“National Debt Facts.” By James D. Agresti. Just Facts, April 26, 2011.

NOTE: This research contains comprehensive and detailed facts about the national debt. For less detail, click here. For a two-minute video overview of the national debt (current as of 2009), click here.

Quantifying the National Debt

* As of June 1, 2011, the official debt of the United States government is $14.3 trillion ($14,344,655,966,314).[1] This amounts to:

• $46,415 for every person living in the U.S.[2]

• $122,043 for every household in the U.S.[3]

• $305,107 for every U.S. household that pays more in federal taxes than they receive in benefits from the federal government[4]

* Publicly traded companies are legally required to account for “explicit” and “implicit” future obligations such as employee pensions and retirement benefits.[5] [6] [7] The federal budget, which is the “federal government’s primary financial planning and control tool,” is not bound by this rule.[8] [9]

* As of September 30, 2010 (the end of the federal government’s fiscal year), the federal government has:

• $7.3 trillion ($7,297,000,000,000) in liabilities such as federal employee retirement and veterans’ benefits[10]

• $17.2 trillion ($17,195,000,000,000) in unfunded obligations for the Social Security program

• $22.8 trillion ($22,800,000,000,000) in unfunded obligations for the Medicare program

• $122 billion ($122,000,000,000) in unfunded obligations for two other “social insurance” programs called “Black Lung” and “Railroad Retirement”[11]

These unfunded obligations are referred to as “closed group present values” and are calculated in a manner that approximates how publicly traded companies are required to calculate their debts and obligations.[12] [13] [14] The figures represent how much money must be immediately placed in interest-bearing investments to cover the shortfalls between projected revenues and expenditures for all current taxpayers and beneficiaries in these programs.[15] [16] [17]

* Combining the figures above with the national debt and subtracting the value of federal assets, the federal government has $56.5 trillion ($56,529,800,000,000) in debt, liabilities, and unfunded obligations as of September 30, 2010.[18]

* This shortfall is 82% of the combined net worth of all U.S. households and nonprofit organizations, including all assets in savings, real estate, corporate stocks, private businesses, and consumer durable goods such as automobiles.[19] [20]

* This shortfall equates to:

• $182,914 for every person living in the U.S.[21]

• $480,949 for every household in the U.S.[22]

• $1,202,373 for every U.S. household that pays more in federal taxes than they receive in benefits from the federal government[23]

* These figures do not account for the future costs implied by any current policy outside of the “social insurance” programs listed above.[24]

* These figures are contingent upon the continuance of current federal law and “a wide range of complex assumptions” made by federal agencies.”[25] Regarding this:

• Social Security’s 2010 annual report states that “significant uncertainty” surrounds the “best estimates” of future circumstances.[26]

• Medicare’s 2010 annual report states that the program’s financial projections “do not represent a reasonable expectation for actual program operations in either the short range … or the long range” because:

a) “Current law would require physician fee reductions totaling an estimated 30 percent over the next 3 years—an implausible result.”

b) The 2010 Affordable Care Act [Obamacare] eventually reduces “Medicare prices for hospital, skilled nursing facility, home health, hospice, ambulatory surgical center, diagnostic laboratory, and many other services” to “less than half of their level under the prior law. …. Well before that point, Congress would have to intervene to prevent the withdrawal of providers from the Medicare market and the severe problems with beneficiary access to care that would result. … [This] would lead to far higher costs for Medicare in the long range than those projected under current law.”[27]

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