Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rex Nutting: U.S. debt load falling at fastest pace since 1950s

From MarketWatch at the Wall Street Journal, by Rex Nutting:
If you want to know why economic growth has been so tepid, here’s your answer. Four years after the storm hit, the economy is still deleveraging. And it’s very hard for any economy to grow when everyone is focused on increasing their savings.

The rapid rise in federal debt over the past four years has distracted us from the big picture. The level of public debt is indeed worrisome, but it’s not as big a worry as the economy’s total level of debt — public and private.

As much as we hear politicians, pundits, tea-party patriots and the Congressional Budget Office obsessing about government debt, it was excessive private debt — not public debt — that caused the 2008 financial meltdown. And it was private debt — some of it since transferred to the public — that lies behind the current European debt crisis.

Economists who have studied the impact of indebtedness have found that low levels of debt are essential to growth, but that high levels of total outstanding debt can hurt an economy. Beyond a tipping point, adding on more debt will reduce growth over the long run, even if it inflates a bubble in the short run.

“At low levels, debt is good. It is a source of economic growth and stability,” concluded Stephen Cecchetti, M.S. Mohanty and Fabrizio Zampolli, economists for the Bank of International Settlements, in a paper presented at the Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole conference last August. “Beyond a certain point, debt becomes dangerous and excessive,” and can lead to increased volatility, financial fragility and slower growth. It can even bring down the real economy with it, as we have seen. Read the BIS paper, “The Real Effects of Debt.”

According to a study by McKinsey published earlier this year, U.S. households may have two more years of deleveraging left before their debts are sustainable again.

If McKinsey is right, the U.S. economy may have to endure a couple more years of slow growth.
Thank you Rex. The only thing I don't like in that, is the waiting.

Why wait? Fix the problem!

HT: The Dixie Dove

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