Borrowing and spending beyond ordinary limits largely explains how Americans got into such economic trouble. For decades, businesses and consumers feasted relentlessly, as if gravity, arithmetic and the tyranny of debt had been defanged by financial engineering.
Armed with credit cards and belief in a bountiful future, Americans brought home ceaseless volumes of iPods and cashmere sweaters, and never mind their declining incomes and winnowing savings. Banks lent staggering sums of money to homeowners with dubious credit, convinced that real estate prices could only go up. Government spent as it saw fit, secure that foreigners could always be counted on to finance American debt.
So it may seem perverse that in this new era of reckoning with consumers finally tapped out, government coffers lean and banks paralyzed by fear many economists have concluded that the appropriate medicine is a fresh dose of the very course that delivered the disarray: Spend without limit. Print money today, fret about the consequences tomorrow. Otherwise, invite a loss of jobs and business failures that could cripple the nation for years.
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