2 Category 2: ENGL 1020

Steven Bergman; Pricila Hernandez; Kiah Krueger; and Hannah Martin

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Psychological Causation and Implications of 9/11 Conspiracy Theories: How the Imagination is Captured by the Absurd

Awarded to Steven Bergman for work submitted in 2020 to Dr. James Comas in ENGL 1020: Research and Argumentative Writing

On July 22, 2004, the 9/11 Commission issued its official report regarding the attacks years earlier. The 585-page document compiled information from intelligence sources, black box data from the flights, eyewitness accounts, and testimonies from the President and much of his cabinet.[1] The report sought to inform the government and citizens willing to take the time to read it on how such a tragedy occurred and what actions may be taken to mitigate future attacks. The latter was in large part adopted into the principles of Neo-Conservatism and the Bush Doctrine regarding foreign policy and dictated the operational strategy of the recently stood-up Department of Homeland Security domestically. On the surface, such action on the part of a Congressional committee would appear to be a welcomed show of transparency. Indeed, the American people had a right to know the truth. However, when such reports are released to the public, particularly after the removal of classified information, they often lead to more questions than answers. The somewhat vague language may bear implications that fuel more suspicions, which can ultimately produce conspiracy theories. Specifically, the report referenced a “failure of imagination,” effectively indicting the intelligence community for its inability to see the writing on the wall leading up to the attack.[2] The idea that much of the government may have had prior knowledge of the plot may certainly explain the formation of some of the milder theories (i.e., the government did nothing to prevent it in order to serve some larger purpose or justify military action in new regions), but it doesn’t explain the more radical ones, which claim the attacks were explicitly planned and carried out by our government or those acting on its behalf. Why do so many subscribe to these theories, despite a preponderance of evidence dismissing them? Perhaps, there is something innately human about a belief in the absurd. Fortunately, there is a large body of academic literature dedicated to such questions.

In order to better understand why so many people maintain at least some degree of belief in conspiracy theories, we first have to examine some of the theories themselves. The architecture of these belief systems will then be imposed onto those discussed in a relevant body of research, which will be discussed later. As touched on earlier, there are two main camps of conspiracy theories regarding 9/11, the “Let It Happen on Purpose” (LIHOP) and “Made It Happen on Purpose” (MIHOP).[3] Both accuse the Federal Government of reprehensible action, although the latter does so to a much greater extent. The LIHOP theory, or “advance knowledge” conspiracy, asserts that the Bush Administration, intelligence agencies, and perhaps even Wall Street had foreknowledge of an imminent attack and took no preventative measures. Common evidence cited for these theories is an abundance of intelligence reports occurring before September 11, such as a memo between Mossad and the CIA from July 2001 specifically mentioning hijacking by “middle eastern terrorists.” Many also point to the stock put options on U.S. airlines prior to the attack, which enabled shareholders to sell off stocks quickly. This is often cited as evidence that the financial sector may have also had an early warning and chose to exploit the situation for profit.

The MIHOP theories are far more damning. They usually assert that the government orchestrated the attacks and rely on kinetic “evidence” from the attack sites and possible motives in order to explain the position. Specifically, the theories claim that the towers’ collapse was a controlled demolition and cite the Bush Administration’s global ambitions as a potential motive. This is often taken a step further, with assertions that the Pentagon was attacked by a missile instead of a commercial flight. Both the LIHOP and MIHOP theories seek to provide an explanation for the tragedies, arising almost immediately after the attacks.

In the period following the September 11th attacks, the predominant response among Americans was that of fear, uncertainty, and anger. In Jan-Willem van Prooijen’s book The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories, the author makes extensive note of the role fear and uncertainty play in the formulation and subscription to conspiracy theories.[4] Dr. Prooijen asserts that the theories are, in effect, a coping mechanism in response to the emotions people feel in the period following crises. During times of uncertainty, people also tend to assume worst-case scenarios, often projecting self-interested behaviors on the most logical targets. This applies well to 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Those in positions of power during the crisis (i.e., the Federal Government and financial sector) would be the most likely targets of the theories, as they would have been the only groups capable of affecting such outcomes. This is consistent with Prooijen’s research, in which he specifically refers to people assuming the worst of powerful institutions, as well as those perceived as “different.” We see more parallels here between 9/11 conspiracy theories and those of the past, as Jews in New York supposedly knew not to come to work that morning, much like how they also poisoned the wells during the Black Plague. The fact that the immediate targets of 9/11 conspiracy theories were those in power or those deemed as different shows that the overarching psychology is consistent among the believers.

Widespread misinformation also plays a significant role in the adoption and spread of conspiracy theories. An article in The Journal of Political Philosophy by Cass R. Sunstein and Adrian Vermeule discusses what the authors call a “crippled epistemology,” or a general lack of knowledge among populations.[5] While many of the theories begin with whom they call “conspiracy entrepreneurs,” those who propagate their ideas for profit or notoriety, otherwise reasonable people often subscribe to them because they simply don’t know enough relevant information to dispute it. While Prooijen asserts that conspiracy theories are no more prevalent in the information age, it cannot be disputed that any existing theories certainly have the capacity to spread much faster due to the internet. While the Sunstein/Vermeule article predates modern social media platforms by a few years, it would be safe to assume the authors would have addressed this concern had it existed at the time. Since users of social media have the ability to choose what and whom they follow, they have significant control over the information they are regularly consuming. This, along with tech algorithms, produces a type of echo chamber, where many internet users are only exposed to information they already agree with, perhaps reducing the overall ability to think critically and question what they hear. In relation to conspiracy theories, this could be a silver bullet—particularly if the theory is already substantiated by a given person’s belief system. If someone is already suspicious of the government and intelligence community, it wouldn’t be difficult to convince them that the government was at least somehow responsible for 9/11. Furthermore, with an increase in mass communication over the last two decades, we could also see group polarization play a role in cementing people’s opinions on conspiracies. Hundreds of studies have shown that when people of a certain belief system have the ability to communicate with other like-minded individuals, they will end up more committed to that belief. One only needs to spend a few hours among certain subreddits and forums to understand this.

