The U.S. Economic Problem: Addicted to Credit

Some politicians -- and a few economists -- would say that America is drunk on credit and just needs to go cold turkey. But it's more accurate to say we're addicted to credit. Too much credit. Good credit, bad credit, anything that lets us live the high life. We have mistaken growth in the value of financial paper for real economic growth.

Getting clean will not be so easy. When credit is quickly withdrawn, everyone in the business of lending panics. Credit becomes scarce and is not available at a reasonable interest rate. Institutions that need to use credit daily start to fall like dominoes. The financial fallout -- bank failures, risking a stock market crash, worthless retirement and pension funds -- could kill us. We need to reduce our dependence on credit gradually but steadily and with no excuses.

--U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall (Dem)

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