Rarely has America been in as much debt as it is this Independence Day. It's so huge that we can't even agree on how much it is.
By some accounts, our government is $11.5 trillion in debt, meaning that each of us is on the hook for $37,000. According to the Associated Press, that mountain of debt might be our next national crisis. But according to another account, the actual debt is more than $60 trillion, or almost $200,000 for every man, woman and child.
How on earth can the to numbers be so far apart, especially when we're talking about something so important?
Because, the lower estimate does not include everything that is owed.
Missing is a time bomb consisting of all the entitlements that
somehow--and inexcusably--are kept off the government balance sheet.
Medicare, social security and all the other obligations that we have
been pretending that don't exist. According to this accounting, our
debt grows as much as $3 trillion a year; in 2008 alone, it grew by $5
But even if you use the lower figure, the budget news is dark. Do you
know that interest payments on the (lower estimated) debt were a
staggering $425 billion in 2008? That's more than all categories of
government spending other than Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security and
Debt now amounts to 80 percent of gross domestic product--that's 80
percent of what the entire economy produces. It hasn't been that high
since World War II, when debt was 120 percent of GDP--when the crisis
that America was facing was much greater than today and such
indebtedness was reasonable.
Two and a third centuries again, we freed ourselves from the tyranny of
a foreign monarch. Only to find ourselves newly enslaved by a debt so
monstrous that it will enslave American for generations to come.