Journal: True Cost of National Debt (US)

Reform, True Cost
Deficit Future Online
Deficit Future Online

U.S. Debt $668,621 Per Household


Monday, June 1, 2009

No that’s not a typo: that’s the statistic according to USA Today. The folks over there have done some really great work this week with another interesting interactive chart attached to an article about the nation’s debt. If they keep this up, I’ll have to stop considering it a useless free newspaper I step over when leaving a hotel room. The numbers it reports are staggering.  [Phi Beta Iota: tip of the hat to USA Today, live link above recommended.]

So in the hopelessly optimistic best case scenario, each American household would have to pay $13,364 per year for 50 years. That is, of course, assuming that the federal government closes the deficit (fat chance), and each household does not incur additional debt (doubtful). And recall: it does not include state and local debt. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, the 2007 median household income was $50,233 — before taxes. So you can kind of imagine how impossible even the best case scenario of $13,364 per household, per year would be anyway.

Despite its simplicity, I think this analysis shows just how dire a situation the nation’s debt poses. I know there’s a popular argument that we’ve always been in debt, so it’s nothing to worry about. As these numbers continue to grow, however, I think the plausibility of that argument wanes.