Increased exposure to conspiracy theory materials and accompanying belief systems may also account for large numbers of people subscribing to them. In a 2004 Zogby poll, 49 percent of New York City residents admitted to believing that the U.S. Government knew in advance about the attacks and failed to act. These numbers are not trivial and demonstrate how quickly the theories can spread. There is strong evidence, according to a PLOS One journal article by Daniel Jolley and Karen M. Douglas, that when people are exposed to literature and media promoting a conspiracy theory, they are more likely to make relevant decisions based on that.[6] The article specifically dealt with anti-vaccine theories; however, the methodology of the experiment could be replicated to apply to any set of ideas. When subjects were exposed to large amounts of anti-vaccination information, they were more likely to refuse giving potentially life-saving medicine to a hypothetical child. The study also found through its pre-experimental questionnaires that anti-vaccine intentions had strong correlations with general feelings of powerlessness, disillusionment, and a distrust of authority. Today, we have an increased ability to access any literature or media outlet that may promote popular conspiracy theories. The internet has a wealth of subversive and fringe content that would have been impossible to access at the local library 30 years ago. With repeated exposure over a long period of time, many without a capacity for skepticism could become the most zealous believers.

In the early days of Apple’s iPod, the company received many complaints about the “shuffle” feature. Users complained the sequence was not random, as it replayed songs too frequently or songs that were very similar back-to-back. The shuffle feature was, in fact, completely random, but we saw how the brain tends to recognize patterns, even when none truly exist.[7] Apple responded by making the feature less random in order to seem more random to listeners. Prooijen discusses the role pattern perception plays in the adoption and spread of conspiracy theories, particularly regarding the perception of false patterns. Since the brain has the tendency to connect the dots between different events, it is likely that this is a factor in the genesis of the theories themselves. Prooijen specifically cites the theory that Secretary Rumsfeld knew the plane was going to hit the Pentagon and, as a result, went to the other side of the building. Despite the fact that his office was on the other side of the building, many people were convinced by this part of the theory due to a desire to find an illusory pattern among the information. While Prooijen concedes that pattern perception is not always correlated with belief in conspiracy theories, citing a French study, it is likely a contributing factor for many people.

The book American Conspiracy Theories by Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent seeks to examine the cultural causation and effects of the conspiracy theory in America.[8] It argues that America is built on conspiracy theories—indeed, many of the accusations of the Declaration of Independence may have been greatly exaggerated or flat-out inaccurate. The authors argue that believers of conspiracy theories are likely to seek out those that are congruent with their preexisting ideologies or those that incriminate their political opposition. We see this with radical-left Americans holding collectivist ideologies being much more likely to believe climate change conspiracies, as they often condemn free markets for the supposed crisis. In contrast, far-right Americans were more likely to believe conspiracies regarding Barack Obama’s citizenship and sympathies toward Islam because the former President’s ideologies were in conflict with theirs to begin with. In the case of 9/11 conspiracies, a common theme among the believers’ ideology is a general distrust of government. Since this transcends political opinion, it could perhaps explain why the theories are so widespread. While the 9/11 conspiracy may specifically target the Bush-era White House and intelligence appointees, with growing Libertarian dissent from within the GOP, it would be a grave oversimplification to assume that no modern Republicans would be suspicious of the former administration and its policies.

Despite the best efforts of the government and the unprecedented availability of credible literature, it is unlikely that conspiracy theories will ever go away. In any crisis situation, ordinary people will undoubtedly generate and propagate such ideas as a coping mechanism for fear and uncertainty. The collective response to the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated this once again. Just as we saw in the period following 9/11, suspicion is often augmented when official reports fail to answer every question, even if doing so is an unrealistic expectation. As a result, many will “connect the dots” themselves, prompting a vast array of conspiracy theories tailor-made to satisfy any confirmation bias. These theories are often constructed on a fallacious foundation, lacking even the basic tenets of validity, soundness, or rigorous research. When people encounter such ideas, particularly among internet communities, their preexisting beliefs are often amplified and further cemented. At this stage, it is very difficult to undo the damage, even when irrefutable evidence to the contrary is presented. This coupled with instantaneous communication platforms is enough to ignite and sustain the wildfire of misinformation indefinitely. While the outlook on the future of conspiracy theories may seem bleak, the silver lining may be that they provide a fascinating study of human psychology and social tendencies. The better we can understand the bugs in our biological operating system, the better we can mitigate and stem the effects.


“The Evolution of a Conspiracy Theory.” BBC, July 4, 2008. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk  _news/magazine/7488159.stm.

“Foresight—and Hindsight.” 9-11 Commission Report, accessed April 30, 2020. https://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Ch11.pdf.

Griffin, Andrew. “Why ‘Random’ Shuffle Feels Far from Random.” Independent, February 24, 2015, www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/why-random shuffle-feels-far-from-random-10066621.html.

Jolley, Daniel, and Karen M. Douglas. “The Effects on Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theories on Vaccination Intentions.” PLOS One 9, no. 2 (February 2014). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3930676/.

“National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States.” 9-11commission.gov. June 17, 2004. https://www.9-11commission.gov/archive/hearing12/9-11Commission_Hearing_2004-06-17.htm.

Prooijen, Jan-Willem van. The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories. Oxford: Taylor & Francis, 2018.

Sunstein, Cass R., and Adrian Vermeule. “Conspiracy Theories: Causes and Cures.” Journal of Political Philosophy 17, no. 2 (April 2009). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467- 9760.2008.00325.x.

Uscinski, Joseph E.. and Joseph M. Parent. American Conspiracy Theories. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Google Books.

