U.S. debt passes $20 trillion

On Tuesday, the United States’ public debt passed the $20-trillion mark. Each citizen’s share is $61,890. Each American taxpayer’s share is $167,299.

Stated differently, if you spent $1 million a day for the past 2017 years, you would have not spent $1 trillion by now. More like $700 billion.

China owns 7 percent of that debt. All foreign nations together hold 32.5 percent. The other 67.5 percent of the debt is owned by U.S. citizens and American entities, including the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve buys U.S. debt (government bonds) with Federal Reserve notes — money — that it prints at will.

The debt may never be paid back because to do so would be painful. The presidents and members of Congress who made big promises during elections often find the cash isn’t there to keep those promises. The solution: borrow money from future generations. The real solution — paying it down — means making hard decisions and possibly losing one’s re-election bid.

Thomas Jefferson saw it coming: “I place economy among the first and most important virtues, and public debt as the greatest of dangers to be feared. To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. If we run into such debts, we must be taxed in our meat and drink, in our necessities and in our comforts, in our labor and in our amusements.”

Not likely.