Middle class is drowning in debt, hobbling the economy | Rex Nutting

From Rex Nutting at MarketWatch:

For decades, economic growth in America was driven by a powerful and sustainable force: increased consumption paid for by the rising incomes for middle-class and working-class Americans.

But somewhere around 1980, that model broke down. Wages flattened out, but consumption didn’t. Americans cut back on their savings, and took on more debt — mostly mortgage debt — to satisfy their needs and desires.

It’s not a sustainable model, but it did persist for nearly 30 years until the credit bubble burst in 2007. Millions of Americans lost their jobs, and millions lost their homes when the credit spigot was shut off, forcing average families to cut back on their consumption and live within their means once again.

And now, with the economy only partially healed, it seems we’re going back to the lend-and-spend economy that failed us before.For the past six or seven years, most of what the Federal Reserve has done to fix the problem has been focused on getting the credit spigot turned back on: cutting interest rates and hectoring banks to start lending again, even though demand for loans was weak….

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