While the Administration and the Republicans and far too much of the commentariat are obsessed with public debt, private debts are killing the recovery. Some 22 percent of mortgages are still under water, and student debt has surpassed a trillion dollars. Banks can unload their toxic securities onto the Fed. Corporations can use the bankruptcy code's Chapter 11 to write off old debts (including to their pensioners) and get a "fresh start." But college borrowers stay indentured forever, as do underwater homeowners unless they want to lose the house.The upside-down policy, of cutting public spending, giving debt relief to banks and corporations, while showing no mercy to students and homeowners, keeps the whole economy in debtors' prison. Until these policies change, we can look forward to a decade of high unemployment and an underperforming economy.