America – its government, businesses, and people – are nearly $60 trillion in debt, according to the latest economic data from thethe St. Louis Federal Reserve. And private debt – not government borrowing – is the biggest reason for the huge deficit.
Total US debt at the end of the first quarter of 2014, on March 31 totaled almost $59.4 trillion – up nearly $500 billion from the end of the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the data. Total debt (the combination of government, business, mortgage, and consumer debt) was $2.2 trillion 40 years ago.
“In 50 short years, debt has gone from being a luxury for a few to a convenience for many to an addiction for most to a disease for all,” James Butler wrote in an Independent Voters Network (IVN) op-ed. “It is a virus that has spread to every aspect of our economy, from a consumer using a credit card to buy a $0.75 candy bar in a vending machine to a government borrowing $17 trillion to keep the lights on.”
According to a 2012 study published in the Economist, rapid growth in private debt is a better predictor of recessions than increases in public debt, growth in money supply, or trade imbalances. Consumer credit in the US rose by 22 percent over the last three years, reaching a record-high $3.18 trillion in April, the Fed reported on Friday.
Credit card use (or revolving credit) rose by $8.8 billion, while non-revolving credit like auto loans and student loans made by the government surged up by $18 billion in April. Non-revolving credit jumped by 8.2 percent over the last year, while revolving credit only rose 2.2 percent over the same time period.
“For a while after the recession it was trendy to cut up your credit cards and get out of debt,” Michael Snyder wrote in an InfoWars op-ed. “But that fad wore off rather quickly, didn’t it?”
Snyder noted that 56 percent of all Americans have a subprime credit rating, and that the average monthly car payment in the US is $474. He added that 52 percent of homeowners are overextended on their mortgages and “cannot even afford the house that they are living in right now.”
Debt is hurting young adults the most. Millennials say they are spending at least half their monthly paychecks on paying off debt, a recent Wells Fargo survey found. And two years out of college, half of all graduates are still relying on their parents or other family members for some sort of financial help, according to a University of Arizona study, which also found that only 49 percent of graduates are working full-time.