Conspiracy Theories: 5G’s Association with COVID-19

Awarded to Pricila Hernandez for work submitted in 2020 to Dr. James Comas in ENGL 1020: Research and Argumentative Writing

COVID-19 has been a multifaceted issue globally, affecting economies, causing exponential death rates, fueling political discourse, and overall decreasing the worldwide standard of living. The crisis has caused mistrust between certain factions, employers and employees, politicians and citizens, etc. to become more exaggerated. With many unanswered questions surrounding the pandemic, various theories on the origin of the virus have risen, with Chinese officials attributing the virus to U.S. soldiers, Venezuelan President Maduro stating that the virus was an American engineered bioweapon targeted at China, and Iranian officials claiming that the virus was a means of suppressing their citizens’ votes.[9] Despite there being numerous conspiracy theories surrounding COVID-19, one conspiracy that 5G causes the spread of COVID-19 has gained major traction worldwide. It has fueled controversy, with some using the belief that 5G network radio waves communicate with the virus in choosing potential victims as a basis for burning cellphone towers.[10] Such actions have caused additional fatal issues such as a disturbance in communication at the Birmingham Nightingale Hospital. Issues like this have caused state and World Health Organization officials to claim that conspiracies like these have had an adverse effect on their attempts to suppress the effects of the virus and that social media platforms should take action to prevent the spread of misinformation.[11] Alternatively, these efforts have caused celebrities, such as John Cusack and Woody Harrelson, to express their distrust in the states’ claims via social media, causing an amplification in the acceptance that 5G networks cause the coronavirus. In this essay, I use cognitive and emotional analysis to identify likely reasons why belief in the conspiracy theory that 5G causes the spread of COVID-19 has rampantly gained traction. More specifically, I use studies done by Gordon Pennycook and David M. J. Lazer as a basis for understanding how the general public perceives news on the topic, as well as a chapter from Jan-Willem van Prooijen’s The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories as a source for understanding the cause of acceptance and spread of conspiracies.

The belief that 5G negatively impacts human health was held prior to the spread of the coronavirus. Russian network, RT America, aired a segment in which they stated 5G signals had been linked to brain cancer, infertility, autism, heart tumors, and Alzheimer’s disease.[12] Despite lacking any scientific support, this belief served as a catalyst for the Anti-5G movement. This movement began to gain massive support via Facebook towards the end of January, the same time the U.S. received its initial coronavirus cases.[13] Conspiracy theorists had a myriad number of claims on how 5G aided in the transmission of the virus, such as the radio frequency suppressing the immune system, all of which were rejected by the scientific community. Despite this, acceptance of the theory grew rapidly as case numbers increased.

One explanation for the acceptance of the conspiracy theory despite its lacking evidence is that the uncertainty and fear associated with the pandemic cause people to seek answers to questions that have yet to be answered. This is supported by The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories in which Prooijen, to better illustrate his claim that conspiracy theories are rooted in a subjective psychological state, examines a study done in which letters sent to the New York Times and Chicago Tribune between 1890-2010 are inspected for conspiratorial content and proportional to overall letters. The study concluded with the findings that, overall, belief in conspiracy theories has remained constant with there being two spikes: one around the start of the 20th century and the start of the Cold War. He states the societal crisis, like the Industrial Revolution and the Cold War, elicits fear and uncertainty, which cause conspiracy theories to flourish. He also states that prior opinions on politicians, which typically fall within the low end of the satisfactory scale, are reinforced during challenging times. This is caused by the myth of self-interest, the belief that humans are inherently selfish.

A natural human instinct to fear and uncertainty is vigilance. The reasoning behind this is simple: it’s a means of self-preservation. Prooijen reaffirms this when in his book he gives the example of a human seeing a long object in the grass, unsure whether it’s a stick or a snake. He states that it’s natural to avoid the object because “mistakes do not have equal consequence in this situation.”[14] If one wrongfully assumes that the object is a stick and picks it up, they risk the possibility of being bitten by a venomous snake and dying. On the other hand, if one were to assume the worst outcome of the situation, it being a snake, and completely avoids the object, then they increase their chances of survival. The same principle can be applied in this instance. Since there are many unanswered questions surrounding how the virus originated and its spread coincided with the development of 5G technology, it’s natural for humans to assume the worst and make a connection between the two.

Another variable that impacts the spread of the acceptance of the conspiracy theory is how the general public perceives news. A study titled “The Science of Fake News” headed by David Lazer, a professor at Northeastern University, concluded that major news networks were rife with politically fabricated news, also known as “fake news.”[15] This, combined with Prooijen’s claim that the “official” explanation, which in this case was that the virus developed through the consumption of bats by Chinese citizens, “entails a conspiracy” which causes citizens to be dubious about the first accounts given by news networks and state officials. This also causes the public to look for a more grandiose explanation. Prooijen better illustrates this when he states that the reason the assassination of President Kennedy has led to many conspiracy theories is that he was the leader of the most powerful nation. People associate big causes with big consequences; therefore, it’s difficult for them to accept that the death of the world’s most powerful leader was due to the actions of one individual. Similarly, it’s difficult for people to accept that the cause of this global pandemic is something as minuscule as the consumption of bats. Since it has had catastrophic effects globally, there must be a better explanation for it.

A study led by Gordon Pennycook, an assistant professor at Regina University, assessed how the American public perceived news and what caused the spread of misinformation about COVID-19. To do this, he conducted two separate studies, one in which he assessed the participants’ abilities to differentiate between true and false news articles and the second in which he attempted to determine whether there was a relationship between the participants’ ability to discern between true and false news articles and the likelihood of them sharing it. To start with study one, he gathered 853 individuals from Lucid—an online recruiting source that aggregates the response of various individuals to ensure that the participants resembled the American general public via age, gender, ethnicity, and geographic region—and separated them into an accuracy group and a sharing group. Prior to launching the study, Pennycook asked individuals to take a Cognitive Reflective Test, a test evaluating individuals’ ability to think analytically; a Medical Maximizer-Minimizer Scale, which indexed individuals into categories of overusing or underusing medical resources; a 17-question general science quiz; and a two-question survey asking how concerned they were about COVID-19 and how often they proactively read news regarding COVID-19. Afterward, participants in the accuracy group were asked to differentiate the veracity between 30 (15 false and 15 true) news headlines, and participants in the sharing group were asked whether or not they would share the same news articles presented to the accuracy group.

The result for study one was that headline veracity had a larger impact on participants’ ability to determine accuracy than the likelihood of them sharing it; more specifically, 50% more people considered sharing the news than were to rate them accurately.[16] This is primarily due to individuals attempting to find bonding points between each other in a time of crisis.[17] Simply put, some individuals will willingly share news they aren’t certain of as a means of giving others “knowledge” into the unknown, and those not knowing will accept it as truth to try and manage uncontrollable situations. This statement is reinforced in chapter two of The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories when Prooijen reports a study done by psychologist Michele Aker in which she concluded individuals who were reminded of events in which they had no control were more likely to accept conspiracy theories than individuals reminded of instances in which they had control. Pennycook’s first study also found that CRT scores had a negative correlation with belief in false headlines, science knowledge had a positive correlation with CRT, and those who overused medical resources were more likely to believe the false headlines.

