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Tax filing season seemed to be an appropriate time to take a close look at aspects of debt accumulating in America. With the passage of the 2018 Tax Bill, America went into debt an additional $1.5 trillion, give or take a few billion. In comparison, the sum total cost of drugs prescribed worldwide in 2017 equals $900 billion. At the stroke of a pen.

The Office of Management and Budget claims this bill will decrease our deficit and slow our National Debt accumulation. I guess we can wait and see or not.

As I write this, our national debt is $20,601,452,201,192 and climbing.

That number is stated as: Twenty trillion, six-hundred one billion, four hundred fifty two million, two hundred one thousand, one hundred ninety two dollars.

Moreover, the debt as a percentage of GDP is 109.32 percent, 9.32 percent more than the total of all goods and services produced by the entire U.S. economy for 2017.

Per capita national debt of each American, some 326 million of us equals $63,110 each.

Now let us look at total debt in America. This number represents every cent of debt from whatever source derived, from Federal Government to the individual citizen; $68,941,316,607,126, an increase of 155 percent since the year 2000. In terms of total U.S. debt per citizen, the amount is $211,185. That indebts each U.S. family of four with $829,482.

Leave government out of the discussion and look at individual human debt: All things for which U.S. humanity borrows money. The total for the population is $18,699,488,102,902.

Eighteen trillion, six hundred ninety nine billion, four hundred and eighty eight million, one hundred two thousand nine hundred two dollars.

$57,388.00, for every man, woman and child which represents an increase of 122 percent since the year 2000. For perspective, the cumulative inflation rate for 2000-17 is 35.53 percent.

In the year of my grandfather's birth in 1908, the national debt was $2,670,936,037, an amount in 2018 dollars totaling $63,878,106,260 using the accumulated inflation rate from 1908 to 2018 of 2,391.6 percent. Population increase is a variable that must be accounted for. The 1908 population of the U.S. was 88,710,000 and the population today is  326,448,421.

The 1908 U.S. national debt in 2018 total dollars would be $244,901,071,353. In comparing where the national debt actually stands today to that of 1908 rounded up to 2018 dollars: static national debt from 1908 is a mere 1.29 percent of the 2018 actual National Debt.

I admit that last computation is simplified by not including a bushel basket full of non-metric influences such as wars, peace, consumer confidence, technological break-throughs and consumer debt. Yet, the comparison has merit in illustrating how far out of balance America's debt has become.

So, why do I bother quantifying this information? We all know that the federal government is the only entity of the United States that can get by with running continual budget deficits because it is the only one of us that can print money.

Can America go bankrupt?

One school of thought says, "Impossible!" Their position is that we have a fiat currency system, where the United States government can print an infinite number of dollars to meet its obligations.

As always, there is a catch. What is it that backs our fiat dollars? A titanic intangible: "The Full Faith and Confidence" of the world in the United States of America. The background chatter of today makes me a little queasy about how solid that mandate might be.

This week, a man born in 1908 and living just south of here in Franklin County, passed away at the age of 109. Can you imagine the series of concatenations the U.S. Mint printing presses have cycled in his lifetime?

As he should rest easy, we must have some significant vexations to fear for the plight we have left for our children and grandchildren to solve.

J.W. Sayles is a retired university professor and U.S. Treasury agent and also a veteran of the Vietnam War. He lives in Mason City.


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