CREDIT OR DEBIT, PAPER OR PLASTIC?

 By Carolyn Baker, Ph.D.

 For several years I have been making as many purchases as possible in cash. Recently, when asked if my purchase would be credit or debit, I answered as I frequently do with: “Little green pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on them.” In reply, the clerk remarked, “Wow, we don’t see many of those around here anymore.” My long-time preference for paying cash has been further reinforced after viewing what I consider the best Christmas gift money can buy, Aaron Russo’s “America From Freedom To Fascism” documentary, which sadly, is still only available online and must be paid for by means of the ubiquitous, “credit or debit.” Among a host of issues addressed in the film is the extent of the United States government’s tracking of its citizens’ behavior, illumined by a chilling interview with Catherine Albrecht, who along with Liz McIntyre, authored SPYCHIPS: How Major Corporations And Government Plan To Track Your Every Purchase And Watch Your Every Move. Even a cursory reading of Albrecht and McIntyre will send you running to cut up your credit cards and tuck your debit card away in the farthest recesses of your dresser drawer because there is now virtually no separation between corporate marketing’s tracking of consumer purchases and government surveillance of them. Every purchase with a paper or digital trail tells the imperial corporatocracy more about you than you would care to imagine and gives frightening new meaning to the expression “Too Much Information.” 

Those familiar with my writings know that for years I have advocated not using credit cards at all and debit cards only minimally as a way of avoiding debt by paying in cash. Doing so makes money more tangible to oneself and prevents spending money one does not have. But now with Albrecht and McIntyre’s research, we have a new and terribly compelling reason for using those little green pieces of paper instead of plastic: the RFID chip. Radio frequency identification chips are being imbedded in products, credit and debit cards, and other types of plastic identification cards, such as frequent shopper cards, at frightening speed. At some point, the U.S. government will print paper currency containing RFID chips in order to track its circulation, but that hasn’t happened yet. Albrecht and McIntyre clarify the implications of chipped currency:

 Imagine if when you took a hundred dollars out of the ATM, each of the twenty-dollar bills you withdrew contained its own unique ID number that could be captured and associated with your account. When you later used on of those bills to make a payment, its number would be captured again by the retailer at the point of sale. If records of these transfer were stored in a master database operated by the federal government (or a private entity that would provide it on demand), it would be possible to literally follow the trail of cash through the economy.[1] 

RFID technology is being sold to the American people as a “necessity” in order to “protect” us from terrorism and identity theft and to save time and make our lives oh so much more convenient. As “America From Freedom To Fascism” explains, by 2009, every state in the U.S. will be issuing drivers licenses with an RFID chip containing an integration of the holder’s personal data, such as Social Security, medical and insurance information, and other information now considered private. Moreover, one will not be able to drive or open a bank account in the United States without a chipped drivers license. When this happens, it will not be the American citizen who will be protected, but rather, the federal government. Obviously, if one wishes to purchase products or services from the Internet which cannot be purchased locally, such as Aaron Russo’s documentary, using a credit or debit card is necessary. In my opinion, such purchases should be minimal and transacted only with sites where one is reasonably certain that one’s data will not be compromised or shared with government agencies.  And yes, you may be asking, Why should I pay with fiat currency—paper money which is essentially without value because it is not backed by a gold standard and with every passing day appears to be circling the drain in relation to other major world currencies? Perhaps the only reason you should use fiat currency for everything is for the benefit of your own privacy, and while you’re at it, start buying small quantities of silver and certainly gold if you can afford to, so that when the rest of the world has dumped the dollar, you will still have currency with real value instead of just a bunch of bogus bills. Another reason to watch the Russo documentary is to understand how those green pieces of paper became bogus, thanks to a private bank that has been deceivingly named the Federal Reserve and to grasp the fiduciary control that that very NON-federal institution exerts over your life, from the value of the currency in your wallet to the interest rates you are required to pay on purchasing a home or an automobile. 

According to statistics from Shop.Org, an online retailers’ network, almost 30% of US consumers who go on the Internet do not buy products online. The biggest obstacle is concern about the safety of entering credit card information on the Web — 62% cited this as a deterrent.[2] While online commerce offers the consumer immeasurable convenience, and in some instances may be the only option for purchasing products or services, it supports our focusing globally rather than locally—the only place where possible solutions to the daunting issues of human and planetary survival can be implemented. One of the most encouraging signs of economic transformation on the horizon is the burgeoning of movements across the nation for relocalization on which Michael Brownlee of the Boulder, Colorado relocalization movement comments:

 Why is relocalization so important? Because we are regenerating or rebirthing community; our most precious resource is community, and this resource is rapidly diminishing. It turns out that a fossil-fuel-based culture of consumption—and the economic globalization that it inevitably spawns—destroys community. And it is only by building community self-sufficiency in energy, food and economy that we have a chance of preserving what’s most important about the human species into the future and ensuring the future of human freedom. We live on one planet, and it is becoming essential to our survival that we begin thinking and acting as one people; this can only realistically begin on the level of community.[3] 

What might happen if the trillions spent each year through electronic purchases were put back into our communities through those still-yet-unchipped little green pieces of paper? What would happen for you and for your community this holiday season if nearly all of your purchases occurred in local stores and when possible, consisted of products made locally? This nation just completed a national election and is scheduled to hold another in two years. That’s a long time to wait to vote for politicians who ultimately accomplish very little for the American people. Today, tomorrow, and every day, you will vote with your money and time, and your vote will either work for you or against you. Will you vote for your neighborhood and your community, or will you vote for the global corporatocracy that increasingly undermines the value of your hard work and financial resources with every passing day? This holiday season, pull out those green pieces of paper and spread them around your community. If enough of us do so, we just might help save the entire planet, place by place. 

Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor of history and author of U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You which may be ordered at your local bookstore or at her website www.carolynbaker.org


[1] Spychips, P. 197.

[2] http://www.shop.org/learn/stats_ebizz_fulfillment.asp

[3] http://www.boulderrelocalization.org/articlesessays/index.htm

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3 Responses to “CREDIT OR DEBIT, PAPER OR PLASTIC?”

  1. unitedcats Says:

    What, you don’t want to live in a world where the measure of a man or woman is their credit rating? 😉 I agree, the cashless society is a perversion of what cash is supposed to be. I’m old fashioned, I fondly remember the day when money actually had a real world value, unlike the tokens/coupons in use today. Interesting post, as always.

    Doug

  2. anonymous Says:

    If you’re worried about online transactions, you ought to consider those preloaded debit cards local banks and malls sell as gift cards in denominations of $20-$500. Pay cash for the card (the fee is like $2-$3) and preserve some of your privacy while limiting the risk of someone unscrupulous getting your credit card number (you can’t charge up more than the amount loaded). Think of the fee as ‘privacy insurance’.

    As for RFID in paper money, well couldn’t you and your neighbors and friends trade bills around before you actually ‘bought’ something…that would help confuse the feds, wouldn’t it?

  3. All Government Court and Criminal Records Available here ! Says:

    All Government Court and Criminal Records Available here !

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