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The American way of debt. Why our recent binge was so intense and the fallout so painful. Plus: Get ready for the world of $20 gasoline. The perils of the perpetually relocating worker

ILLUSTRATION FOR TIME BY TERRY ALLEN

Collateral Damaged: The Marketing of Consumer Debt to America By Charles R. Geisst; Bloomberg Press; 288 pages

About 80 pages into his recounting of our misadventures with borrowed money, finance professor Charles Geisst describes the credit-card industry of the early 1970s. You wouldn't recognize it. A piece of plastic that allowed a person to carry a balance was a fairly new concept, and if you had one, you also probably earned a decent salary--because a company wouldn't give you an unsecured loan otherwise. How quaint.

Geisst then dives into what follows. America binges beyond its means on credit cards and home-equity...

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