U.S. Debt: Now Over $13,000,000,000,000

While Congress continues to gush money in Iraq and Afghanistan (and offers to pay for an over $200 million missile system for Israel), U.S. debt is now over $13,000,000,000,000. That is roughly $118,000 per taxpayer.

The White House and Congress show no serious commitment to addressing this problem as they pile on pork projects and spend wildly. We are looking at a disaster of global proportions. Yet, even as states are forced to sell off parks and public properties (here and here), the United States continues to act like a teenager on an unlimited credit card.

For the debt figures, click here

60 thoughts on “U.S. Debt: Now Over $13,000,000,000,000”

  1. JT,

    I wrote above

    JT – Get ready to post again in seven months, when the debt is expected to top $14B, and then $15B in the middle of next year

    To the tick, we’re over $14 trillion today:


    Another trillion stolen from the wealth of our children, and thousands more dead globally at the hand of a bankrupt American empire.

  2. CM:

    “I believe that the US system is corrupt beyond remedy and that you are going to pas through a period of fascist government with death squads and all the trimmings before things get better.”

    How do you figure that outcome?

  3. Puzzled.

    Believe it or not, some Nations have political systems that have not been as corrupted as that in the US. Compared to the US Australia’s system is virtuous and chaste. We have a trade practices regulator (anti-trust) that actually has teeth.

    The system in the UK followed US trends during the reign of that Christian lunatic Tony Blair but may now be staging a recovery.

    I believe that the US system is corrupt beyond remedy and that you are going to pas through a period of fascist government with death squads and all the trimmings before things get better.

  4. CM,

    I rhink we are in agreement.

    The United States has a corporatist government in which regulation (and spending) is designed to favor particular corporate interests. From regulatory agencies to foreign policy, corporate considerations and maintenance of government power circles drive the agenda.

    The United States has a one party system. The worst policies to come out of Washington DC are inevitably so-called “bipartisan” compromises. The media reaffirms this illusion by whipping up a frenzied debate between our two false choices.

  5. Puzzled.

    I 90% agree with you.

    What you are describing is regulatory capture were a regulatory agency ostensibly set up to protect the public interest is perverted into serving the interests of some of the participants, usually sellers in a market.

    It is only common sense for a businessman to try to gain market power by whatever means he can, becoming so big as to dominate the market or joining other participants in forming a cartel. But the easiest way is to gang together with other producers to capture the government regulator. In any nation in the world you will find that doctors and lawyers have captured the regulators of law and medicine. In the US many other industries have captured their regulators, for example the oil companies have clearly captured the regulators who were supposed to ensure that they applied appropriate saftey procedures when drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

    Regulatory capture is worse in some nations than in others, and my impression is that in the US it is particularly bad. It is not just the individual regulators that have been taken over but the entire process of government. Elite interests own both electable parties. You poor Americans voted to throw out George W and the Republicans Congress and the Senate in the belief that this would stop the madness of unnecessary wars, galloping fascism and massive bailouts for the crooks who smashed the financial system, only to find Obama and the Democrats continuing Bush/Republican policies. The Republicans are so far to the right that they have fallen off the edge of the Earth, but the Democrats are also extremely right wing and in no way represent the interests of Americans outside the 1% ownership elite. Capture of individual regulatory agencies is not necessary if you own the elected officials. Gore Vidal was dead on correct when he said America is governed by a single party, the Property party which has two right wings called Republican and Democrat.

  6. CM,

    I liked your post on free markets and monopolies. Let me argue it from another angle that is less often discussed.

    Your argument is that free markets will lead to cartels if left unregulated. I would argue that government is far more likely to create cartels than the market. Let me give some examples from different industries:

    Big pharma has been created by the FDA.

    Agribusiness was created entirely by farm subsidies and solidified recently by ethanol policy.

    The corrupt credit ratings cartel was created by government “recognition” of a handful of firms, calls NRSA’s.

    The largest firms are able to lobby government for favorable regulation that creates significant or absolute barriers to competitors. Firms can lobby government for direct contracts. Firms also lobby for regulatory mandates requiring purchase of products or services that they can provide, like ethanol (ADM), credit ratings (Moody’s, S&P), or cap and trade (GE). There are hundreds of examples.

    Corporations are very effective lobbyists because they can provide cash to elected officials in exchange for government-created advantages that would never be available in a free market. Modest amounts of cash buys media time for candidates that is clearly highly influential to a misinformed and uncurious public.

    As Byron stated earlier, it is better to strip government’s ability to create these advantages than seek to further regulate corporations. New regulation is sure to favor just another subset of well connected firms, strengthening the corporatist system that has been evolving for decades. It must be ended.

