2006-06-11's New York Times Magazine bannered its "Debt Issue" with the frontispiece The American Way of Debt. Arguing that debt has been the American Way since the US's inception, Jackson Lears points out that only periodically do moralizers arise from the grave and extend their bony fingers towards America.
This is all well and good, but Lears fails his readers by avoiding the sticky issue of "What is too much debt?". History indicates that moralizers appear when people's lives are being ruined by the failure to make debt payments. He could have then said that the best time to take on debt is when you believe there is a very likely probability that you will make money on the deal over the lifetime of the debt. And that as the economic picture darkens, you should reduce your debt position accordingly.
He could have helped people think rationally about debt. But he didn't, and now some readers will have a warm feeling in their hearts when they think of their patriotic debt burden with the Flag waving and Mom's Apple Pie cooling on the windowsill.