Whether all of these factors will amount to an eventual economic catastrophe remains to be seen. But simple logic says it's inconceivable that any family can withstand the pressure of debt beyond their equity, and that they will have to try to salvage what they can once they see "For Sale" signs popping up in front of the houses on their streets.
Now, believe it or not, I'm going to do something I've never done before -- praise Alan Greenspan. For one thing, he specifically said, before he left the Fed, that he was having increasing concerns about federal and personal debt, and housing markets.
And to his credit, Greenspan acted correctly in the early 2000s when he lowered interest rates and then raised them.
The problem? In both cases, he acted either too soon or too late and went too far with the levels of hikes and cuts.
It's really remarkable that the U.S. economy has been faring so well.
Think about the recent setbacks to it -- terrorist attacks and the subsequent wars and other expenses they brought about; the collapse of confidence in publicly held companies, thanks in large part to the Enron debacle; and a string of natural disasters, culminating (so far) in Hurricane Katrina.
My gravest fear is that these high economic times have been supported by a false economy, one in which people have freely spent borrowed dollars they may not be able to repay without pain.
Obviously, if this phenomenon becomes widespread, it will bring spending to a screeching halt. That would hurt consumers and businesses, as well as the local, state and federal governments that rely on them for income and sales taxes.
Many Americans may come to find a new and disconcerting meaning to the adage, "There's no place like home."