After an explosion of debt over the past few decades, Americans are now reacting strongly against the debt culture. According to the latest Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll, three-quarters of Americans said they’d be better off if they carried no debt whatsoever. Not long ago, most people saw debt as a useful tool for consumption and enjoyment. Now they see it as a seduction and an obstacle.
By choice or necessity, eight million Americans have stopped using bank-issued credit cards, according to The National Journal. The average credit card balance has fallen 10 percent this year from 2010. Banks, households and businesses are all reducing their debt levels.
And this is proof that America is great again! Because we’re all scared blind that the ground is going to drop out from under us tomorrow, we’re not spending on anything we don’t have to, and that proves we have rededicated ourselves to acting like a Norman Rockwell painting!
No word, in this entire column, about whether David Brooks is spending less. About whether he is rededicating himself to the American value of burying all his wealth in a coffee can in the yard, or squirrelling money in various drawers throughout the house lest putting it all in one place tempt him to spend it on, you know, groceries, or maybe something frivolous like a book. This turning inward, to the great American value of realizing how fucked you are, that’s for the little folks.
Which is SO GROSS. I was saying this last night to my mom in a conversation about something else, that nobody ever talks about their pain being beneficial or necessary or good until that pain is over. Nobody, mid-field amputation, is like, “I’m really glad you’re cutting off my leg without anesthesia because this, right now, is leading me to a deeper understanding of my life and the universe’s plan for me.” Years later, you can talk about how this was just a bump in the road that led you to your spectacular good fortune at present, but while it’s happening that doesn’t mean shit.
Pierce does his usual fantastic job of vivisecting this nonsense:
Anyone who meekly suggested that, maybe, he’d like to put in 20 years at his job and collect a pension at the end of it that he could live on, was dismissed as a whiny relic of a past age, or as a state employee. And, in any case, part of the miracle of Wall Street was devising new and complicated financial instruments by which private pension plans could be pillaged for private profit. If David Brooks was concerned about this prior to 2008, when the people who go to dinner with him and who pay his honoraria nearly blew up the world, he kept devilishly quiet about it.