In his second study, Pennycook gathered 856 candidates using Lucid. For this experiment, he split the participants into two groups, an experimental and a control. The control group was given the same task as those in the sharing group of experiment one, while the experimental group was told to rate the accuracy of an article headline prior to answering whether or not they would be willing to share it. The experiment resulted with individuals in the treatment group having a sharing discernment that was 2.5 times higher than the control.[18] This indicated that reminding individuals to determine accuracy before sharing could significantly decrease the spread of false news stories. In fact, when individuals in the treatment were categorized into their respective CRT score, scientific knowledge, and distance to the nearest infection epicenter, it was found that there was no significant correlation between any of these variables and the individual’s ability to differentiate between false and true headlines. Pennycook also found that partisanship negatively impacted individuals’ ability to distinguish between true and false news articles.[19] This coincided with the findings of a previous study conducted by David Lazer, that’s also used as a basis for this study by Pennycook to determine to what extent the spread of misinformation concerning COVID-19 is impacted by the politicization of news mediums, in which he concluded that the spread of “fake news” is primarily due to the politicization of news organizations.[20] This can be best illustrated by the contention between President Trump and Michigan’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer. President Trump referred to Michigan’s “Stay at Home” order as a breach of citizens’ rights, to which governor Whitmer replied that he was just seeking to undermine their doings and that she was too busy “protecting people and saving lives in Michigan” to concern herself with politics.[21]

Social media also played a significant role in the spread of the belief that 5G was the cause of COVID-19. The theory that 5G could be connected with human health risk was initially formulated on Facebook.[22] It began gaining major support along with the Anti-5G movement as confirmed cases grew. This, combined with some celebrities, such as Cusack and Harrelson, tweeting that the state was attempting to cover the true connection between COVID-19 and 5G caused the movement to become ubiquitous. These claims were reaffirmed by Skynet reporter, Eamonn Holmes, when he said that it’s expected of British officials to dismiss the connection between COVID-19 and 5G because “it suits the state’s narratives.”[23]

All current findings by the scientific community suggest that the link between COVID-19 and 5G is non-existent. Adam Finn, a pediatric professor at the University of Bristol, went so far as to claim that the virus and electromagnetic waves are as “different as chalk and cheese.”[24] The largest claim associated with the conspiracy, that the electromagnetic waves associated with 5G suppress the immune system, was disproved by an ICNIRP study. Their study concluded that there was no connection between 5G and human ailments.[25] They also released an electromagnetic spectrum detailing how much less radiation is released through 5G compared to things we encounter on a daily basis. For example, in their chart, 5G radiation was put on the low-frequency side below radio waves from microwaves and visible light. The findings of Pennycook’s study also have various limiting variables. For instance, the study only examined U.S. citizens despite the virus being a global pandemic. It also has yet to be peer-reviewed and replicated to ensure results were not affected by sample error and/or skewed data. The study also classified articles as true or false based on the authentications of sites like LiveScience, which could very much change when the effects of the virus are minimized. Due to the small amount of experiments conducted, the effects of the virus still being felt, and lack of data and/or scientific evidence to support the claim, the conspiracy that 5G caused the spread of COVID-19 requires further research to be more accurately judged.



Broad, William J. “Your 5G Phone Won’t Hurt You. But Russia Wants You to Think Otherwise.” The New York Times, May 12, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/12/science/5g-phone-safety-health-russia.html.

Fisher, Max. “Why Coronavirus Conspiracy Theories Flourish. And Why It Matters.” The New York Times, April 8, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/08/world/europe/coronavirus-conspiracy-theories.html.

Holmes, Eamonn. “Coronavirus: Ofcom Assesses Eamonn Holmes 5G Comments after Complaints.” BBC News, April 14, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts52279109.

Kelion, Leo. “Coronavirus: 20 Suspected Phone Mast Attacks over Easter.” BBC News, April 14, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-52281315.

Lazer, David M. J., Matthew A. Baum, Yochai Benkler, Adam J. Berinsky, Kelly M. Greenhill, Filippo Menczer, Miriam J. Metzger, et al. “The Science of Fake News.” Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, March 9, 2018. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aao2998.

Pennycook, Gordon, Jonathon Mcphetres, Yunhao Zhang, and David Gertler Rand. “Fighting COVID-19 Misinformation on Social Media: Experimental Evidence for a Scalable Accuracy Nudge Intervention.” Psychological Science, 2020. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/uhbk9.

Prooijen, Jan-Willem van. “When Do People Believe Conspiracy Theories?” In The Psychology of Conspiracy Theories, 19–34. Oxford: Taylor & Francis, 2018. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315525419-2.

Satariano, Adam, and Davey Alba. “Burning Cell Towers, Out of Baseless Fear They Spread the Virus.” The New York Times, April 10, 2020. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/10/technology/coronavirus-5g-uk.html.

Schraer, Rachel, and Eleanor Lawrie. “Coronavirus: Scientists Brand 5G Claims ‘Complete Rubbish.’” BBC News, April 15, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/news/52168096.

Fracking Safety: Regulation is the Way

Awarded to Kiah Krueger for work submitted in 2020 to Bryanna Licciardi in ENGL 1020: Research and Argumentative Writing

Hydraulic fracturing, known more commonly as fracking, has been a popular topic in recent years due to ongoing controversies regarding the health and safety of the practice. Politicians, environmental advocates, manufacturers, and even citizens without any ties to fracking now find themselves overwhelmed by an influx of contradicting information regarding whether fracking should be allowed as a means of obtaining natural gas and oil resources. Like many ethical issues, there is never a black or white answer. After a significant analysis of the costs and benefits of hydraulic fracturing, I have concluded that there are advantages to fracking, but in order to maintain fracking as a viable method of natural gas and oil extraction, additional restrictive legislation is needed to ensure the health and safety of the environment, the nation’s residents, and the economy. Increased regulations via legislation will improve the balance of its costs and benefits by combating harmful health and environmental ramifications while maintaining fracking as a successful contribution to our domestic production and economic prosperity.

