Credit Cards, Student Loans and the Federal Deficit — a Toxic Brew

By Evensen, Jay | Deseret News (Salt Lake City), September 11, 2017 | Go to article overview

Credit Cards, Student Loans and the Federal Deficit — a Toxic Brew


Evensen, Jay, Deseret News (Salt Lake City)


Congress and the president seem to have come to terms with raising the debt limit — the umpteenth chapter of a never-ending cliffhanger series. But the deal, if it holds, would be good only until the end of the year, when more difficult fiscal decisions await.

But while we sit back to enjoy the fun on television, maybe more of us ought to be considering our own debt ceilings. That is decidedly less fun, I know, but not doing so could prove disastrous, and in much shorter order than it will take Social Security to run out of money.

Last month, the Federal Reserve reported that Americans have a record $1.021 trillion in revolving credit, otherwise defined as credit card debt. This beats the previous record, set in April of 2008. Every adult ought to remember what happened that year as financial markets collapsed along with home prices. Jobs disappeared and the gap between spending and income, to use a colloquialism, got real.

Nine years ago, I naively wrote a column saying that perhaps now, with the economy collapsing around us, we had learned a lesson. Maybe now we would stop considering our credit cards as magic wands. “As any true believer in the market knows, bad behavior, even if it succeeds for a time, eventually will be punished — often harshly,” I wrote.

My optimism, I admit, has taken a hit, but what I wrote then about the market — “(It) doesn’t monkey around with heart-to-heart talks or group sessions to deal with personal issues” — hasn’t changed.

Writing about this new record credit card debt on marketwatch.com, Maria Lamagna quoted a senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, who said, “This record should serve as a wake-up call to Americans to focus on their credit card debt. Even if you feel your debt is manageable right now, know that you could be one unexpected emergency away from real trouble.”

But while it’s easy to sit back and chastise the great, faceless American public, that would ignore another, perhaps bigger, problem. When you look beyond credit cards, young Americans, in particular, are sinking in the deep waters of student loans. …

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