This is really true. When I came to US for work I bought a new car for $20K within a week on borrowed money. Later I realized I am paying 10% interest. Got a credit card in week. The headhunter who brought me to US paid my apartment security deposit, so I stayed in a luxury apartment.
Finally I left with no savings, as I was paying most of my salary to car loan, credit card bills and rent.
You could have bought a very nice used car for a lot less. You could of rented a more modest place. You could have used public transportation. Freedom was your problem, not debt. You have the freedom to buy what you want, get credit if you want, take a loan if you agree to the interest rate, etc. You also have the freedom to pay cash for everything and save your money.
I will agree that people too easily fall into the consumerism trap. In my younger days I fell prey to this also. That was my choice though.
As for the USA being a debtor prison, I have to respectfully disagree. Student loans are the only type of loans that are impossible to get rid off. Everything else can be discharged or negotiated through a Ch 7 or 11 bankruptcy. We have very strict consumer laws at both the state and the federal level. The problem stems from an ever increasingly complicated financial world and the average consumer who decides to not be informed.
No one in this country is thrown in physical jail for debt. Before someone posts recent new stories "proving" that people are being thrown in jail, remember that people being locked up are those who ignore summons and do not show up to court. Your debt cannot put you in jail, but willful disrespect for a judge can.