The self-proclaimed progressive wing of the Democratic Party still doesn’t get it, but plenty of reality-based people are finally realizing that debt levels in the U.S. and worldwide, public and private, have entered a serious danger zone.

CNN devoted considerable time this morning to Wednesday’s report that the official national debt at the end of 2018 was the tiniest hair short of $22 trillion, up a stunning 10 percent just in President Trump’s two years in office. Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal featured a special section devoted entirely to the American and world debt problems.

“The world has never had as much debt as it has right now – nearly $250 trillion,” reported the Journal. Worse, the “biggest borrowers” are “the U.S., China, the Eurozone and Japan, which [together] have more than two-thirds of the world’s household debt, three-quarters of corporate debt and nearly 80% of government debt.”

Why is it worse for the big economies to be laden with record-breaking levels of debt? Because that leaves nobody bigger than they to provide a backstop if defaults start to grow. When Greece faltered, for example, at least the European Union (and others) could step in to temporarily save the day. Likewise with Portugaland others.

The United States itself crawled out of the 2008-09 financial crisis by trying massive short-term deficit spending along with record-low interest rates. But with deficits already near record highs and interest rates still at levels low by historical standards, there’s no room left for fiscal or financial “stimulus” if things go bad here.

The numbers in the report are therefore quite worrisome. Total U.S. consumer debt (credit cards, student loans, etc.) looks likely to top a record $4 trillion this year. Mortgage debt is approaching its financial-crisis peak of $10.7 trillion. Average per-person credit-card debt stands at $6,826, up 11 percent since 2011. Car-loan average debt of $30,977 was “the highest for any third quarter on record.” Monthly payments on new-car loans also hit a record….

[The rest of the piece is here.]

 

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