The Utterly Unbelievable Scale of US Debt Right Now
The comments below are an edited and abridged synopsis of an article by Tristan Hopper
The US national debt has ticked above $22 trillion for the first time, an amount equivalent to $67,000 per US citizen.
The US federal government owes more money than any other institution in the history of human civilization. According to the Congressional Budget Office, in only 10 years the US debt-to-GDP ratio will be higher than at any point since WWII.
Up for discussion: US debt is now higher than the combined market value of the Fortune 500; with just the money spent on interest, the US could run Canada or Mexico; all the gold ever mined would only pay off the debt accumulated under Obama; debt from one Trump term could pay for another WWII; one year of debt could pay for everything NASA has ever done; Jeff Bezos’s fortune would cover only 34 days of debt accumulation; the US just built history’s most expensive warship, and it cost five days’ worth of deficit; the vast majority of this is entitlement spending.
And all this is happening during good times. Throughout US history, periods of massive debt accumulation have usually coincided with bad times: the Great Depression, the Civil War, etc. By any economic measure, however, the US is currently doing well. Major foreign wars have been stepped down. The jobless rate is at a 49-year low. Economic growth has been topping 4%. The last time the US economy was this good, the government was running budget surpluses to pay down the debt, rather than piling it up. The implication is that when the boom ends, US deficits are set to explode.
“The economy is going well and we are looking at deficits that are 4% of GDP going forward,” said CBO director Keith Hall. “That is an unusual thing.”