The U.S. National Debt

An emergency I never hear about is our national debt. By the end of 2019, it had exceeded $23.16 trillion—federal debt held by the public at the end of the year was $17.26 trillion and intragovernmental holdings were $5.9 trillion. That means that our national debt is now bigger than our gross domestic product. That hasn’t been the case since the end of World War II . Interest payments on the debt are now estimated to be 8.7% of all federal outlays.

Part of the reason is the $1.5 trillion tax cut of 2017 that decreased the top corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Another reason is the continued addition of more and more spending.

Meanwhile, in less than 20 years, the Social Security Trust Fund won’t have enough to cover the retirement benefits promised to our aging population. That could mean higher taxes because the high U.S. debt rules out further loans from other countries, but a Republican Congress is more likely to curtail benefits than raise taxes.

In short, we Americans have a serious problem on our hands. The sooner we reduce government spending and/or raise taxes, the better. We’ll need to proceed with care.

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