Americans' 'deadbeat' ways may or may not have improved

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 15 2013 11:30 a.m. MST

Despite President Barack Obama’s comment Monday that “we are not a nation of deadbeats,” Americans' bill payment history proves otherwise, according to an article by MarketWatch.

While household debt has lowered 7 percent in the past five years, it still stands at $12.9 trillion, which is $6,000 per household. This is three times more than what it was in 1998 and still exceeds the level from 2006.

The 7 percent decline would seem to be good news, but MarketWatch's analysis shows it resulted more from bank write-offs than people paying off the debts.

Brett Arends, a MarketWatch columnist and author of the article, criticized the number of bailouts and write-offs, but he also said it is a hard situation to fix.

“It’s easy to get too sanctimonious. Once a country gets itself into a disastrous debt hole, write-offs may be the only sensible way out,” Arends wrote. “After all, for every reckless borrower there was also a reckless lender. If a debt is not going to be repaid, a policy of 'extend and pretend,' let alone, say, debtors’ prison, is not going to help. So maybe deadbeat economics is the way to go.”

EMAIL: alovell@deseretnews.com

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