“Dream A Little Dream”: How Long Would It Take To Pay Off The U.S. Federal Government Debt?

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Johnny Oxygen's picture
Johnny Oxygen
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 9 2009
Posts: 1443
“Dream A Little Dream”: How Long Would It Take To Pay Off The U.S. Federal Government Debt?




How much would they have to cut, in order to pay off the national debt? And how long would it take, to retire that national debt in its entirety?

...Question: How long would it take for the Federal government to pay off the total Federal government debt?

Answer: If the Federal government took on no new debt, and instead paid off all its outstanding debt at a pace of $724 billion per year, it would take just shy of 20 years to pay off the National debt.

That’s right: At a minimum, it’ll take 20 years to pay off the Federal government deficit—assuming there are balanced budgets from here to fiscal year 2032, and the Federal government devotes one-third of its total revenue just to retiring the National debt.

Like I told you at the outset: This is just a dream.

Dogs_In_A_Pile's picture
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 4 2009
Posts: 2606

JO2 -

Nice article and more than a little sobering.

I realize they were just assumptions, but why fence Social Security?  When you see everything laid out like GL did in this piece, it makes a very compelling argument why every single program needs to be called on the carpet.

How about a flat 10% across the board reduction in spending in EVERY item in the mandatory budget and a 25% reduction in the discretionary slice?

Or we wait for all of them to implode...........

Poet's picture
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Joined: Jan 21 2009
Posts: 1891
It's Mathematically Impossible To Divide By Zero

Normally, you'd think we'd just divide our total debt (not even including Social Security/Medicare promised liabilities) by a surplus amount of income after expenses. Isn't that how most households pay off debt? By increasing income or cutting spending, until there's something left that can be used to pay off debt?

Well, since we have no surplus income, it's mathematically impossible to divide by zero, no matter what the pundits say about Debt to GDP.

Debt To GDP Is Dumb
"So our current Debt to GDP ratio is close to 100% ($14.4 trillion National Debt / $14.7 trillion GDP). But our Debt to Government Income ratio is something well north of 600% ($14.4 trillion National Debt / $2.1 trillion Government Income). And our Debt to Surplus Government Income ratio is… well, we have no surplus national income. So there is no such ratio for us because dividing by zero is mathematically impossible."


rhare's picture
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Joined: Mar 30 2009
Posts: 1323
$724 billion is a rosy estimate

I actually did this calculation a few months ago after a friend sent me a silly article in the Economist saying we had until 2026 until things get ugly.  Silly economists. Since we all know there is no SSN or Medicare lock box and it's just additonal debt:, here is the numbers I came up with, pretty close, but Gonzalo Lira doesn't account for the fact we would have to pay interest on that debt.  So say we convince the world we will be fiscally responsible, no more printing, and we can finance refinance long term at 5% - that would be pretty good.

       Finance 14.2T debt at 5% for 30 years (not the 20 he worked with) = payments of 914B/year

So with revenue of 2.1T - .914T = 1.2T available to spend.

That would mean we would need to eliminate SSN, Medicare, and Medicaid and a still need a 70% reduction in spending.

Not a happy picture, and really sad that I find his calculations too rosy. Frown

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