US National Debt Passed $23 Trillion, Jumped $1.3 Trillion in 12 Months

And these are the good times. What happens in a recession?

The US gross national debt – the sum of all Treasury securities outstanding – passed another illustrious milestone, $23.01 trillion, the US Treasury department disclosed on Friday. And it got there at lightning speed just eight months after having passed the illustrious milestone of $22 trillion on February 11. Over the past 12 months, the US national debt has jumped by $1.33 trillion – and these are the good times, and not a financial crisis when everything goes to heck:

The cute flat spots in the charts are periods when the US government bumped into the “debt ceiling.” The US is unique among countries in that Congress first tells the government how much to spend, what to spend it on, and in whose Congressional district to spend it in, and then on the appointed day, Congress tells the government that it cannot borrow the money that it needs in order to spend the money that Congress told it to spend. The charade, carried out regularly for political purposes to arm-twist one or the other side, leaves these flat spots behind as permanent testimony to this idiocy.

Over the 12 months through the third quarter, the US gross national debt rose by 5.6% from the same period a year earlier. But nominal GDP over the same period rose only 3.7%: meaning the growth of the debt is outrunning the growth even in what President Trump called two days ago, the “Greatest Economy in American History!”

If the growth of the federal debt outruns the economy during these fabulously good times, what will the debt do when the recession hits? When government tax receipts plunge and government expenditures for unemployment and the like soar? The federal debt will jump by $2.5 trillion or more in a 12-month period. That’s what it will do.

The growth in the US debt (the growth of Treasury securities outstanding) is the most accurate measure of the true deficit – the actual cash difference between how much cash the government takes in and how much cash the government spends. The government has to borrow the difference between the two – and that’s what the increase in the debt measures.

This increase in the debt shows the negative cash flow of the government. And it’s almost always significantly larger than the “budget deficit,” which is based on government accounting.

For example, in the fiscal year 2019, ended September 30, the “budget deficit” was $984 billion, according to the Treasury Department. This is a huge number, considering that these are the good times. But the government had to borrow an additional $1.2 trillion over the same period. In other words, the actual cash deficit, as represented by the increase in the debt, was $219 billion higher than the government accounting of the deficit.

And this is the case year after year. The chart below shows the increase in the debt for each fiscal year (blue column) and the “deficit” as per government accounting, going back to 2002. Over these 18 years, there were only two years when the deficit was either the same or larger than the increase in the debt. For the remaining 16 years, the increase in the debt was far larger than the deficit. In total, over those 18 years, all added together, the increase in debt has exceeded the “budget deficit” by $5 trillion:

The budget deficit – the much more benign figure, huge as it is – is what is being bandied about. Practically no one in government or the mainstream media bandies about the increase in the debt, tough it is the more truthful figure that cannot be played with.

Compared to the vast amounts of new debt incurred, the receipts from the trade tariffs are small. But given the condition government finances are in, every little bit helps. In the third quarter, tax receipts from tariffs (“customs duties”) ran at an annual rate of $81 billion, the highest ever, and more than double the rate in 2016:

So there is something that would help: Corporations got a huge tax cut on their income, which they did not pass on to consumers; so now the government should cover part of that hole by taxing the goods that corporations import (tariffs), which these companies won’t easily be able to pass on to consumers because prices are set by competition in the market place – and that has been confirmed so far, with economists complaining about “low” inflation despite the tariffs.

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  144 comments for “US National Debt Passed $23 Trillion, Jumped $1.3 Trillion in 12 Months

  1. No1 says:

    Nothing goes to heck in a straight line, other than the US national debt.

  2. Paulo says:

    Regarding: “But nominal GDP over the same period rose only 3.7%: meaning the growth of the debt is outrunning the growth even in what President Trump called two days ago, the “Greatest Economy in American History!”

    Con words spoken by a con man, and many believe it. I mentioned on WS my recent visit to US relatives a few weeks ago. My brother-in-law spoke with real conviction how absolutely strong the US economy was. I then asked him if it was so great, why are interest rates so low and why is there a push for even lower rates… these good times? But you know what? As long as their middle-of-the-risk-road stock valuations keep increasing, why should they believe otherwise?

    As I read this article I found myself humming the lyrics to Kris Kristofferson, “The Good Times”. 1st stanza,

    Don’t look so sad
    I know it’s over
    But life goes on
    And this old world will keep on turning
    Let’s just be glad
    We had some time to spend together
    There’s no need to watch the bridges
    That we’re burning

    Gulp. We’re driving this ship on Takeoff Power just to get from A to B. The end result is pretty obvious. Boom, crash, bang. It is up to individuals to be aware and make personal plans to not be taken down when it happens, imho. I spent the afternoon mulching the garden and enjoying the sunshine.

