25 April 2006

America's borrower-industrial complex - MarketWatch

America's borrower-industrial complex - MarketWatch: "NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- A fast-rising new book by a provocative conservative shows how the debt explosion is hurting our country
Almost overnight, it has hurtled to the top of the best seller lists. Its title is 'American Theocracy,' its author is Kevin Phillips, a former top Republican strategist and leading conservative intellectual, about whom Time magazine once wrote, 'in the shoot-from-the-hip world of Washington prognostication, Kevin Phillips stands out like Nostradamus.'
Now his controversial argument, which clearly has struck a chord, is that America is deeply endangered by a combination of three forces:
One: The nation's global overreach, demonstrated by the so-far-unsuccessful invasion of Iraq.
Two: The surge of militant, fundamentalist, evangelical, right-wing religion in the U.S.
Three: America's ballooning debt, which has mortgaged the country's economic health to financial speculation.
The first two points are fascinating enough, but our column focuses on the economy, so what concerns us most is point three: those expanding debts. They may be worse than we imagine, much worse.
To make that point, Phillips unfurls a mind-boggling quantity of statistics.
Phillips argues that the U.S. economy is being kept afloat by a splurge in consumption that is being financed by awesome debt. Americans carry an average of eight credit cards per household and pay interest charges of 19% to 25% on their balances. Between 1990 and 2003 the number of people holding credit cards jumped by 75% -- from 82 million to 144 million -- but the amount actually charged exploded by 350%, up from $338 billion to $1.5 trillion.
Yes, it is really true that Americans spend more than th"

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