Years ago, my brother worked for the Naval Air Rework Facility at Marine Airbase Cherry Point, NC. Each year he would tell us incredible stories of how the military handled surplus near the end of a budget year. One of those years he noticed some large bulldozers digging a ditch roughly 25 feet deep and fifty yards long.  There was nothing unusual about that sight, until he saw that they were refilling it with brand new diesel generators and a host of other pieces of unused, even boxed equipment. So with the books balanced, they covered them over and drove away.

US equity markets are off their May lows by about 4.5% to 5% depending on the index while economic releases continue to show the economy slowing. These reports and news from Europe and Washington's ambivalence over the approaching fiscal cliff all keep a pretty tight lid on short-term optimism.

So why is debt such at bad thing? Why all of a sudden is it bringing people and countries to their knees? It's not new, in fact it's been with us as long as money has. Debt can be a really great tool that allows us to buy more of a thing or to buy that thing much sooner than we could with only our cash. And there are some things we might not be able to buy at all without debt, like houses, roads, or college.

Where there was considerable unity among world leaders at the outset of the Great Recession, the latest economic retreat is preceded by worsening splits and schisms. The scant fiscal and monetary responses so far lack not only coordination, but real long-term effectiveness. At home, our government is divided into three incalcitrant ‘parties’ each defying leadership and each seemingly oblivious to the costs of delay. Across the pond the European Union teeters on the brink of not only recession, but potential disintegration.