Updated: Aug 20, 2021
Federal debt is a new hot topic on our minds today. Currently, we're looking at more than $28.3 trillion — which breaks down to more than $85,132 in debt per U.S. citizen. How long can we sustain this level of debt — and are we in danger of watching it collapse?
Let's start by comparing the 2000 to 2021 debt clocks, which show us how drastically debt has increased over time. You can even watch the live debt clock here.
As you are comparing these images, keep in mind that the U.S. has seen an 18% increase in population (281 people to 333 million). The workforce has increased 21%, growing from 103 million people to 125 million. That means the workforce has grown faster than the population, with the millennials being a large part of growth.
Next, let's look at CPI, money over time. A basket of goods that was $169 in 2000 would now cost you $266.83. So what do those changes look like from 2000 compared to 2021? Again, the revenue or GDP (Gross Domestic Product, shown in green) is at $22.1 trillion, and the federal tax revenue is bringing in $3.4 trillion.
When comparing both data sets below, we can see that the GDP is now at $22 trillion, where it was at $9.5 trillion in 2000 – a 131% increase. Then, if we look at tax revenue, we have a 78% increase since 2000. Remember, there was a surplus in 2000, so now we're at $3.4 trillion in revenue.
So, let's talk about the different tax breakouts. We have income tax with an 83% increase, payroll tax at a 108% increase, and corporate tax revenue with a rise of 7%. Therefore, revenue has grown, but you can see the corporate tax has stayed the same due to the recent tax law changes favoring taxing income over corporations.
U.S. National Debt
As of June 11th, U.S. national debt was at $28.3 trillion. The federal spending was at $6.7 trillion with a deficit of $3.2 trillion. Comparing this to 2000, we can see the GDP grew 131%, our national debt grew almost 400%, and our government spending has grown 285%. Thus, government and deficit spending are showing up as debt, ultimately exceeding GDP growth.
Where is the government spending so much money? The bulk of it can be traced to the four following categories:
Medicare and Medicaid: 298% Increase
Social Security: 180% Increase
Interest on Debt (Net): 77% Increase
Defense and War: 137% Increase
Why is our debt expanding at a faster rate than GDP?
It's disconcerting to realize that our debt is growing more quickly than our GDP. What is the reason for this? Well, several items show as government liabilities coming out of budgets that are still unfunded. These unfunded liabilities equal a whopping $148 trillion, and they include Medicare and Social Security.
Another factor is heightened payroll taxes. In 2000, we had payroll tax revenue of $640 billion and Social Security of $400 billion. So essentially, we were collecting more than what we were paying out.
Let's look at Medicare and Medicaid next, where we continue to see increased enrollment. In 2008, we were at $605 billion in net spending, with a trend going up to $1.2 trillion through 2030. Spending will continue to progress — not to mention become more complicated with government borrowing as the expansion is monetized.
If we include the expense for interest rates on government spending in 2000 and 2021, we have $5.6 trillion in debt. The average interest in 2000 was 4%, where today, the average claim is 1.4%. That's a significant reduction in the rate.
The moral of the story? National debt may not be going anywhere soon. But by staying ahead of it and understanding it, we can make more informed decisions about the way we invest our money.
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