We werenâ€™t always a nation of big debts and low savings: in the 1970s Americans saved almost 10 percent of their income, slightly more than in the 1960s. It was only after the Reagan deregulation that thrift gradually disappeared from the American way of life, culminating in the near-zero savings rate that prevailed on the eve of the great crisis. Household debt was only 60 percent of income when Reagan took office, about the same as it was during the Kennedy administration. By 2007 it was up to 119 percent.
All this, we were assured, was a good thing: sure, Americans were piling up debt, and they werenâ€™t putting aside any of their income, but their finances looked fine once you took into account the rising values of their houses and their stock portfolios. Oops.
Paul Krugman | NYTimes.com