Hydraulic fracturing is the process of drilling a well and injecting fluid at a high speed to form fissures in rock through which natural gas and oil can be extracted. The fluid used to break the rocks often includes chemical additives or sand within the mixture to deconstruct the rocks (“Hydraulic Fracturing & Health”). The debate regarding this method of harvesting natural resources is centered around three issues: the potential ramifications it has on the environment, as these processes pose prospective threats to air and water quality; the health of individuals residing within proximity to fracking sites; and the financial and economic aspects of wellness. The enactment of legislation is the most feasible way to monitor and adjust threats to all of these variables.

Currently, there is not a great deal of legislation in place to regulate fracking practices. Much of the monitoring and regulation of hydraulic fracturing processes and drilling sites is conducted by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Current legislation does exist, like the Clean Air Act, a law that gives the EPA the power to dictate what acceptable levels are for hazardous emissions. However, many of these rules do not expressly apply to oil and natural gas developments (“Summary of the Clean Air Act”). Additionally, little to no legislation exists regarding fracking failure disclosure or transparency of materials utilized in the fracking fluid or other processes. The Energy Policy Act of 2005, legislation passed under the Bush presidential administration, amended the Safe Water Drinking Act to exclude fracking fluids and natural gas wells from the regulatory jurisdiction of this legislation (“Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Development”). Commonly referred to as the Halliburton Loophole, these gaps often result from industry influence on the political frameworks necessary to create and implement regulatory legislation.

Environmental concerns regarding fracking are arguably the most widely referenced, and data shows that these concerns absolutely hold merit. One of the most commonly cited environmental ramifications is water pollution. Water pollution can occur via flowback spills and other equipment malfunctions or from negligence regarding safe and proper disposal of the fracking fluids and water. In 2016, the EPA noted that fracking did not pose a significant threat to water sources due to the low likelihood of process or equipment malfunctions causing spills. However, research shows otherwise. According to Jackson et al., “analyses of state records for the Marcellus Shale [fracking site] from 2010 to 2013 revealed that Pennsylvania wells failed at rates of 3–6% in the first three years of well life” (341). They also add that “state regulatory agencies confirmed 116 cases of well-water contamination in recent years associated with drilling activities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia” (Jackson et al. 342). Dr. Kevin Schug, the head researcher on a water pollution study completed in the Barnett Shale formation in Texas, notes that it is difficult to “source the contaminants … [as there is] an extreme lack of comprehensive analysis of water quality in proximity to water sources” (Miller). This lack of comprehensive study could suggest why the EPA made such wide claims, despite contrary research, and illustrates the need for continued research.

An additional study assessing the Marcellus Shale site in Pennsylvania denotes that there are negative health effects, particularly from skin absorption and ingestion of contaminated water. Testing completed at the site revealed excessive levels of contaminants that have known carcinogenic effects, such as benzene and arsenic (Abualfaraj 1). Extractions should only be permitted in locations that would not pose a significant threat to groundwater sources should a failure occur. Much of the safety of fracking processes relies on the proper treating and execution of safety precautions and equipment testing. An increase in legislative action would help to mitigate the likelihood of contaminating watersheds and other crucial freshwater sources by restricting the locations in which fracking can be carried out. As suggested by Dr. Ngee Sing Chong, a chemistry professor at Middle Tennessee State University, legislation requiring proper treatment of wastewater before disposal could be implemented to reduce the risk of contamination. Federal and state regulations on maintenance and inspection should also be utilized to ensure that protocols are being carried out correctly.

In addition to water pollution, air pollution is a notable consequence of hydraulic fracturing. During the drilling and extraction process, air samples can be taken to reveal the pollutants that are released. Experts like Dr. Chong have performed studies with a focus on monitoring air pollution and researching strategies for pollution control. In an interview, Dr. Chong outlined the findings from a research project sponsored by Northeastern University on the field sampling of pollutants from Karnes County, Texas, fracking sites. His research was conducted by capturing air samples in canisters and then analyzing the chemicals and particulate matter in the emissions. His research revealed that “most of the pollutants are volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are emitted from manufacturing facilities, petroleum refineries, and automobiles” (Keith 9). Specifically, benzene was cited as a VOC of particular concern, as it was found in levels 10 to 12 times the Texas health screening standard of five parts per billion (Chong). Benzene, along with other volatile organic compounds, has been proven to have carcinogenic effects. Studies performed in Colorado also revealed a causality between maternal proximity to air pollutants released during the extraction and production processes of natural gas and birth complications, noting neural tube defects and congenital heart defects as outcomes (McKenzie et al. 412). Air pollution is more challenging to remedy due to the difficulty of removing pollution from ambient air, and while the EPA has regulations in place to monitor over 188 hazardous pollutants, regulation can still be challenging to manage. Dr. Chong, who also formerly worked for the state of Texas in an air monitoring station, notes that “in recent years they have cut back on air quality monitoring.” Other organizations such as the State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and the Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials have spoken to this as well, suggesting that the reason behind this is that federal grant funding for state pollution control agencies is severely lacking, resulting in critical operations and reporting not being carried out (8). Implementing legislative measures to ensure routine monitoring is imperative to managing pollution caused by fracking. A key component of this will be to raise the fines and ensure legal action follow-through for oil and gas developments that do not adhere to EPA guidelines.

The health and well-being of a society should not only consider the environmental and health factors, but also the prosperity of our economy. Hydraulic fracturing has become one of the main sources for obtaining natural gas and oil in the U.S., and in doing so, it has played a large part in stimulating our economy. Statistics provided by the U.S. Energy Information Administration state that approximately 67 percent of the nation’s natural gas and approximately 50 percent of its oil are obtained through fracking (Powell). U.S. reliance on foreign natural gas and oil imports has decreased significantly since domestic fracking usage has increased, as these techniques have “allowed us to access petroleum reserves that are otherwise not available had it not been through the horizontal drilling technology that is used so frequently with fracking” (Chong). Additionally, in areas where fracking is prominent, unemployment rates have decreased, and median incomes and economic prosperity have increased. A report released in New Mexico in conjunction with a 2016 “Energy Accountability Series” shows that unemployment rates dropped two percent and the overall state Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased by 11 billion between 2013 and 2018—both gains that can be attributed to natural gas and oil development increases (“The Economic Benefits”). Through legislative regulation, the environmental and health ramifications can be combated in order to maintain these economic advantages.

