The question of American identity has historically been both complex and contested. What’s more, it often yields mythic notions rooted in exceptionalist dogmas like election, commission, moral regeneracy, sacred land, and innocent past.
Embedded in religious American exceptionalism is the American Dream: if an individual works hard, perseveres, and is a good citizen, there is no limit to how far she can advance.
Everyone seems to agree that America's moral fabric is being undermined by the unwise proliferation of consumer credit. We readily believe those who claim that easy credit fuels rampant hedonism and leads many to bankruptcy. Wistfully, we compare ourselves to ancestors who supposedly controlled their spending and never went into debt. We believe that our present affluence is a bubble that will surely burst.