<\body> Stories in America: Americans Are Spending More Than They Earn

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Americans Are Spending More Than They Earn

On today's radio show, we'll be talking about credit card debt. A few facts:

The average American salary is in the low 30s. The average credit card debt is $9000.

There are about 690 million credit cards in circulation in the United States, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The average American family owns eight credit cards. About $1.8 trillion was charged to those cards in 2005. Americans now owe more than $800 billion on credit cards, according to the Federal Reserve.

According to a new report, "Borrowing to Stay Healthy: How Credit Card Debt is Related to Medical Expenses," more American families -- both with health insurance and without -- are using high-interest credit cards to pay for their health care.

Families have fewer avenues to get out of debt today. Congress tightened bankruptcy rules in 2005, making it more difficult and costly for individuals to start fresh financially.

While this issue rarely receives front page headlines, credit card reform is on the Senate's to-do list. Sen. Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan, now chairs the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. In the coming months, he plans to investigate credit card late fees, interest charges, and hidden fees.

Today's guests:

Erica Sandberg, financial counselor with the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of San Francisco, a non-profit that provides financial education. Erica says easy access to credit for people with no income is one of the biggest financial problems of our time. Erica is now working on a book for expecting families to help them deal with their finances.

Christian Weller, senior economist at the Center for American Progresss, a progressive think tank based in Washington DC. Christian crunched the numbers from the Federal Reserve to find that Americans owe more money than they make. Average household debt levels were almost 30 percent higher than after tax income.

The show airs from 10:00-11:00 am PST on KALW 91.7 FM. You can also listen online and all shows are archived.


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