  7. CM:

    “Actually I found Puzzling’s posts rather confusing. I am not sure that I understood him at all.”

    Why do you think he/she calls him/herself “Puzzling” :).

    He/she makes sense to me, but then I think we come from the same philosophic base.

    I am finding that people on different ends of the philosophical spectrum tend to speak past each other.
    As you are with Puzzling. It is like cats and dogs, once they understand each others vocabulary they tend to get along. But it is hard to learn each others vocabulary, a possible reason for the schism?

  8. Byron.

    that was Puzzling’s point.”

    To which one of my posts and which one/ones of puzzling’s are you referring?

    Actually I found Puzzling’s posts rather confusing. I am not sure that I understood him at all.

  9. “As much as you may despise John D. Rockefeller he saved the whales and brought the price of kerosene from about 54 cents a gallon to 7 cents a gallon.”

    John D. also was responsible for the deaths of more than 100 miners in the Colorado mine strike. He was a bastard who gave to charity to salve his conscience. Secondly, the Defense budget may appear to be 20%, but that’s just accounting legerdemain. The raise of the Social Security tax in the 1980’s, with the assist of Democratic pigs like Pat Moyniham ostensibly was to save SS, but the money wasn’t dedicated to SS, but to the general budget to support the raise in defense spending. I first realized this when I found that my SS taxes withheld exceeded the income taxes with held.

    I know you’re a small business man and doubt you have, or would ever buy a Rolls. However:

    “I know you think I am crazy but you take away the ability of corporations and individuals to buy favors and the ability of government to sell/grant favors and business will have to survive or fall on their own merits.”

    I don’t think you’re crazy, but agree with you. The problem is that the tendency of large business entities is to rig the market and make it “not free” is a given. If you for instance hit the jackpot in your business, someone would try to stifle you or buy you out. Look at the history of the last 200 years which has been to a collectivism (socialism)for the “haves.” Wal-Mart for instance moves into a town and destroys the free market that is the base of the community.

    I like much Libertarian thought, but I am also convinced that whatever government there is, will just be taken over by those and with money and power. This is the main point of our disagreement. In politics you are Utopian and I’m a pragmatist. I like the Libertarian ideal but those like Ron Paul certainly show the true contradictions in it by being anti-choice.

  10. Mr. Turley, you said $118,000 per tax payer… but I think that would be per income tax FILER – not PAYER. Since such a large percentage of people who file income taxes either have NO liability or actually recieve back rebates/benefit without having paid anything in the amount that is owed is actually around $200,000 per tax PAYER.

    @anonymous – You suggest that the wars are helping to keep employed 450,000 US contractors and US troops that are fighting/working in Iraq and Afgh… putting aside for a minute how wrong both of these wars are and looking at it from an employment standpoint – how much money is also being wasted paying millions to local tribal, political and mercs that none of which will ever produce one dollar of benefit to the US? All of the oil, rations, supplies that are consumed – many that are for efficiency purposes purchased from places outside of the country? I would rather pay those 450,000 to come home and sit at a desk or clean up parks than do what they are doing over there. It is estimated that the troop support cost alone on the low end is about $1mil per one troop annually in Afghanistan. There is nothing about the war in Afgh or Iraq that is a net win for our economy.

  11. Carlyle:

    Anti-Trust is a mythology. And monopolies cannot exist except by virtue of government support.

    See my example of Standard Oil above. John D. was competing with whale oil and natural gas. New, good technology drives out old, inefficient technology.

    We are seeing the beginnings of a monopoly in energy, namely green technology. It will drive out other forms of energy using government as protection, once the other forms have been beaten back the price of energy will sky rocket and thus prove my point that only governments can support monopolies.

    Government is currently giving huge tax subsidies to people who purchase green technology. I am all for green technology but it must evolve naturally or it is a false solution and will create harm to the economy.

  12. Mike.

    The problem with low tax rates for the wealthy is that the wealthy find it too easy to retain and increase their wealth. They do not have to invest wisely to keep their relative position. Eventually the wealthy end up owning almost everything, the only way that the rest can keep the economy ticking over by buying things is to borrow money from the wealthy to buy things that they cannot actually afford. The US reached that situation long ago. The purpose of the subprime housing bubble was to fool the nonwealthy into thinking they could actually afford to buy things using the booming equity in their houses.

  13. Puzzling.

    Tylenol is actually quite poisonous. The daily maximum dose is around 8 tablets. Double this is enough to destroy the liver. 200 Tylenol would definitely be fatal.

  14. Byron.

    I think a lot of people confuse free markets with unregulated ones. If left unregulated markets that start out free don’t remain so. Sooner or later some participants or groups of participants on one side of the market or the other accumulate enough market power to skew prices in their favour. Regulation such as antitrust laws are needed to prevent cartels from forming.

