The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Debt

Posted: Jul 26, 2011 12:01 AM

President Obama is urging Congress to raise the $14.3T debt ceiling or else, he warns, the U.S. would be forced to default. Perhaps our representatives need a little lesson on good debt vs. bad debt.

Good debt gives the borrower the potential to create more money. Bad debt gives the borrower something he can’t afford but wants anyway.

In real estate, for example, good debt might be a loan used to purchase an investment property. The borrower acquires an asset that creates income. That income is used to pay off the debt. The borrower then owns an asset free & clear that continues to produce income, long after the original debt is gone.

Bad debt serves a need for instant gratification by borrowing income from the future.

An example of bad debt is getting a loan to purchase a new car. The car is worth less the moment it’s driven off the lot. From day 1, the borrower owes more than the car is worth, and the “asset” doesn’t create monthly income. It becomes a liability, unless it is used as a rental, trucking or any other profitable business use.

Is Obama asking for more good debt or more bad debt?

Politicians are expert wordsmiths who can spin facts into a slick campaigns designed for getting what they want. That’s why President Obama and the money magicians at the Federal Reserve are preaching that more debt would help the economy.

Has their plan worked so far? Let’s take a look:

During the past 5 years, the federal government has borrowed 4.5 trillion dollars to stimulate the economy. That’s a 40% increase in government debt! 

Did the stimulus work?

Political spin doctors say it did, claiming that US GDP climbed 1.9% in Q1 of 2011. But how much did that increase cost us?

We spent $4.5 Trillion over 5 years to create $690 Billion in GDP growth.  Doing the math, that means the US will receive 14 cents for every dollar of debt incurred to stimulate the economy.

With losses like this, the “stimulus” plan is really a bad debt deal - one in which borrowing results in more liabilities, not assets. And now our leaders are trying to talk us into more of it.

Just say “NO!” to raising the debt ceiling! It's not just bad debt, it's ugly debt.

The cure for bad debt is pretty simple and boring: cut spending and increase income. If you can’t do either, you default.

Borrowing just to keep up with interest payments and avoid default is reckless and only exacerbates the problem. It does not fix it.

Politicians must agree to cut spending. And they must avoid increasing income through taxation. As much as the general population would love to rob the rich, that method doesn’t work. Business owners who get punished for making money will stop producing and hiring.

Instead of taxing productive businesses to extended ugly government debt, offer businesses good debt so they can continue to grow.

Members of our society with solid business plans should be the ones borrowing - not the government.

Kathy Fettke is CEO of, an educational resource for new and experienced real estate investors.

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