Culture of Debt

CULTURE OF DEBT….This isn’t exactly what I’ve come to expect from David Brooks, but today he decries the fact that “the social norms and institutions that encouraged frugality and spending what you earn have been undermined” and then goes on to name names:

The agents of destruction are many. State governments have played a role. They aggressively hawk their lottery products, which some people call a tax on stupidity.

….Payday lenders have also played a role. They seductively offer fast cash — at absurd interest rates — to 15 million people every month.

Credit card companies have played a role. Instead of targeting the financially astute, who pay off their debts, they’ve found that they can make money off the young and vulnerable. Fifty-six percent of students in their final year of college carry four or more credit cards.

Congress and the White House have played a role. The nation’s leaders have always had an incentive to shove costs for current promises onto the backs of future generations. It’s only now become respectable to do so.

Wall Street has played a role. Bill Gates built a socially useful product to make his fortune. But what message do the compensation packages that hedge fund managers get send across the country?

I doubt that I’d end up agreeing with Brooks 100% about how to address this problem, but this isn’t a bad start. It’s a worthwhile column to read.

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