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I think the key statistic, at least IMO, was the assertion that credit card purchases had *increased* by 20% for the measured period, versus same period 1 year earlier. I suspect, like others here, that the fairly recent tendency to use credit cards for grocery and gasoline purchases explains some of it, just replacing cash use, and doesn't necessarily imply debt increase at all (but human nature dictates it would have some of that result), but a 20% increase in one year does seem rather staggering, hard to explain by just that kind of thing alone.

I don't understand why it is necessary to use a surrogate statistic anyway. Surely the powers that be have a method of measuring actual interest-bearing debt load per capita, rather than just charged purchase activity.

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