    • Scott says:

      The hard part to guess is when. We have been building this runaway debt for decades, when will it be too much? When will the boom, crash and bang happen?

      If interest rates ever go up again, the interest on the debt will soar.

    • NBay says:

      I like that aviation analogy. As they say, two things are useless, fuel you have burned and altitude above you. Some may have lots of fuel and flying high, but every time someone crashes it trashes the runway more for all.
      Sorry, wheels only… floats.

      • NBay says:

        Forgot to av-comment on your plans. Be able to add to aspect ratio, be ready to further lighten load.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      Reminds me of the second to last step equally valid for planes and ships. Throw everything we do not absolutely need overboard.

  3. Sandu says:

    Add to those extra costs during a recession much higher interest rates. Fewer and fewer bondholders will stomach Treasuries at the current interest rates if the debt grows by 1-2T a year.

    Unless the FED will continue to be the one with a larger and larger belly, in which case they could hold interest rates down for a while longer but eventually we’d probably get into a situation similar to the one in the former Weimar Republic.

    • sc7 says:

      Interest rates won’t be higher in the recession, they’ll go back to ZIRP and maybe NIRP.

  4. Randy Oldman says:

    The python does not crush, it tightens every time you exhale.

  5. RoundAbout says:

    The asymptote of the national debt graph looks about 2021-2023 time frame. Infinite dollars and infinite debt. But nobody will buy the debt except the fed.

    I guess that is why all the politicians are acting really kooky lately — someone has to be president. lol.

  6. Cyclops says:

    There is one major public deficit growing behind belief. For certain, public pensions is growing at a rapid rate based on actuaries to plant a glowing view! Yes, the returns on investments are an impossible high 6% rate annually. Public taxpayers going to pay exploding property taxes! Most likely, municipalities are declaring bankruptcy to avoid the public pensions blow up!

    • timbers says:

      We can fund them just like we fund our multiple optional illegal wars of aggression and tax cuts for rich gigantic corporations and the ultra rich. Why are so worried abt public pensions when there are so many greater contributors to deficits? Facts matter.

      • daniel weise says:

        Depends,who’s Facts?

      • elkern says:

        The Federal Government can paper over it’s deficits (print money/Fed tricks) but State and Local governments can’t. Public pension funds were largely set up decades ago when it was reasonable to expect 6% returns. Those days are gone. Low rates of return are sucking States & municipalities into the race-to-the bottom.

        Grover Norquist has won. The rest of us have lost.

  7. Mike says:

    Choose your poison – Default, inflate it away (pain) or get an IMF bailout with attendant loss of freedom and autonomy. # 3 comes with a gold plated card proving membership in the “Globalist Club.”

    • NBay says:

      Really never understood why “Globalist” isn’t replaced with “Corporatist”.
      To me, it is just spin-speak with obvious beneficiaries.

  8. Keeper Hill says:

    Yes We Can

    • NBay says:

      And we just may. Don’t forget FDR was faced with many people desperate enough to go full blown communist. He wisely chose to add some socialism.

      They are NOT the same, and because of Doc Oppenheimer’s thingy, large wars are out of the question, and even small ones are getting more risky.

      So much for traditional human ruler’s “solutions”.

      If those birds fly, even the rulers lose…..everything.

      I often wonder how they will deal with their dilemma.

  9. Lenin says:

    The liquidity pumped in by all the deficit spending and now the Fed given the QE and lower rates makes the stock market the only game in town.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      Au contraire, mon frere. In Illinois we have the Arlington Park track, many casino boats, soon to be (maybe) a Chicago casino, and after 01 January you can get high on weed while playing the poker/slot machines in any of your local bars or gas stations. Truly progressive government help. To say nothing of more kinds of lottery tickets than I can count in every convenience store. /sarc

  10. Rowen says:

    But that’s fiscal stimulus.

  11. raxadian says:

    Again, the Fed is doing rate cuts so nothing to worry about… until December.

  12. “Greatest Economy in American History!” He means “great” like the Great Depression. Let’s just go with this double-speak thing! This economy is double-plus good!

    Perhaps I’m ignorant in asking this, but are The Powers That Be eyeing inflation as a way out of this mess?

    • Frederick says:

      TPTB know that inflation is not a way out of this mess Banana republics have taught us that

    • Iamafan says:

      It’s the Great Repression .

    • Endeavor says:

      Not unless we get wage inflation in an economy that has had a large share of the good paying jobs exported. An don’t forget about the tens of millions of new workers imported thru immigration to drive down wages.

  13. 2banana says:

    obama added more to the deficit than all other administrations combined.

    Will Trump do the same or not?

    And if not, a tiny step in the right direction.