In the U.S., we utilize thousands of petroleum products every day, ranging from manufacturing materials such as household items to diesel fuels and even asphalt. For as long as consumers continue to demand petroleum products, the need for oil and natural gas extraction will exist. As fracking is one of the primary methods of extraction, striking a balance between the costs and the benefits is of utmost importance. Whether directly or indirectly, fracking has an effect on almost every individual living in the U.S.  Ultimately, when a society makes any decision, the health and livelihoods of the people and the environment should be of the highest priority. Additional regulatory legislation is the key component to mediating the risks associated with fracking. From signing petitions to contacting political representatives to voting, the opportunities and actions available for citizens to promote changes for this cause are extensive. With this mindset and the collective efforts of lawmakers and individuals alike, our society can enjoy the benefits of economic prosperity and affordable petroleum products of fracking, all while still safeguarding health and sustainability for the people and the planet.


Works Cited

Abualfaraj, Noura, et al. “Assessing Residential Exposure Risk from Spills of Flowback Water from Marcellus Shale Hydraulic Fracturing Activity.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 15, no. 4, 2018, pp. 1–25, doi:10.3390/ijerph15040727.

Chong, Ngee Sing. Personal interview. 23 Sept. 2020.

“The Critical Funding Shortfall of State and Local Air Quality Agencies.” Prepared by State and Territorial Air Pollution Program Administrators and Association of Local Air Pollution Control Officials, Feb. 2004, www.4cleanair.org/wp-content/uploads/Documents/FundingNeedsOverview.pdf.

“The Economic Benefits of Hydraulic Fracturing To New Mexico.” Global Energy Institute, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 12 Dec. 2019, www.globalenergyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/2019-12/the_economic_benefits_of_hydraulic_fracturing_to_new_mexico.pdf.

“Hydraulic Fracturing & Health.” National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 25 Jan. 2019,     www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/fracking/index.cfm.

Jackson, Robert B., et al. “The Environmental Costs and Benefits of Fracking.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources, vol. 39, no. 1, 2014, pp. 327–362, doi:10.1146/annurevenviron-031113-144051.

Keith, Ki-In. Analysis of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) From Hydraulic Fracturing Facilities in Karnes County, Texas and Identification of VOCs In Shelby County, Tennessee. 2017. Middle Tennessee State University, MA thesis. JEWLScholar, jewlscholar.mtsu.edu/handle/mtsu/5571.

Mckenzie, Lisa M., et al. “Birth Outcomes and Maternal Residential Proximity to Natural Gas Development in Rural Colorado.” Environmental Health Perspectives, vol. 122, no. 4, 1 Apr. 2014, pp. 412–417, doi:10.1289/ehp.1306722.

Miller, Justin. “Why It’s So Hard to Regulate Fracking.” The American Prospect, 24 June 2015, prospect.org/environment/hard-regulate-fracking/.

Powell, Tarika. “Is Your ‘Natural’ Gas Actually Fracked?” Sightline Institute, 18 Apr. 2019, www.sightline.org/2017/10/30/is-your-natural-gas-actually-fracked/.

“Summary of the Clean Air Act.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 6 Aug. 2020,  www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-air-act.

“Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas Development.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 28 Sept. 2020, www.epa.gov/uog.

Credit Cards are a Trap! So Watch Out!

Awarded to Hannah Martin for work submitted in 2020 to Dr. Pam Davis in ENGL 1020: Research and Argumentative Writing

Imagine you are fresh out of college, have a job, and live in your first apartment. The only thing missing from your “adult life,” according to your parents, is a credit card so you can start building your credit history and have a good credit score. They told you to use it on all your purchases, such as groceries and gas, and at the end of every month, pay it off, and you will be good! Sadly, they forgot to mention how risky a credit card can be since you are not spending money but charging to pay off later. You know you are supposed to pay it off every month, but this is your first month to pay rent. So, you decide to pay it off next month. Next month arrives, and you decide that you would like to put some money into savings. So, you push that credit card bill to the next month while still using your credit card regularly, like your parents said. A year passes and you have made a few payments on your credit card bill, but it is nowhere close to being completely paid off. Your parents visit and want to know your credit score. After some research, you and your parents are shocked to learn that your credit score is in the lowest category, and you have accumulated four thousand dollars in debt on your credit card.

At this point, you have two choices: on one hand, you can continue with your current lifestyle and make minimum payments on your credit card bill every few months, which can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life. On the other hand, you can close that credit card and make more than the minimum payment each month in hopes of one day living a debt-free life. Still, it may take you years to completely pay it off, but you know it will be worth it. Debt is one of the hardest lessons to learn the hard way, and that is why it is so dangerous.

The national debt is steadily increasing every year due to a lack of financially responsible Americans who are not budgeting and saving their money. One of the biggest components is unpaid credit card debt which, statistically, was the highest growing debt category in the last quarter of 2018, with an increase of 26 billion dollars (“Total Household Debt”). Although credit cards offer many benefits, the cost and potential damage of having a credit card can far outweigh the positives. Credit cards carry many misconceptions with them that set the bait, hoping to trap you in a cycle of debt. However, this could be avoided if people would get a grasp on their credit card debt, or even better, not open a credit card at all.

People who spend relentlessly on credit cards find themselves in a detrimental cycle of debt because debt gets worse the longer you allow it to grow. The destruction caused by this debt cycle can be seen in the reduction of your future income since “you’re borrowing money that you don’t have” (Irby). Part of the money that you will earn in the future will have to go towards paying off your credit cards to hopefully eliminate credit card debt from your life. Think about it this way: your monthly check is $3,700. You choose to take 15 percent of that check each month to help pay off your credit cards. Imagine the 15 percent, which is $555, is automatically removed from your check each month. This would bring your monthly income down to $3,145. Now you can see how your future earnings decrease when you have to pay off credit card debt. Additionally, this cycle of debt is so vicious because you could be paying off your credit cards for 15 to 18 years due to interest if you only pay the minimum on your cards each month (Leonhardt; Savage). Since interest causes your starting debt amount to increase every month, you end up paying almost twice your original debt amount in interest by the time you pay off your credit cards when you are paying the minimum amount each month. It is kind of like riding a bike up a hill, but the hill keeps growing. And if you keep the same pace the entire way up, you will never reach the top. A way to avoid this is to pay more than the minimum each month (depicted in Fig. 1). This way, you are taking bigger chunks out of your credit card debt, thus reducing the interest and getting your credit cards paid off quicker. Nevertheless, you run the risk of not having enough money to make large enough payments to actually reduce your debt, and this is how debt becomes such a dangerous cycle.

