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 ANN ARBOR, Mich., Sept. 22 /PRNewswire/ -- "Sometime in the last 35 years, America parted company with a fundamental concept that allows a society to function with stability from one generation to the next. We began to ignore the relationship between having something and paying for it. This assures eventual economic chaos, but the fallout extends far beyond narrow matters of commerce and finance."
 So writes James V. McTevia, nationally recognized turnaround management specialist based in Detroit, in his new book "Bankrupt: A Society Living in the Future" (Momentum Books, Ann Arbor, $21.95 hardcover).
 In more than 30 years of dealing with the consequences of unrealistic debt -- from his youthful days as an auto repo man to pioneering the profession of salvaging corporations on the brink of bankruptcy -- McTevia has viewed the credit scene from a unique perspective.
 What emerges in his first book is not a treatise on money, or even on business, so much as a volume of financial ecology -- a grim warning of the insolvent legacy we are about to pass to our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
 M. Scott Peck, M.D., author of the best-selling "The Road Less Traveled," writes in the foreword to McTevia's book: "Here is a book about sanity ... Please read it. Perhaps weep, and then scream out in rage about what our leaders are doing to us."
 The net effect of "Bankrupt: A Society Living in the Future" is indeed much like "The Emperor's New Clothes." But the emperor isn't the only one revealed to be stark naked. McTevia indicts every element of a credit-happy generation, from maxed-out cardholders to a Congress that "is snorting by far the biggest line of credit ever known to man."
 As a repo man in the '50s, then as a commercial and industrial credit manager, and finally as a consultant, McTevia has progressed, figuratively, from ambulance driver to surgeon amid the trauma experienced by individuals and companies buried in debt.
 It is this unique range of experience that takes McTevia's book far beyond a simple call to thrift. Beginning with a childhood lesson in over-leveraging (which left him standing, mortally embarrassed, outside a movie theater lacking the price of admission), and progressing through the basics of how to restructure a troubled company's debt, every chapter resonates with firsthand knowledge.
 The common denominator of each tale or essay or financial prescription (it's also partly a self-help book) is what McTevia calls "living in the future" -- modern Americans' insatiable passion for spending money they do not have, and may never have.
 An "ever-escalating materialistic standard of living," he writes, led individuals to begin "living far into the future. Corporations began living far into the future. And our federal government -- at the most recent count, if you can consider such an inconceivable number to be countable -- ran up a $4 trillion debt. This is not a loan, this is not finance; this is, quite simply, spending money that belongs to citizens yet unborn. In the real financial world, any party to such a rape of trust would be indicted..."
 McTevia makes the case for the prosecution in four parts.
 The first is a short, highly readable autobiography, in which we learn how a former Great Lakes sailor without a college degree manages to wind up as a well-known and respected consultant -- someone to whom companies turn when the wolves are howling at the door (invariably, of course, as a result of unrealistic debt). Here we discover, reasurringly, that the author himself -- in his youth -- lived so far into the future that he worked multiple jobs to avoid bankruptcy.
 The second part, "Individuals in Trouble," chronicles the American way of personal financial life in the late 20th century. On a practical level, McTevia shows how a debt-mired soul can restructure his finances (it involves admitting a problem and enduring some pain). And he makes a good many wry observations about the new order, such as: "Because our financial personality impacts so heavily on our security and happiness in later life, parents and teachers ought to grant it equal priority with, say, sex education or gym. Unfortunately, a youngster is more likely to get close instruction in remembering the capital of Idaho than he is in how to make and follow a budget."
 Part three, "Companies in Trouble," makes a believable case that there really isn't much difference between managing your personal checkbook and shepherding the financial integrity of a corporation. With chapter headings like "Only the Zeroes Are Different," McTevia points out that only three paths lead out of any financial crisis. From his experience in dealing with hundreds of troubled companies, McTevia reveals numerous examples of how panicky principals struggle to avoid these three and only solutions. "The vast majority of my clients," he writes, "are victims of Living in the Future. They meant good, not harm, for their employees when they launched that expansion plan, however ill-advised it might have been."
 Part four, "A Society in Trouble," summarizes the collective wages of materialistically living in the future: "We are well into evolution as a tribe split into two camps. Dwellers in one camp have no material possessions of consequence, no plastic, no condo. They have no job, or a job that cannot begin to sustain a family. The jobless ones possess only large amounts of time, in which they may ponder their exclusion from the advertised norm. Dwellers in the other camp possess all manner of highly leveraged toys and a relatively safe and comfortable address -- but have no time whatsoever. They scurry like lemmings to service their debt, seldom even sitting down to eat dinner as a family. One would have to be incredibly naive to doubt for a moment which camp is the more desirable place to be. But, to my observation, precious few dwellers in either camp are happy."
 Happily, McTevia sees a starting point for the needed repairs. "Washington Inc. needs an out-of-court reorganization," writes the restructuring expert, "and needs it now. The simple, if painful, principles of that process should be applied to our government in exactly the same manner you have seen in the first three sections of this book..."
 "It is time for government to do what people, and companies, do when they face up to this dismal situation. It is time to reduce expenses. To pay the bills down. To live within our means. To endure the pain. To emerge from the agony of it all with a sense of renewal, with new values, and with an understanding that we can't have it all and that we have become desperately unhappy trying to do so. To be free."
 This is an apolitical book, and McTevia leaves it to the reader to decide whether the military, or Social Security, or space travel, or "measuring rainfall in the Mojave Desert" should take the biggest hits. In any case, McTevia is confident that government downsizing will happen, because everything he has seen in three decades of dealing with rampant debt says that it must. As a result, he predicts, "prioritizing" will become a buzzword for the '90s.
 The author is president of James V. McTevia & Associates Inc., a 40-member firm based in suburban Detroit. As a management and adjustment consultant, his job is to help businesses in serious trouble stay afloat, and, once stabilized, to provide the expertise and structure to become healthy once again.
 He is known nationally for his work in debt restructuring, business refinancing, management reorganization, and mergers and acquisitions.
 -0- 9/22/92
 /CONTACT: Joe Labadie or Frederick Marx of Marx Layne & Co., 313-855-6777, for James V. McTevia & Associates, Inc.; or Tom Ferguson of Momentum Books, 313-995-3339/ CO: James V. McTevia & Associates, Inc.; Momentum Books ST: Michigan IN: FIN PUB SU: PDT

SM -- NYPFNS3 -- 1950 09/22/92 06:48 EDT
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Date:Sep 22, 1992

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