America / U.S. Domestic Policy

Imagining Debt


That is the current US debt burden. That is over sixteen trillion dollars. In order to balance the American debt level, each individual, from tot to geriatric, would have to pay $51,402. The median income of Americans is about $40,000; confiscating all wages would not come close to paying off the debt. If you restrict the pool to only those Americans that file tax returns, each would have to contribute $141,209. The average US household income is around $63,000. An average household now owes more than twice as much as it earns – and that is just federal government debt.


That is the current US debt burden. It has risen $21 million while writing the previous paragraph. That is ten times as much as the average American with a college degree will make during their entire life. It is twenty times as much as the average non-college grad will make. By the time you finish reading this piece, the federal government will have spent enough money on the national credit card to buy middle income homes for one hundred homeless (maybe more if you are a slow reader). In a month, the federal government could buy homes for every homeless man, woman and child in the country.


That is the current US debt burden. It is clear that both our current debt and the incredibly rapid rate of increase of debt are simply not sustainable. American debt is greater than its total gross domestic product; we are expected to borrow an additional trillion dollars each year for the next ten years. If one were to stack hundred dollar bills end to end across the length and width of a football field, the US debt would be a block of money taller than the statue of liberty. If one takes into account promised government spending (the so-called shadow debt), the stack would be larger, wider and almost twice as tall as the US Capitol building.


That is the current US debt burden. America simply must tackle the imposing debt crisis. In the coming years it will necessarily cause economic stagnation or monetary inflation or, most likely, both. You cannot spend now on the promise of payment by future generations forever. It does not matter what, or who, is responsible for the impending debt crisis, the next presidential administration must deal with this issue – and, in all likelihood, the next three administrations after that. So it is extraordinarily unnerving when the sole vice presidential debate featuring the man tasked with handling the $800 billion Democratic stimulus bill and the man who crafted the Republican budget had no discussion of America’s catastrophic debt.


And counting …