    • raxadian says:

      If you adjust by inflation and purchase power of the dollar it was the era of getting the man to the moon that added the most debt. Notice how the infamous economic politics of the seventies started just after they blew the nacional budget on that. 25 BILLION on 1969 dollars just on the Apollo mission! That’s over 100 billions on todays money and yet might actually be way more, since Nasa estimates 104 billion to go to the moon today using modern technology. So the actual value in today’s money, considering how government funded things tend to do, would be over 200 billion.

      And that’s just the Apollo mission, the USA total expending to get to the point they could sent a man to the moon is much higher. Funny enough 1969 was a year they actually had a budget surplus.

      $ 3.2 billion of surplus for 1969.

      Next year in 1970? A $2.8 billion budget deficit!

      • MCH says:

        I would say NASA’s increase in cost can be attributable to their hedonic quality adjustments over time. Now, NASA space ships have to incorporate touchscreens and 3D sensing, and all of that stuff has to be space proof, not like good old knobs and switches. So, that’s going to cost a lot more money.

        The $104B you cite is a measure of their change in the hedonic baseline of the mission.

        Woohoo, I managed to use the word hedonic in a sentence, and not hedonistic.

        Although I would heartily approve of NASA’s attempt to improve the hedonistic qualities of its missions.

        • NBay says:

          Wrong! Software NEVER wears out. Only the physical things that it operates within do, hence they are always reduced to a minimum….in everything possible.

          Much much much cheaper.

        • MCH says:

          Yeah, have you tried using software to breathe in vacuum? Just saying.

      • Anon1970 says:

        FYI, Congress passed a small income tax surcharge in late 1968 that went into effect in 1969. The small 1969 surplus was the last one until about 30 years later at the end of the Clinton administration.

      • MC01 says:

        Always remember it’s impossible to say where the NASA ends and the military begins, even more so during the Cold War when the “anything goes” mentality was commonplace.

        Syphoning funds from one declassified program to a classified one has always been very common (and sometimes the cause of such PR catastrophes such as “Military paid $600 for a commercially available ball bearing/toilet seat/whatever”) and let’s not forget it’s often impossible to say who paid for which technology: to give an example the first generation KH-11 spy satellites, also known as Kennen and Key Hole, share a lot of technology with the Hubble space telescope. The issue has been willingly murked to the point it has become a moot one.

        This classified stuff is prohibitively expensive: the last two Block 4 KH-11 satellites are estimated to have cost $4-5 billion each in 2011 dollars. While spending that money is not a big problem, it has to be hidden, not so much from a public whose outrage last all of 15 seconds but from foreign intelligence agencies. You cannot just write a $4 billion cheque to Lockheed and stamp it “classified”. ;-)

      • Scott says:

        I think the Vietnam war, and the start of Medicare and Medicaid played a much larger role in increasing the national debt.

        • X-Pat DE says:

          I’d also posit that it was America’s extraordinarily expensive Vietnam escapade was the reason Nixon “tempoarily” took the USA off the gold standard.

        • Dan Romig says:

          French President Charles de Gaulle did indeed criticize the USA’s involvement in VietNam, but the French, in general, did not like the Bretton Woods Agreement. It was referred to as “America’s exorbitant privilege.”

          In February 1965, de Gaulle publicly stated he would exchange France’s dollar reserves for gold bullion at the official exchange rate of $35 per ounce. He even sent French Naval ships across the Atlantic to bring gold back to France. Other nations also followed his lead, and as they say, “The rest is history.”

          X-Pat DE, I think most historians agree with your view that the cost of the VietNam war was the main reason Tricky Dick pulled the rug out from under the dollar in August 1971, but de Gaulle was the catalyst that began transition of the dollar being backed by gold to being a piece of paper who’s only value is based on people’s faith in it alone. So far, people still have faith in the greenback.

      • NBay says:

        The Vietnam war cost 2/3 of WW2 in equivalent dollars. I would say it’s our biggest sinkhole. All that capex and resources just blown to hell along with many people….for nothing.
        (although my lobbyist uncle and his pals did get filthy rich)

      • David Hall says:

        It was the Vietnam War, Cold War, Berlin Wall, Communist revolutions, military-industrial complex, etc.

    • Suzie Alcatrez says:

      Trump will just tell Mnunchin to declare bankruptcy.

  14. Jeff Relf says:

    If life is a monopoly game,
    the government won 200 years ago.

    I’ve always found it odd that anti-monopolists
    ignore the biggest monopoly of all: the government.

    How could one hate corporations yet love
    “the parent company” ( the government ) ?

    “Freedom” is the right to “choose” the bad option,
    instead of the worse one.

    • FreeMoney says:

      “Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose” – Janis Joplin

      The US-Gov is a corporation, WASH-DC is a corporate tax district.

      Most ‘law’ is military corporate rule making.

      Well Monopoly is a well thought out, and very rational game.

