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The National Debt

        How Much is it Really?

Steve Whitman
 26 March, 2014


Anyone who pays attention to current events has been made aware that our country faces a huge financial debt that will eventually "bring the house down" when it reaches critical mass. Unfortunately, that is not very far in the future.

Growing up in the 60's and early 70's, we were all concerned with the debt when it was in the millions of dollars. After all, a million dollars is a lot of money, and interest rates, inflation, etc. were all affected by the debt. So balancing the budget was always a priority even back in those "ancient times". As the years progressed through the 70's, President Nixon took us off the gold standard and the race was on. The debt was then talked about in billions of dollars and when it reached over 750 billion it was a "catastrophe waiting to happen" and according to all of the politicians, "something had to be done." Fortunately, the economy boomed, (“the tech bubble“) and money poured into the US Treasury and the budget was "balanced" and a "budget surplus" was realized at least for a little while under President Clinton. But the government spending and borrowing did not stop, and as we entered the new millennium, the debt was expressed in the trillions of dollars. Everyone, including all the economists and politicians threw these words around like they were common place. It was “good” to print and borrow money to "help the economy" and fund additional programs, wars, etc. All of a sudden, trillions of dollars became a common household word and was accepted as the new "norm".

Today, as the National Debt approaches 18 Trillion dollars, we continue to spend money we do not have. In fact, the government spends about 1 trillion dollars every year over what it takes in revenue through tax dollars, etc. So, the National Debt increases about 1 trillion dollars every year. We used to talk in billions, but now we talk in trillions, so what's the big deal anyway?

In reality, how big is the National Debt ? How much money is it really? We'll pay it back someday, won't we? After all, we only have to cut the budget a little and raise some taxes on the rich and we are home free. Right?

To put things in perspective, being an engineer, I have come up with a few simple examples on just how much 18 trillion dollars is:

  • If 18 trillion one dollar bills are placed side by side and essentially used as wall paper, every square inch of ground in the states of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island would be entirely covered with one dollar bills. In fact we would have some left over and we could cover almost 88 % of Maine as well! Therefore, sometime next year we will be able to wallpaper all of the six New England States with our Debt.

Another way to look at 18 trillion dollars is, if these one dollar bills are placed end to end in a single line, where would this line take us?

  • The line of dollars would go from the Earth to the Sun and back 9 times.
  • And how many times could we go to the moon and back on this line of dollar bills? Amazingly, it would be 3,660 round trips.
  • But, if we wanted to take a one way trip, we could go as far as the planet Uranus on this line of dollar bills, which is about 1.7 billion miles away from earth!
  • To bring it back home a bit, if the line of dollars is placed along the equator of the earth; it would circle the earth 68,450 times!
  • And we would be able to go back and forth across the United States from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific making 284,100 round trips! And if you wanted to make the trip across the U.S. every day you could do it for the next 1,556 years

But, the most awakening example is;

You are given $1,000 dollars to spend every day ..... how long could you do this before matching the national debt of 18 trillion dollars?

49,310,000 years
(that’s over 49 million years)

And the debt only keeps climbing!

Looking at the above information, can anyone really say with a straight face that this debt will be paid for some day?

So, with a little more time of debt accrual, the planet Pluto will be our next stop!
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