Posted by Adam @ 10:35 pm on March 1st 2007

The US for limeys, Part 3: Credit

The much-awaited third installment in our tough look at the most boring parts of everyday life in the US, for limeys.

You are in America. You have your driving license. You are watching television advertisements (subject of a future limey guide) to find your spurious ailments of choice. What you need now are some credit cards, some storecards, a mortgage on a house which you cannot afford to pay from the moment you sign the papers, a car that will not be worth what you owe on it at any time in the next five years and for the moments when you just have to get away from the stress of being functionally bankrupt, you need a boat.

We need now to take a diversion and talk about the Social Security Number (SSN). It is your numerical fingerprint, the barcode on your soul, the number of your inner fiscal beast, everything your NI number would love to be but fails to achieve. The government issue you with one so that they can track your Social Security payments, which are used to make the federal budget deficit appear smaller than it is; in fancy financial terms, think of it as you lending the government money for absolutely nothing in return ever. So, it makes complete sense that you need one of these to buy a car, rent an apartment, see a dentist, get insurance, have cable tv connected or get a driving license from the DMV. Actually, on subject of the driving license, you need an SSN or a letter from the Social Security Administration (the SSA) saying that you aren’t allowed to have an SSN. You get this letter from the SSA by going to their office in person with your passport and all other documentation with your name on it that you own, taking a number and a form from the guard, filling out the form requesting an SSN that you know you aren’t allowed to have then waiting, waiting, waiting until your number comes up, handing the form in, waiting some more while they look at it then being told that you, surprise, can’t have an SSN, then asking them for a letter saying that you can’t have an SSN. Take that back to the DMV only three short hours after you left, and your DMV experience will really begin.

Libertarians will point out that you can’t be asked for your SSN by most of these people. Ignore them; libertarians live on the street, have crappy teeth and watch their cable tv standing next to the ‘no vagrants’ sign on the doors of BestBuy. But I digress.

You need credit. What does it say about you if no one will lend you money? It says that you’re a nobody, a schmuck, a has-been and possibly a Canadian. Children will throw stones at you, nuns will tazer you in the testicles, dogs will cross the street to avoid you and prostitutes will refuse to touch your filthy, solvent, body.

America, the bold, thrusting, capitalist heart of the West, is a meritocracy. That means that you are measured by your objective worth, which is a number between 300 and 850. This number, your ‘credit score’, is available to everyone who knows your social security number. They can query it to determine whether you are a good person to whom they could lend money. By asking what your credit score is, they make your credit score lower; in America, you get to not have your cake and not eat it.

Having a credit score and not using it to get credit is like having an assault rifle and not using it to shoot trespassers; it’s unAmerican. To get credit, you will need to tell a prospective lender your SSN. You might wonder, given you have to hand out this number to so many people, what is to stop ill-intentioned ne’er do wells using your SSN to nefariously apply for credit and not repay sums borrowed, thus destroying your credit score, screwing up your life and sending you into a downward spiral at the end of which you’ll be fighting libertarians for the best garbage. It’s a good question. You don’t want to know the answer.

You can check on your own credit score if you want to pay or follow through a series of poorly-designed webpages grudgingly constructed by the credit industry in order to comply with recent legislation. Otherwise, you can boldly put on your best humiliation clothes and go and ask a lender, who will check it for no charge. I recommend the front of a long queue in a hardware store to fill out your form and then receive the verdict while everyone else prepares to treat you as they would a sheep rapist with leprosy. On the other hand, you may find that despite having no credit history, your credit score is inexplicably high (marginally higher, indeed, than your spouse who has been working in the US for years, haha, how we laughed). If you ever mention any of this in public, you will invariably attract a lot of advice on how to improve your credit score from tedious blowhards who finally graduated from highschool at the age of 21 to be rewarded with a long-promised promotion to probationary cashier. These people are only one enlarged hole in their bedroom wall away from being libertarians and should be avoided at all costs in case the insidious forces of credit reassessment see you talking to them and viciously reduce your credit score, which you’ll only discover when you are embarassingly refused a GAP storecard whilst trying to get the 10% off two weeks’ worth of flatteringly styled lycra boxer shorts.

Now you have credit, you can confidently and overbearingly advise others as to how to improve their credit scores, know the bowel-loosening fear of any disruption in your income, find yourself absent-mindedly assessing the worth of your children’s bodily organs and finally, roll up your spending sleeves, because you have your place at the table for the Great American Game: ‘Die in debt’. As you build your credit history, people will lend you an amount of money that you cannot ever fully repay in order that you eventually shell out 3 times the original amount in interest and charges before consolidating all your debts into a long-term unsecured loan with a corporate subsidiary of your original lenders. Congratulations; you are the moron that lays the golden eggs.


  1. Accused of having bad teeth…by an ENGLISHMAN. Man, that really stings.

    Comment by Rojas — 3/1/2007 @ 10:53 pm

  2. You libertarians don’t need good teeth because all your food is decomposing.

    Comment by Adam — 3/1/2007 @ 11:22 pm

  3. Great.

    Comment by Dingle — 3/2/2007 @ 2:23 am

  4. Brilliant.

    Comment by dizzy — 3/2/2007 @ 7:53 am

  5. Very good, Adam. I would add that the only credit that Libertarians will ever get is for managing to have their candidates come in behind those of the Pan Sexual Party in national elections.

    Comment by Yank Crank — 3/2/2007 @ 12:56 pm

  6. I don’t think you need a SSN to do most of those things. I never give out my SSN to any non-government agency, except for employers, since they have to have it for I-9 (government agency) forms. My old DSL service was in a fake name, and they did not have my social. My health insurance company does not know my SSN, and neither to any of my medical providers. Federal law even says it’s not supposed to be used for anything not related to you social security policy.

    Yank Crank, I think you definitely have you election figures wrong. See the numbers at


    Comment by weltschmerz — 3/2/2007 @ 8:11 pm

  7. You don’t have a mortgage, I presume; you can’t get a credit check without SSN and pretty much no one is going to lend you money without that. My health insurance is through my employer, as well, and they wouldn’t treat me without me using my SSN to identify myself. I doubt that we’d have been able to get a credit card, which we pretty much need in our jobs, without an SSN either.

    The cable company just said that they wouldn’t provide service without one. Seeing as I like broadband internet, there wasn’t much choice there. When we were renting in NJ, the places we wanted to live would also not allow us to move in there without SSN; we could perhaps have started a legal challenge but then we’d have had nowhere to live in the meantime.

    I read a piece on this years ago, that the government, having let the use of the SSN become so crucial to the business of the nation, had been painted into a corner; they can’t enforce the law without damaging the economy.

    Comment by Adam — 3/3/2007 @ 6:54 am

  8. Range voting, weltschmerz? Heh. I rest my case.

    Comment by Yank Crank — 3/8/2007 @ 2:01 pm

  9. […] As all fans of this cutesy light-hearted human-comedy masterpiece know, the scheduled time for a showing of Gilmore Girls is one hour. The running time of an episode on the DVD, however, is 42 minutes. 30% of your cherished hour of scatty females failing to connect with dumb but secretly sensitive males in the picturesque Connecticut town of Stars Hollow is made up of television advertising aimed at the needs, I said needs, godamnit, of people between 18 and 49 years old. Why else would you need credit? […]

    Pingback by The Crossed Pond » The US for limeys, Part 4: Television advertising I. — 3/9/2007 @ 2:25 pm

  10. Very amusing series.

    Comment by ignatz — 3/22/2007 @ 12:17 pm

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