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Fried Light: Debt in the saddle rides mankind

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By Roger Snodgrass

In case nobody noticed, the country has been run on a vast array of debt instruments for quite awhile now.

It is our common concession to the imperfectability of humans that we can all have a little more than we deserve, a little sooner than we can afford it, perhaps even a lot more of what we could never, ever have afforded.

National debt, consumer debt, credit card debt, savings and loan debt, hedge-fund debt, mortgages, home-improvement loans and industrial revenue bonds. What ever happened to layaway?

Here are two statistical warnings that we may know but haven’t grasped:

The Federal Reserve tells us that consumers’ credit debt has gone from $8 billion-worth of today’s dollars in 1968 to $880 billion today. That’s 110 times as much in 40 years.

“Bottom line,” wrote Dennis Cauchon in USA Today last year, is that “taxpayers are now on the hook for a record $59.1 trillion in liabilities, a 2.3-percent increase from 2006. That amount is equal to $516,348 for every U.S. household. By comparison, U.S. households owe an average of $112,043 for mortgages, car loans, credit cards and all other debt combined.”

Both major parties are culpable. We can argue about which imbecile has been worse or more negligent some other time.


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