The problem with us obsessing about the national debt is that this flap detracts us from the FAR larger TOTAL government debt and unfunded liability obligations. By normal human being standards, the $14.5+ trillion national debt is unimaginably huge. As of 5 August, the constantly growing per citizen obligation for that debt comes to $46,844.12 – according to the National Debt Clock.
The average number of people in an American “household” (defined as people living together) is 2.11. http://www.census.gov/newsroom/releases/archives/2010_census/cb11-cn132.html
Hence the per household piece of the official national debt is $98,924.49.
But according to an April 2011 USA TODAY article, the TOTAL per U.S. household debt owed to governments is now $531,472 – the household’s piece of the estimated $61.7 trillion U.S. federal, state and local government debt/liability obligation. At 5% interest, the household bill is $26,573.60. EVERY year — foolishly assuming zero future increases in debt and liabilities. The article includes a good breakdown of the components of that total obligation.
I should apologize for the fact that, although the article was written this spring, it’s based on 2007 figures. I suspect that the $61.7 trillion debt has grown a tad since then. Perhaps a bit MORE than a tad.
Now remember, this is the AVERAGE obligation per household – from the poor to the rich. If you are above average, your obligation is likely more.
How do you know if you are “above average”? A good quick benchmark of this criterion is this – do you pay over $500 of federal income tax in a year? If so, you are above average – congratulations!
Oh, BTW — this year and perhaps next year likely will offer the lowest income tax rates you’ll face – EVER. Gee, I wonder if there’s some connection . . . .
Need some good news? The $61.7 trillion total obligation may be wrong.
The bad news? A few maverick economists estimate the total obligation is closer to $200+ trillion – more than triple the catastrophic USA TODAY numbers.
Have a nice day.