Delinquent loans soar to record levels

Some 8.2% of consumer loans are either delinquent by at least 30 days, or in default -- meaning that the lender has written off the debt.

The Federal Reserve reports that 4.2% of loans are 30 days past due and 4% are in default. The culprit is, not surprisingly, unemployment. But this time around, home mortgages are taking a backseat to credit cards and car loans in America's game of debt roulette. The reason? Borrowers who are upside down on mortgage correctly see that there is no real reason to keep dumping cash into the black hole of insolvency.

Given all this, you might think that the United States government would be looking for ways to help consumers get back on the "accounts current" bandwagon. But you'd be wrong. Instead, the economic stimulus plans passed by Congress and signed by President Obama explicitly seek to prevent Americans from making payments on their debts.