"That chart is the most striking piece of evidence that I have that what is happening to us is something that goes way beyond toxic assets in banks. It's something that has little to do with the mechanics of mortgage securitization, or ethics on Wall Street, or anything else," Beim says. "It says: The problem is us. The problem is not the banks, greedy though they may be, overpaid though they may be. The problem is us."
We have overborrowed, Beim says: "We've been living very high on the hog. Our living standard has been rising dramatically in the last 25 years. And we have been borrowing much of the money to make that prosperity happen."
In other words, the problem the banks are facing is the problem we, as a society, are facing: We all have too much debt. And getting rid of it is going to be painful.
If you want a solution in which those who bear the most guilt for the financial crisis pay the most to fix it, while the innocent don't have to pay anything, that's not going to happen.
It seems that the U.S. economy is way past that point. Americans are going to spend a lot of money. The government may bail out some banks that some people wish it wouldn't. There is no magical solution where the U.S. gets out of this mess without any pain.
While they might disagree on who will bear the brunt of that pain, all the experts interviewed for this report say the longer the U.S. waits, the worse it will be for everyone.If only we'd all be willing to face the fact that this mess isn't just about corporate greed, poor regulation, too much regulation, or failure to help out the 'little guy.' It's about our national addiction to easy credit, an economy based solely on debt, and our love of spending. Until we come to grips with that, we'll never solve our problems.