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Economy

Americans' Record Household Debt Is a National Problem

Too many Americans and especially Millennials are spending beyond their means.

Thomas Gallatin · Feb. 17, 2020

There may be a simple reason why a majority of Americans appear unconcerned about the massive debt the federal government accumulates year after year — most folks live with significant debt themselves. With pretty consistent economic growth over the last decade — and especially the last three years — Americans have little excuse for the record amount of personal household debt they hold. But on Thursday, Americans’ average debt numbers were released and the figures should scare everyone.

“Total household debt now stands at a massive $14.15 trillion, which is $1.5 trillion above the prior record from 2008 as the financial crisis was hitting,” the Washington Examiner’s Quin Hillyer reports. “Credit card debt, at $930 billion, is likewise at an all-time high. Worse, in the fourth quarter of 2019, the proportion of credit card debt late by at least 90 days rose to 5.32%, an eight-year peak. For people aged 18-29, that rate of serious delinquency stood at a 10-year high of 9.36%. Of those with credit card debt in this age cohort, a whopping 67% of them report feeling serious stress about it.”

Is it any wonder Millennials in particular have responded positively to Bernie Sanders’s socialist siren song of “free college” and Medicare for All? It’s a shame that with all the bountiful opportunities to get a job and grow one’s wealth, the desire for immediate gratification and keeping up with the Joneses has trapped a growing number of Americans in a hamster’s wheel of debt.

“If someone has seriously delinquent credit card debt but owns the American average of 2.5 televisions (per household), then the $600 for the extra 1.5 TV was a choice, not a necessity,” Hillyer cogently observes. “If someone eats outside the home (or bagged lunch) just one fewer time per week, he saves another $468 per year. If he disposes of a perfectly good smartphone just to get the latest bells, whistles, or nanoseconds of speed, that’s a voluntary decision.”

If we as Americans can’t get our own personal spending under control, why would anyone expect lawmakers in Washington to quit running up the national debt?

(Edited.)

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