Wednesday, February 12, 2020

our national debt: a modest proposal

Our national debt currently stands somewhere north of 22 trillion dollars.

The US population is about 330 million.

Of that number, maybe 200 million are of working age (18-64).

22 trillion divided by 200 million equals $110,000.

So if all 200 million Americans of working age made yearly contributions of $10,000, we could zero out the national debt in 11 years. Even doing this for five years would put us in a much better financial position. We'd still be in debt, but there'd be some breathing room. As someone who's about to finish paying off some major debt, I know this from personal experience. You're welcome.


$bill said...

The national debt is quite large, but it needs to be kept in perspective. The fiscal gap-- the difference between what has been promised, in entitlements, national debt principal and interest payments, and so on, and what we actually can sustain from projected revenue sources-- is TEN times the size of the national debt. The projected funding shortfalls in medicare and social security make the national debt look like a fart in a thunderstorm.

The econ professor Lawrence Kotlikoff releases an updated figure periodically; here is an article from last year:

There are no practical, realistic solutions for this. Our political system does not have the capacity to solve problems that have taken decades to reach critical mass when the head bureaucrats are focused on reelection every two, four, or six years. No one wants to pi$$ away finite amounts of political capital in sisyphean pursuits.

John Mac said...

Since my pension is paid from the federal treasury, the government is indebted to me! I'm willing to accept direct deposit of those $10,000 donations.

Kevin Kim said...

Dollar Bill,

Depressing news, indeed.


Well, if the donations aren't forthcoming, I guess you can always set up a Patreon page. Everyone's moving to a subscriber model of revenue, anyway.

Charles said...

I'll be honest: I am an economic ignoramus. I have no idea what this all means. I know that the national debt is some huge, unfathomable figure... but what exactly does that mean? I read that article posted by $bill above, but I'm still not exactly sure what happens when the government defaults or whatever. Does everything just stop working? And where is all this debt, anyway? Who owns it, I mean. Is it all owned by foreign countries like China, or is something else going on?

I never took an economics course, so I have no idea how any of this works, practically speaking.

Kevin Kim said...


I have no econ background, either, so I'm lost in an ocean of particulars. I'm not sure what happens if/when the US government defaults. Maybe everything just explodes or turns to dust, Thanos-style. As to who owns the debt... if by "own" we mean "is responsible for repaying," then I'd venture the owners of the debt are the US citizenry and the government. The US trade deficit with China is small ($400-500 billion) compared to the overall national debt.

Charles said...

Ah, sorry. Should have been more specific. To "own" a debt means to be the creditor. Also, I decided to google this, and apparently foreign investors own about 30% of the national debt. The rest is owned by intragovernmental holdings (Social Security, Medicare, and other government-funded programs) and the public (which somehow includes the Federal Reserve).

I guess this is why people talk about Social Security eventually imploding. I'm personally not too worried about that, as I am going to get nothing from Social Security, but it is a very bad sign for the nation as a whole.