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

Published: Monday, Aug. 31 2015 4:00 p.m. MDT

Copies of President Barack Obama's fiscal 2013 federal budget arrive at the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington in February. In discussing the deficit on Monday, the president said the U.S. is not a Copies of President Barack Obama's fiscal 2013 federal budget arrive at the House Budget Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington in February. In discussing the deficit on Monday, the president said the U.S. is not a "nation of deadbeats," but an analysis by MarketWatch indicates that the decrease in household debt over the past five years has come largely from bank write-offs rather than from people paying off debts. (J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press)

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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