20 Informative and Outlandish Ways to Illustrate the U.S. National Debt

August 10, 2011 | Economics

You don’t need a Masters in Economics to know that America’s debt is larger than it has ever been, with trillion dollar bills becoming all the more common. But with literally more dollars in the debt than stars in the sky, how does one make sense of the $14 trillion dollar price tag it comes with?

To shed light on things, we have gathered 20 informative and outlandish ways to illustrate the U.S. national debt. They include many informational links, as well as even worse ways to spend the money. So grab a chair and your own financial worth and prepare for some hypothetical spending fun.

Informative and Outlandish Charts to Illustrate the U.S. National Debt

Check out these charts, graphs, and more to illustrate the debt first.

  1. U.S. Debt Clock Stop here first to get the most complete, up to date way to illustrate the U.S. national debt on one page. There are loads of sub categories such as incoming dollars and outgoing expenditures and even a section on money creation. The debt per citizen – currently at about $47,000 – and debt per taxpayer – currently at about $130,000 – is worth a look alone.

  2. Global Debt So how bad is the U.S. national debt compared to other countries? This color coded chart by The Economist shows the countries worse off in red, which include the U.S. and many Western European nations, and those who are better off in green, which include many Asian and African countries. The total global debt is an estimated $39 trillion.

  3. Worst Offenders But wait, there’s more. Aneki has this offering of the top five countries with the highest external national debt. Even though the debt was only $12 trillion when they made the chart, the U.S. would still top it now. The next four were the UK, Germany, France, and the Netherlands.

  4. Debt to Depression So what was the state of the national debt during the Great Depression? According to U.S. Government Spending, the percentage rates were 70 percent of debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). With only one other spike coming after World War I, the Federal Debt in the 20th century shows the spike at nearly those levels and at more of a plateau than spike.

  5. It Could be Worse So what happens when debt really exceeds GDP? We can look to Japan for the answer. Their debt as a percentage of GDP is 225 percent, or about three times more than ours was during the Great Depression. They have been in trouble since the late nineties and have been downgraded by the S & P.

  6. Making the Universe Look Small Until the next several population explosions, there will be more stars in the sky than there are people on the planet. However, the U.S. national debt long passed the number of stars in the sky, which is an estimated 100 billion. With a $14 trillion dollar price tag, the stars could give off 100 offspring each tomorrow and still not be able to catch up to the national debt.

  7. A Dollar Per Second If you were paid to read this article at the rate of one dollar per second, you’d have about $300 right now. Not bad. According to American Thinker, at this impressive rate of earning you’d have to live to the ripe age of 31.688 years to pay down the national debt while not doing things like eating, seeing doctors, living in a home, having internet, etc.

  8. The Speed of Debt The blogger over at Coastline Solutions has an interesting take on how long it would take to spend $14 trillion if you literally used a fighter jet to burn through it. If you attached single dollar bills end to end and put them on a roll attached to the end of a fighter jet traveling at the speed of sound, it would take 196 years to unwind the roll of dollar bills.

  9. You Don’t Own Me So who holds all these IOU’s? It is probably no surprise that China came in first, with over $900 billion dollars in treasury bonds. Japan comes in next with $877 billion in U.S. treasury bonds. To put that into perspective, you could combine the treasury bonds held by the UK, Brazil, Russia, and even oil exporters and not get the amount that China holds.

  10. Words are Cheap If sick of reading words, check out this YouTube video from Government Gone Wild. Ever dreamed of having an exotic sports car? When the debt was only $8 trillion, the video estimated that the government could in turn buy every taxpayer a Lotus. Other figures, forecasts, and more are given.

Informative and Outlandish Ways to Spend the U.S. National Debt

So what could you get if you spent $14 trillion on whatever your heart desired? Check out the below for the answer.

  1. How Many Countries Can You Buy? Why buy stuff like homes, food, or medicine when you can buy an entire country? Or at least the debt. The second chart of U.S. News shows the dollar amounts of the top debtors of the world, with the U.S. easily at the top with over $14 trillion. Instead of a huge national debt, we could buy the debts off China, Japan, and Germany. Or alternatively, we could buy the debts of France, the UK, Italy, Brazil, Canada, and Russian with over two trillion leftover.

  2. Homes for Everyone Home ownership is the quintessential American dream and one of the largest purchases an individual or couple will make in their lifetimes. So how many homes could you buy with $14 trillion? With the average prices from Real Estate ABC listed for various regions in the country, you could buy houses for nearly a third of the population of the United States in the Midwest.

  3. I Can Buy and Sell You That might be how the wealthiest of the wealthy describe the commoner, but when in talks on the U.S. national debt, it is the other way around. Collectively, the 400 wealthiest families in the United States are worth $1.37 trillion dollars, a mere 9.7 percent of the U.S. debt. This means they would have to increase their wealth to over tenfold overnight and be willing to entirely give every penny of it up, right down to the trust funds and offshore holdings, to pay down the debt.

  4. Just Print It Some call it quantitative easing, others call it legal counterfeiting. But how long would it take to print $14 trillion? Using the Department of Treasury’s own numbers, they can make nearly two billion in hundred dollar bills, or $200 billion, per year. If the Treasury Department just dedicated themselves to the Benjamins, it would take them 70 years to print $14 trillion.

  5. Send Half the World to the Greatest Show Although the debt is being used to pay for things like retirement, healthcare, defense expenses, etc. how much of a useless thing could it buy? With tickets for last year’s Superbowl averaging $3,676 per seat, the U.S. debt could buy tickets for 3.8 billion people to next year’s game. The cost of the stadium it would take is undetermined.

  6. But What is That in Football Fields? Continuing in the tradition of football, if an individual was to walk around with the $14 trillion in national debt in their pockets, what would it look like? The blogger at Zero Hedge used graphics to demonstrate how one million in hundred dollar bills would be easy enough to carry around in a bag. However, the sum of one trillion in one hundred dollar bills would fill a football field. With currently 32 NFL football fields in play, we would have to sacrifice nearly half of them to literally hold the national debt.

  7. I’d Like to Buy the World a Starbuck’s Get the globe something trendy by springing for a cup of Starbuck’s. With an average price of three dollars per cup, you could buy 4.6 trillion cups or 575 cups each for eight billion people. Of course, there is the small matter of the $1.12 trillion sales tax.

  8. Take it to the Bank, Then Take the Bank Having trouble with your bank? Use the $14 trillion in debt to buy it. Then buy all of its competitors and their holdings. The National Information Center currently lists Bank of America with the most assets at over $2 billion. With only $1 trillion, you could buy the bank 500 times over.

  9. Live off the Interest If you were lending the U.S. $14 trillion, what would your interest payments look like, even if no default was had? The estimated total for the 2011 fiscal year would put a mere $385 billion in your pockets, just 2.75 percent. And you thought your credit cards were bad.

  10. What About the Little Things? Who couldn’t use a thing like a Presidential Rolex watch or Tiffany Diamond pendant? With a trillion you could buy every American man or woman one. As further explained buy RINF News, you could buy everyone in Los Angeles a Lamborghini or every foreigner in Belize and Malta a Manhattan apartment of their dreams. You could also get every household in America a premium Mitsubishi television. And then another. Since this is the price for only $1 trillion, all the above can be multiplied by 14 times when compared to the national debt.

And the above 20 informative and outlandish ways to illustrate the U.S. national debt are just the tip of iceberg and a starting point for informed debates, smarter spending, and protection of future generations against debt.

Tags: , , , , , , ,