsibility in the creation of this problem... we are now faced with the first generations of Americans who have been saturated with the ease of material wealth accumulation with the aid of a piece of plastic.

It is surely time that the suppliers take responsibility for the societal problem they have created.