Fig. 1. This image shows that by paying more than the minimum each month, you will spend less time making payments on your credit cards, which means you also pay less in interest (Leonhardt).

A credit card is defined as “a small plastic card issued by a bank, business, etc., allowing the holder to purchase goods or services on credit” (“Credit card”). Unlike debit cards, credit cards are not tied to your bank account, and therefore, you are not pulling money directly from your account. Opponents claim that “credit cards are more secure than traditional checking methods. If someone gains access to your checking account, they have the ability to drain it” (Irby). Although it is true that someone can drain your bank account with your debit card information, the claim that credit cards are any more secure is false and misinformed. Credit card companies and the banks that your debit cards are linked to use the same fraud protection, according to Leslie Lynn, so somebody cannot easily clean out your bank account. That myth was created by credit card companies to promote their fraud protection as another incentive for using their card. Moreover, credit cards come with their own security risk: credit card fraud. According to Latoya Irby, “Thieves don’t have to steal your card to get your information. They can hack into a company’s information network and steal personal information from thousands of customers, then use it to make fraudulent purchases,” so credit cards might actually be less secure than debit cards. In summation, credit cards have been proven to be no safer than debit cards, and the list of risks for credit cards is continuously growing.

Another big issue with using credit cards is that they cause people to have a lack of awareness of their spending, which is a direct result of poor budgeting. It is especially difficult to keep track of every little purchase made on a credit card since, unlike cash or debit cards that are tied to your bank account, credit cards allow you to spend money without feeling like you are spending money. This is confirmed in Samar Sarofim’s research study where he wrote, “Credit cards have been found to mitigate the pain of paying because they temporally separate purchases from actual payments and thus increase consumers’ spending behavior.” When making purchases with cash or debit cards, you see the amount of money you are spending or losing at the moment. In contrast, when using credit cards, you do not feel the pain of losing money until the monthly bill, which is why people tend to spend more money when they are shopping with a credit card. Credit cards also cause people to have a lack of awareness of their debt amount, which causes them to lie about their debt. This is where the “Buy Now, Pay Later” philosophy becomes a problem: people spend mindlessly to the point where they cannot remember everything they bought, so they undershoot the amount of credit card debt they have accumulated (Lindsay). This is very dangerous because a person cannot possibly begin to get a grasp on their credit card debt until they know the amount that needs to be paid off. Consequently, when someone has a lack of awareness on how much they are spending, they also have a lack of awareness on how much they are saving. Since credit card debt is consuming Americans right now, they are unable to put any money aside into savings. Kevin Wack writes, “In December 2017, the personal savings rate dropped to 2.4%, its lowest level since the debt fuelled boom of the mid-2000s.” This is alarming because borrowing too much money and a lack of savings is what got many families into trouble during the 2008 economic recession, and some believe we are headed for another one. Budgeting is the best solution because it helps you be intentional about where your money is going and limits mindless spending.

It is quite obvious that society leads Americans to believe that they need a credit card in order to have a successful financial life. Some people argue that you need a credit card and a good credit score to be able to buy a house. First, I want to address credit scores. Credit scores are calculated by how much debt a person has accumulated and how good they are at paying it off. This means that “the balances [of your credit cards] will affect your credit score negatively more often than positively. Even if your payment history is perfect, having a lot of credit card debt is likely to affect your credit score negatively” (Lynn). In essence, credit scores do not measure important things like the amount of money in your savings account, your salary increases, or how good you are with money. Therefore, while it is true that you need a credit card account to qualify for a traditional mortgage, there is a better way that looks at the things that matter, and it does not require you to have a credit card. You can contact a mortgage company that does something called manual underwriting. This is a better option because “manual underwriting is a process where they look at things like employment record, rent history and size of down payment to determine your eligibility” (“Do I Need a Credit Card?”). This means that they will not look at your debt to determine how reliable you are to pay back your loan, but they will look at how well you manage your finances. This system simply makes more sense while also allowing you to avoid all the risks that come with credit cards. In other words, you should have no problems qualifying for a loan as long as you have proof you are financially responsible, like always paying your bills on time and being in the same career field for at least two years.

An additional risk for using credit cards is that you are much more susceptible to falling victim to credit card companies and banks, who are professionals at taking advantage of people. Although I am not arguing about the differences between socioeconomic classes, I find it beneficial to note that the majority of people who qualify for elite credit cards, which offer the best rewards, are those well-off financially. Consequently, the lower-income people who use average credit cards, which have fewer rewards, are, in reality, paying for the rewards of the wealthy. To illustrate, economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston concluded from their new study that “the average lowest-income household pays $21 each year, and the average highest income household receives $750 each year, from the convenience use of credit cards” (Schuh et al. 21). This emphasizes the unfair system credit card companies use for rewarding their customers. To make matters worse, credit card companies are known for their unforgiving nature towards consumers, even those who only miss one payment. For those who make a late payment, they will typically be charged late fees. “Fees add up quickly,” LaToya Irby asserts, “and they are added to your [credit card] balance. This means your fees are then charged interest as well.” Some companies will also raise your interest rate, so if you were barely able to make the minimum payment before, you are in real trouble now. In short, credit cards are not a good idea because they can lead you right into the credit card companies’ traps.

It is commonly known that most major credit card companies offer rewards and incentives to encourage customers to make purchases using their cards. Incentives can include airline miles, cashback, discounts, and special offers. Dave Ramsey writes that a common misconception many people believe is that “credit card rewards are like free money” (“Do I Need a Credit Card?”). Credit card users will try to accumulate points on their card to hopefully rack up enough to pay for their next airline ticket. Also, some credit cards offer a percentage of cashback on every purchase, whereas others allow users to earn points that they can cash in for coupons or gift cards. While these rewards sound like great deals, they are usually too good to be true. It could take you years to accumulate enough points to buy just one ticket, and these points will not last forever because every credit card has its own expiration date. Leslie Lynn adds, “Meanwhile, the interest you’ve paid and the annual fees levied on the account are generally far more than the value of an airline ticket,” so you are probably spending more money to rack up enough points for a free flight than a ticket is worth, which is honestly just wasting your hard-earned money. Additionally, credit card companies are not going to lose money just to give you cashback, so “this creates a cycle where the consumer spends more to get a little, and the company gets … well, a lot” (“Do I Need a Credit Card?”). These rewards and incentives are more of a money-making venture for credit card companies than any real benefit for consumers. Simply put, rewards are more trouble than they are worth, and they are just another way for you to be taken advantage of by credit card companies and banks. You cannot beat the system when it comes to rewards from credit cards.

