Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A (Re)Possessed Culture

Last weekend I was visiting a friend who has cable. Flipping through channels, I became absorbed by a show formatted like a standard reality show with a cast of characters reminisce of Jerry Springer. What I later learn is that the show, Operacion Repo, is one of or the (depending on the website) top rated show on Telemundo... and its been running for 8 years. It has an English counterpart on TRUTV. The show is a "docu-drama," that is, it is based on real events but is not real. In any case, with it left me wandering around LA thinking about our apparent 'culture of (re)possessions.'

  • Well known is the problem with home foreclosures, in effect, when the bank repos the house. Such a widespread trend, it has led to all sorts of global economic strife.
  • Earlier this year, Time magazine reported that people were receiving foreclosure notices, socially, through facebook.
  • The Census keeps track of repo industry statistics. They report that the industry of repossession has over 6,000 employees, an annual payroll of roughly $200 million, and "sales" of about $717 million (in 2007).
  • In 2009, a Syracuse paper reports that vehicle repossessions were way up, with a record 1.67 million autos repossessed in 2008 in the United States, an increase of 12 percent over 2007
  • MSN reports that subprime auto lending is up, too.
Not really main interest, over all, but has definitely piqued my curiosity. Is this what happens to a consumer culture that goes broke? The repo man and his business has long been socially stigmatized, favored about as much as the meter maid, but in today's economy he seems to be doing very well. With society's growing familiarity with default and repossession, it may cease to exist as a risk we concern ourselves with. It exists instead as a risk we incur as a matter of getting through the day. I came across another statistic somewhere that an insurance line offering protection against default is also growing and reducing defaults and repossessions (at least, temporarily as would should read between bar graphed lines).

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