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Understanding the National Debt, In 10 Seconds Flat

Topic: Washington | By Patricia Murphy | March 9, 2012

Courtesy of 'Washington Could Learn A Lot'

We hear candidates on the campaign trail talking every day about reducing the size of the national debt.  Seems like a good idea, but before we talk about reducing the debt, don’t we need to know how big it is and who we owe all that money to?

We on the CJP editorial board say yes, so we’ve gone to the experts at Public Notice, the brains behind Bankrupting America and Washington Could Learn A Lot, to get the scoop.

The result?  The chance for the Janes to understand the basics of the debt in 10 seconds flat with the infographic above.

There, we learn:

* We owe about half of the debt to ourselves, the U.S. taxpayers, or actually whomever will be paying taxes the next 20 years, so your kids (or future kids).

* We owe most of the rest to:  CHINA (23%), JAPAN, (22%), and the U.K.  (9%).

* The most immediate problem for taxpayers is that we have to pay cash $$ to cover our interest payments, which will sound familiar to anyone with a credit card.   So we’ll have less money for Medicare, Social Security, the Pentagon, etc.

*As David Walker once told CJP, “If we don’t end up reforming our ways, federal taxes will have to double within the next 20 to 30 years, just to stop the bleeding.”

*  So how big is the debt?  When we interviewed Mr. Walker two years ago, it was $12.3 trillion.   It just hit $15 trillion.   We currently borrow about $4 billion every day.

Depressed yet?  Don’t be.  All of the candidates and President Obama say they have a plan to bring down the debt, and we’ll tell you all about them Monday.