Our debt as society

The NYT reports on the national debt in Reasons to Worry.

Since becoming president, George Bush has presided over one of the steepest peacetime rises ever in the federal debt. The gross federal debt now exceeds $8.3 trillion. There are three reasons for the post-2000 increase: reduced revenue during the 2001 recession, generous tax cuts for higher income groups and increased expenditures not only on warfare abroad but also on welfare at home. And if projections from the Congressional Budget Office turn out to be correct, we are just a decade away from a $12.8 trillion debt — more than double what it was when Bush took office.

But perhaps a worse problem is the individual debt of American families.

Not only do Americans borrow as never before; they also save remarkably little. The impressive resilience of American consumer spending in the past 15 years has been based partly on a collapse in the personal savings rate from around 7.5 percent of income to below zero.

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