The US Public Debt - What It Really Means To You
The US public debt is the amount of money that the government owes to it's creditors - meaning those who hold US Savings bonds, treasury notes, foreign government series, government account series, REA series, SLG series, and other securities which the government guarantees. Only a third of the way through 2008, the US public debt stands at over 5 trillion dollars. That's a lot, but that 5 trillion dollars worth of debt doesn't even include social security or state, city, and community debt. If you include all public debt the dollar figure swells to over 9 trillion dollars.
Although you'd never guess it from the happy talk news stations, the US public debt is already in the throes of a fiscal train wreck. Looking at the us public debt - national debt clock, if you're a U.S. citizen, your share of the public debt is $30,734.06 which you'll no doubt be asked to pay one day. And each day the amount that you owe goes higher. Since September 2006, the US public debt has been increasing at a rate of 1.44 billion dollars a day - with no immediate end in sight.
Social spending makes up the bulk of the us public debt with defense spending a bit behind.
Social Security is not part of the general federal budget fund. When social security taxes or FICA contributions are taken from your check they are supposed to go into what is called the Social Security trust fund where they will supposedly remain until needed by social security recipients. At the current time, however, Social Security is running a surplus, so what actually happens is that the excess is borrowed and shifted into the general federal budget fund to pay for ongoing federal expenses and interests. The amount borrowed is replaced by an IOU from the government. This is a very nice arrangement as it lets the government spend money it doesn't have without having to raise taxes.
Immediate future trend lines are not looking too good for the US public debt situation. The dollar is losing strength on a monthly basis. People are losing jobs left and right. The housing market has crashed and is still tumbling. And last but definitely not least, keeping the Iraq war going is costing us billions of dollars that we don't have. Because we don't have the money, we borrow it - from foreign governments. This has the very real effect of increasing our public debt to the point where we are now the biggest debtor nation that the world has ever seen. The U.S. is basically in hock to foreign governments for this war meaning that they implicitly get to have a say in how we run our government - especially in the realm of foreign affairs.
It's hard to believe that less than eight years ago, the U.S. was running a budget surplus. It's sad to know that in that time we've managed to squander it to the point where we're not simply running a budget deficit, we're running the biggest budget deficit in our history.
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