Credit cards are not limited to your finances when wreaking havoc because they can also have a negative impact on your relationships. It has been found that high levels of debt are a major contributor to marital turmoil. Money is the number one topic couples fight about even though “seven out of ten American men and women enter into matrimony with some amount of debt – primarily credit card debt and student loan debt” (Fay). A research study, explained by Carol Church, found that with newlyweds, it was not just any kind of debt but credit card debt that was linked to lower satisfaction in a marriage. These two sources show how common it is for people to begin a marriage in debt and the results it can have on your happiness. In addition, research supports that, behind infidelity, arguments about money are the second leading cause of divorce (“Money Ruining Marriages”). Undiscussed, large amounts of debt can take a marriage from bad to worse because getting a divorce does not resolve your struggle with debt; it often makes it worse. When a couple gets married, their finances are joined as well. This does not change after a divorce since “courts will likely hold you responsible for credit card debt in your name and jointly liable for credit card debt in both names” (Rotter). Even after a divorce, you cannot escape all of the financial trouble that you faced during your marriage. It should be noted that bringing debt, especially credit card debt, into a marriage will likely have a lingering, negative impact on your relationship.

There is absolutely no reason why people should ever allow their credit card debt to grow to such large, unmanageable amounts, and they should never fall into the trap of credit cards in the first place. If people did not have credit cards and credit card debt, they would eliminate a life of stress caused by looming payments, save money by being more responsible spenders, have happier marriages because of less money fights, and no longer fall victim to credit card companies. If households do not begin to take their credit card debt seriously, America could be headed towards another economic recession. In order for you to become more financially responsible, I challenge you to close all of your credit cards and budget your money. For those of you who are unfamiliar with credit cards, I encourage you to not open one at all.


Works Cited

Church, Carol. “Why Debt Destroys Marriages and How to Fight Back.” SMARTCouples, University of Florida, 21 Nov. 2019, smartcouples.ifas.ufl.edu/engaged/marriage-basics/why-debt-destroys-marriages-and-how-to-fight-back/ Accessed 27 Mar. 2020.

“Credit card.” Def. 1. Lexico.com, 2019, www.lexico.com/en/definition/credit_card. Accessed 27 Mar. 2020.

Fay, Bill. “Bringing Debt into a Marriage: How to Deal as a Couple.” Debt.org, 17 June 2020, www.debt.org/family/marriage/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2020.

Irby, LaToya. “Pros and Cons of Credit Cards That Everyone Should Know.” The Balance, 16 Nov. 2019, www.thebalance.com/pros-and-cons-of-credit-cards-960222. Accessed 4 Mar. 2020.

Leonhardt, Megan. “55% Of Americans with Credit Cards Have Debt-Here’s How Much It Could Cost You.” CNBC, 5 June 2019, www.cnbc.com/2019/05/17/55-percent-ofamericans-have-credit-card-debt.html. Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

Lindsay, Jay. “Credit Card Debt? Me? I’m Doing Just Fine.” Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 2 Jan. 2019, www.bostonfed.org/news-and-events/news/2018/credit-card-debt-gap.aspx. Accessed 3 Mar. 2020.

Lynn, Leslie. “The Truth About Credit Card Debt in the US.” National Debt Relief, 29 Aug. 2018, www.nationaldebtrelief.com/credit-card-debt-in-the-us/. Accessed 27 Mar. 2020.

Ramsey, Dave. “Do I Need a Credit Card?” Daveramsey.com, Ramsey Solutions, 19 Sept. 2019, www.daveramsey.com/blog/excuses-to-keep-credit-cards. Accessed 4 Feb. 2020.

—. “Money Ruining Marriages in America: A Ramsey Solutions Study.” Daveramsey.com, Ramsey Solutions, 7 Feb. 2018, www.daveramsey.com/pr/ money-ruining-marriages-in-america. Accessed 27 Mar. 2020.

Rotter, Kimberly. “How Credit Card Debt Is Handled in Divorce.” U.S. News & World Report, 13 Mar. 2019, www.creditcards.usnews.com/articles/how-credit-card-debt-is-handledin-divorce. Accessed 27 Mar. 2020.

Sarofim, Samer, et al. “When Store Credit Cards Hurt Retailers: The Differential Effect of Paying Credit Card Dues on Consumers’ Purchasing Behavior.” Journal of Business Research, vol. 107, Feb. 2020, pp. 290–301. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1016/j.jbusres. Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

Savage, Terry. “Debt Epidemic Continues to Plague Americans.” Chicagotribune.com, 4 Mar. 2019, www.chicagotribune.com/business/sns-201903041332–tms–savagectntsa20190304-20190304-column.html. Accessed 3 Mar. 2020.

Schuh, Scott, et al. “Who Gains and Who Loses from Credit Card Payments? Theory and Calibrations.” Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, 9 Nov. 2012, www.bostonfed.org/publications/public-policy-discussion-paper/2010/who-gains-and-who-loses-from-credit-card-payments-theory-and-calibrations.aspx. Accessed 24 Mar. 2020.

“Total Household Debt Rises as 2018 Marks the Ninth Year of Annual Growth in New Auto Loans.” Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 12 Feb. 2019, www.newyorkfed.org/ newsevents/news/research/2019/20190212. Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

Wack, Kevin. “Consumer Debt Is at an All-Time High. Should Banks Be Worried?” American Banker, 1 Apr. 2019, www.americanbanker.com/news/consumer-debt-is-at-an-all-timehigh-should-banks-be-worried. Accessed 3 Mar. 2020.

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Category 2: ENGL 1020 by Steven Bergman; Pricila Hernandez; Kiah Krueger; and Hannah Martin is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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