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It's not exactly the deleveraging that many hoped for; total debt in mature economies is still near 400% of GDP, a decade after the crisis. But by the same token, after a decade of stimulus bills and bailouts and automatic stabilizers and soaring student loans and ultra-cheap funding costs, it's an achievement in itself that debt hasn't gone up.

Expand chart
Data: Institute of International Finance; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

The details: The debt is safer now, too. Governments account for more of it, while the financial-services sector has deleveraged more than anybody else. When governments run into debt trouble, they implement financial repression, which is less painful than crisis-triggering defaults.

All of this comes as U.S. homes have deleveraged their debt as well:

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

At the height of the crisis, there was a terrifying $600 billion in leveraged loans outstanding. This junk-rated debt looked highly likely to default, because it couldn't be refinanced: Just $77 billion of such loans were issued in 2009.

  • Here, the deleveraging never really happened, and now we're seeing record issuance (an annualized $666 billion, year-to-date) and record debt levels, too ($1.1 trillion, at last count).
Expand chart
Data: LCD, S&P Global Market Intelligence; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Most of this debt lives in CLOs (collateralized loan obligations), where it doesn't pose a huge systemic risk. It would be much more dangerous if it was being held on banks' balance sheets. But there could be hundreds of billions of dollars in losses if a stock-market correction causes the leveraged-loan window to close.

  • The big picture: To put these numbers in perspective, total subprime mortgage originations peaked in 2006 at just over $600 billion.

Go deeper

GOP implosion: Trump threats, payback

Spotted last week on a work van in Evansville, Ind. Photo: Sam Owens/The Evansville Courier & Press via Reuters

The GOP is getting torn apart by a spreading revolt against party leaders for failing to stand up for former President Trump and punish his critics.

Why it matters: Republican leaders suffered a nightmarish two months in Washington. Outside the nation’s capital, it's even worse.

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
3 hours ago - Economy & Business

The limits of Biden's plan to cancel student debt

Data: New York Fed Consumer Credit Panel/Equifax; Chart: Axios Visuals

There’s a growing consensus among Americans who want President Biden to cancel student debt — but addressing the ballooning debt burden is much more complicated than it seems.

Why it matters: Student debt is stopping millions of Americans from buying homes, buying cars and starting families. And the crisis is rapidly getting worse.

Why made-for-TV moments matter during the pandemic

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photos: Erin Schaff-Pool, Biden Inaugural Committee via Getty Images

In a world where most Americans are isolated and forced to laugh, cry and mourn without friends or family by their side, viral moments can offer critical opportunities to unite the country or divide it.

Driving the news: President Biden's inauguration was produced to create several made-for-social viral moments, a tactic similar to what the Democratic National Committee and the Biden campaign pulled off during the Democratic National Convention.