New Perspectives on U.S. Debt
If you haven’t looked at it lately, the “U.S. National Debt Clock” has been updated and rearranged in eye-popping ways. For folks worried about debt, it’s well worth keeping tabs on.
The debt clock displays all sorts of information about debt in the United States and around the world. As you watch, debt growth flies by in front of your face at breathtaking speed.
It contains a mind-boggling array of information from individual country debt clocks; to your own state’s debt clock; to current gold and precious metals prices by country; to current energy output by country and to current auto sales data. It even has a history screen to show what the national debt, by year, was going back to 2000.
Those familiar with federal debt will see the displays are close to the real figures. For example, the $16.39 trillion for 12/19/2012 shown above is quite close to the $16.36 trillion national debt reported by the U.S. Treasury for yesterday.
This article will cover some of the highlights of United States debt that show up on the opening screen. All the numbers are as of 12/19/2012. Some will get noticeably higher fast.
The National Debt in General
The upper left side of the debt clock shows overall U.S. debt. It shows total federal debt, debt per citizen and debt per taxpayer. Today’s newborns already owe $52,000.
In this section and those following, the debt items discussed are highlighted in yellow.
Taxpayers out Christmas shopping today might consider saving a little something to help pay their $143,000 share of the national debt. Next year they’ll owe more.
Annual federal spending is around $3.5 trillion with a hefty $1.1 trillion deficit.
Federal, State and Local Tax Revenues
How does debt compare to revenues? That is displayed on the upper right.
Though the federal government is spending $3.5 trillion this year, it will only collect about $2.4 trillion in revenues. $1.1 trillion will come in income taxes; $844 billion from individual income taxes and $240 billion from corporate taxes.
At the state level, individual states will collect an additional $1.5 trillion from its citizens. Local governments will collect $1.1 trillion more.
For the record, tax collections at all levels of government this year will be around $5 trillion total.
Local government debt is well above 100% of their revenues. It’s no wonder more and more municipalities are declaring bankruptcy.
Largest Federal Budget Items
We hear a lot about entitlement and defense spending. In order, the three largest federal budget items this year are Social Security ($761 billion), Medicare/Medicaid ($723 billion) and defense ($652 billion).
Spending on those three items alone is $2.1 trillion. That compares to $2.4 trillion in total tax revenues collected.
Total GDP for the entire United States is around $15.5 trillion. Federal, state and local governments will spend around $6.4 trillion of it this year. Total federal government debt is around 105% of GDP. Sovereign debt – the really bad kind – is only in the mid-70% range. However, “bad debt” has risen 18% just since President Obama took office.
Other Notable Debt Items
Total personal debt in the U.S. is greater than the GDP. Credit card debt stands at $844 billion and students owe nearly $1 trillion on their college loans.
There are 144 million working Americans supporting 68 million social security beneficiaries. Everyone knows that 10,000 more Americans retire every day. That is 300,000 new retirees a month. It is twice the number of new jobs created each month in the current economy. Not to mention that there are 48 million Americans on food stamps.
The total unfunded liability for just Social Security, Medicare and prescription drugs is $122 trillion. It has grown from $115 trillion earlier this year.
The unfunded liability is over $1 million per taxpayer. That is in addition to the $143,000 they already owe on the national debt.
The U.S. Debt Clock contains a withering amount of information about U.S. and world debt. You can get dizzy just watching the numbers fly by. You can spend hours lost in thought contemplating what it all means.
The debt clock is a place every American should visit periodically to put perspective to the things we hear about on the news.
It is particularly meaningful right now while President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner wrangle over how to deal with the fiscal cliff and unsustainable debt growth.