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These are the Countries with the Biggest Debt Slaves, and Americans Are Only in 10th place

by Wolf Richter, Wolf Street:

So who the heck are the Really Great Ones?

Americans have been on a borrowing binge. To buy their favorite cars and trucks, they’ve loaded up on $1.14 trillion in auto loans. Young and not so young Americans are mortgaging their future with student loans that now amount to $1.28 trillion. Credit card and other debts are at $1.12 trillion. And mortgage debt stands at $8.82 trillion.

So, total household debt was $12.35 trillion, according to the New York Fed’s Household Debt and Credit Report for the third quarter 2016. That’s a massive amount of debt. Many consumers are struggling with it. Student loans are seeing enormous default rates, and repayment rates are far worse than previously disclosed. And “debt slaves” has become a term in the financial vernacular.

But it isn’t nearly enough debt…

Neither for the New York Fed whose President William Dudley, in a speech a few days ago, practically exhorted households to borrow more against the equity in their homes so that they blow this cash and drive up retail sales: “Whatever the timing, a return to a reasonable pattern of home equity extraction would be a positive development for retailers, and would provide a boost to aggregate growth,” he mused, with nostalgic thoughts of 2008.

Nor for the global rankings of debt slaves, where US households squeaked into the ignominious 10th place, barely ahead of Portugal! I mean, come on! Portugal!!

There are many ways to measure household indebtedness and debt burdens. Comparing total household debt to the overall size of the economy as measured by GDP is one of the measures. And per this household-debt-to-GDP measure, the Americans are 10th place with 78.8% and look practically prudent compared to the peak just before the Financial Crisis (via Trading Economics):

We have long written with great amazement about Canadian households that, tougher than nails, have funded a fantastic housing bubble with even more fantastic levels of debt, though this bubble is now coming apart at the seams in the once hottest market, Vancouver.

But their household debt-to-GDP ratio of 99.8%, as hair-raising as it may seem, only landed Canadian households in 5th place (via Trading Economics):

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1 comment to These are the Countries with the Biggest Debt Slaves, and Americans Are Only in 10th place

  • Ed_B

    So, we’re supposed to feel sorry for those who stupidly put on their own financial shackles? I think not. People can be saved from any number of things but they themselves are not among them. Anyone not wanting to be a “debt slave” can avoid that fate simply by not borrowing or spending more than they can afford.

    Room should be made in high school curricula for a Personal Finance class where responsible saving, investing, and spending techniques are discussed. A lot of these young people were never taught this by their parents, many of whom do not know them either. This is a cycle that must be broken. Over-spending by the government will not be cured via a top-down approach but it can be by a bottom-up approach… and it should be.

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