National Debtors

The United States is a nation of debtors.  Whatever sources you consult or trust, our per capita debt is extraordinarily high.  The money geeks at NerdWallet.com, after analyzing statistics from the Federal Reserve, offer the following profile of American households:

Average credit-card debt: $15,270

Average mortgage debt: $149,925

Average student-loan debt: $32,258

I shall not insist upon this or any set of numbers.  Unfortunately, an average is often a meaningless and irrelevant number.  If Carlos Slim walked into a homeless shelter to buy Christmas dinner for 20 winos, their per capita average net worth would be measured in hundreds of millions of dollars.  The high credit-card debt figure, for example, is affected not only by a comparatively small number of households with very high debt but by eliminating households without any credit-card debt.  Even the lower figure of $7,123, which includes households with no credit-card debt, is grim enough.  Though President Obama’s lobbyists in the media like to celebrate the decline in credit-card debt, that appears to be more a case of people defaulting rather than paying off their cards.

Business reporters and economic forecasters sometimes speak of “slicing and dicing” the numbers, but Fed statistics strike me as...

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