    Free markets require some conditions.

    1/ A large enough number of participants on each side of the market;

    2/ A sufficient proportion of informed participants;

    3/ The proportion of market participants who are speculators cannot be to high;

    4/ No small number of participants on either side must dominate that side, that is there must be no monopolies, cartels or oligopolies;

    5/ No information asymmetry between buyers and sellers.

    Number 5 is important, markets in things such as legal and medical services can never be free markets because the buyer obviously lacks the knowledge that the sellers have. Clients are at the mercy of professionals to advise them what they need, they cannot tell whether their lawyer or doctor iis exploiting them until afterwards. These markets are regulated by professional associations, supposedly in the public interest but actually in the interests of the sellers.

  15. Keynsian spending also requires that the things on which the money is spent are actually useful. In Japan stimulus money was spent on things like concreting the beds of rivers to make them run faster. This spending was of no conceivable value afterwards.

    Spending on building a bridge or road that people actually use is obviously better than building a bridge or road where no one actually needs it. In both cases the immediate stimulatory effect is the same, but the infrastructure built where it is needed will save money in the future.

    The current Australian government seems to have carried out a successful Keynsian stimulus but it had the capacity to borrow because the previous government had managed to reduce government debt considerably. Also some of the infrastructure, buildings for schools, libraries, canteens, assembly halls and so on seem to have cost twice as much to four times as much as they should.
    Not as bad as concreting river beds but still wasteful.

  16. Mike:

    Clearly I have swallowed the free market kool-aid and will go to my grave believing I am correct based on the evidence.

    Only about 20% of the budget goes to defense, about 50% goes to social programs. At least that was the 2009 budget as found on Wiki.

    I am a very small business man and could never afford a Rolls Royce or an expensive Mercedes nor will I ever own a boat or a jet. But I do know that those sorts of items put decent people to work with good paying jobs.

    As you well know I don’t believe in a government/corporate synthesis, it is evil and is not good for our country. I think we both agree on that point as does Puzzling and every right thinking person on both sides of the political and economic spectrum.

    The wealthy are getting wealthier because of government protection of their assets. I know you think I am crazy but you take away the ability of corporations and individuals to buy favors and the ability of government to sell/grant favors and business will have to survive or fall on their own merits. The ensuing competition would be good for all.

    As much as you may despise John D. Rockefeller he saved the whales and brought the price of kerosene from about 54 cents a gallon to 7 cents a gallon. He helped people and the environment through the free market and technological innovations brought about by the pursuit of wealth.

    Money is not the root of all evil, it is love of money for monies sake or as you say the quest for a larger penis. But people who quest for money/larger penis are not the people who will benefit from a free market. They are the ones that benefit today with the unholy alliance of corporations and government. Take away the protection and the guy with a little ego and a smaller penis cannot compete, you get rid of the garbage and the truly competent can then succeed.

    It is rather like a hunter on the African plain taking out the young lions so the older ones can remain in charge. It hurts the pride.

  17. Keynsian spending works if the Government actually has the capacity to borrow without reaching unsustainable debt levels, but there is a caveat. Keynes said that when the stimulus has done its work the government has to pay back the borrowings. Unfortunately democratic governments have difficulty finding the will power to do this. What tends to happen is that each cycle of Keynsian stimulus ratchets the debt up a little more until eventually the point is reached where the government no longer has the capacity to borrow without exceeding the level of debt at which repayment becomes impossible.

    The USA reached unsustainable debt levels some time ago, I am not sure how far back, its creditors do not seem to have realized this yet.

  18. “A few years of a free market would take care of those numbers.’

    Love you man but you’re delusional. Our debt began to grow when the tax rate on the wealthy began to change, with the election of Nixon, failure of Carter, treason of the members of the Reagan Administration, GHW Bush, Clinton and GW Bush. They allowed business to become “global” leaving our strong manufacturing base in ruins, doubling the Social Security taxes on working people in the 80’s, then using Social Security money for defense. Lastly,
    they redistributed the wealth to the wealthy via tax cuts and incentives.

    However, we must also remember that 50% of our budget goes for defense. This is an amount that is bigger then the defense spending of all the country’s combined. The “grownups” of both parties that make up our corporate oligarchy make and take much wealth from a defense budget that any rational person know is ridiculous. It’s all a pitiful charade being played out for us by those who want to feel like they’re better than we are. We’re to caught up in our bread, circuses and rat race. Down he where I live you see Bentley’s and Rolls’ everywhere. As someone who know cars they’re willing to pay 250 to 300 grand to prove they’re better than everyone else. or their penis is larger.

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