Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tracking the National Debt

Last year at about this time, I started tracking the weekly rise in America's national public indebtedness: what you and I owe as a result of government spending, purportedly on our behalf.

Every Friday, I compared the national debt to that of the previous Friday, to see how much more in the hole our country had gotten, and then I converted that amount to something tangible.

For example, last year in the seven days between March 6 and March 13 (one year ago today), the U.S. National debt grew by $36 billion. To pay back that one week's debt, all American banks would have had to give the U.S. Treasury every dime that they collected--for an entire year--when somebody in America overdrew their bank account.

Somehow, that didn't sound too bad, maybe because I'm careful about my accounts. But in some weeks, the new debt was much more alarming. To repay a mere two weeks of debt in July ($113 billion), the nation's farmers would have had to donate to the U.S. Treasury an entire year's revenue from their agricultural exports. Yep. Every dollar earned in an entire year by exporting those amber waves of grain and those California and Florida fruits and vegetables would have been just about enough to pay back just two weeks of new national debt. Even the computer giant Microsoft didn't earn enough in all of 2008 to pay back just one week's new debt in May of 2009. 

One week the U.S. debt grew by $107 billion. To cover it, the nation's employers would have had to divert every dollar that they put into traditional pension plans--for an entire year--to the Treasury Department. Every dollar.

In two weeks in July, we borrowed every cent the federal government spent for a year on green jobs and transportation, research included. 

When our national debt hit $12 trillion, I stopped keeping track. But I can tell you one thing: the U.S. Treasury certainly does not have the $2.3 trillion that Obama's health-care overhaul will cost. It's going to have to come out of people's hides.

From time to time I like to mention that only about half of adult Americans actually pay income taxes. There is no way that Congress is going to be able to squeeze enough money out of this population to keep us afloat.

Everybody is going to end up paying, in hundreds of new ways. And each new way is going to be a loss of freedom and opportunity. And health.

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