      The game of USA Corporate Murder, Inc. Is not a ‘game’ its a means to end an end. Going back to Debeers, and Anglo-Saxon history, and fine english family’s from the 1700’s. USA was a prison colony, that became a mercenary breeding colony. Today is it what it is, but the inhabitants ( the reason for the wall ), don’t have a clue about reality.

      Read Carol Quigley if you dare want to know the reality of the US-GOV, wrote dozens of books, chief historian for the CIA.

    • raxadian says:

      False, 200 years ago everyone important still used gold. It was when the gold standard was abandoned that the USA literally became the world’s currency abd started to print money like crazy.

      • Kent says:

        Well, the USA was actually on a silver standard at its founding. The word dollar being a corruption of “Thaler” the silver coin of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

        The US adopted the gold standard after the Civil War when the bankers who funded the North’s effort wanted to be paid back in something other than printed money.

  15. MCH says:

    23 Trillion?!?!?! That’s it?

    What was it that Robert Frost said? Miles to go before I sleep… to hit that miracle 1 Quadrillion number is going to take forever at this rate.

    I just don’t get it…. whatever happened to common sense? Where having too much debt is a bad thing.

    • eg says:

      The US Federal government is not like your household — debt for the monetarily sovereign is not the same as debt for a currency user.

      • MCH says:

        That’s right, the Federal government takes our money, and don’t give a crap about whether the country goes bankrupt… cause fundamentally, it’s other people’s money, to be used liberally and on everything under the sun with little or often no forethought.

        When you come right down to it, it’s not a government for the people, which in theory would consider carefully how the people’s money are spent. Rather, it’s a bunch of unqualified dotards who thinks money grows on trees. And should be used to buy votes in order to enhance the position and power of those who are in charge.

      • Scott says:

        Only because households cannot print money. I believe the outcome of spending more than you make will be the same – there is a limit.

    • Frederick says:

      Wasn’t it Bernanke or maybe Greenspan who said “ Debt doesn’t matter”?

      • Tom Skowronski says:

        Dick Cheney said “Deficits don’t matter”.

        • MCH says:

          And we can categorize all of the above as those who view other people’s money as less relevant than their own.

          You’ll note that this is especially true in the case of Cheney, who ran Haliburton in a completely different way, since it was his money at stake.

          But the second it was other people’s money, deficits and debts no longer matter. So, there you go.

      • Edward Binns says:

        Vice President Dick Cheney said that debt doesn’t matter.

    • ridgetop says:

      No common sense is right! Democrat or Republican. arrgh!

      • NBay says:

        “Common Sense is a collection of prejudices, usually accumulated by about age 18”

        -Albert Einstein

    • Wisdom Seeker says:

      At 5% annual growth the US national debt will hit 1 Quadrillion by the year 2100.

  16. Dean says:

    Debt hasn’t mattered for decades and it’s not going to matter now. As long as there is a way to keep the services economy afloat and consumers spending with reckless abandon, things will be fine. So far it’s working…

  17. Raymond Rogers says:

    I know what will fix it- more massive spending programs. Maybe a 52 trillion dollar healthcare program will do the trick.

    The debt levels are about where the CBO said they would be about 5 years.

    • Nick says:

      The US already has a healthcare program that costs about that (more than any country in the world, with worse results); any potential change to it should be costed against the existing one (as Warren did). Arguing that hers is using money that wouldn’t otherwise be spent is a category error.

      • Just Some Random Guy says:

        Worse results? That’s why everyone with money from around the world comes here for treatment. They love spending money to get bad results.

      • Raymond Rogers says:

        With Obamadoesntcare, we were told we’d save an average of $2500 a year and would keep our doctors. Yet the health care costs exploded.

        So guess what we have with another massive unamerican (yes, it is UnAmererican- read the conversation between the Federalists and Antifederalist that defines the American social contract) healthcare system? Greater costs and queues.

        It will probably happen eventually. We will get a bureaucracy of a scope that you have never seen before. Nobody wants to talk about that aspect of a national healthcare system.

        And who is it that gets lower costs? Certainly not the people who take care of themselves now. Not those who watch what they eat and who participate in moderate exercise.

        And how will it be paid? Taxing Jeff Bezos six billion is a drop in the bucket for a healthcare plan that will cost tens of TRILLIONS. Ill tell you who will bear the brunt of it- the taxpayer (considered as tax mules by the statists). Doesnt matter that their paychecks are personal property and should be treated as such.

        If centralized healthcare is so grand, why hasn’t California adopted it? Far left Governor, far left legislative body, and I’m always hearing how it’s larger than most world economies? In the US we have a federalist system (things can be accomplished at the state level, it doesnt have to be forced down the throats of the rest of us). If it such a great idea, California can lead from the front. If they create a working system other states can adopt that/merge with the system. But if it sucks, I hope those people stay where they are, or in the very least dont bring these disastrous policies with them.

        • Wolf Richter says:

          Raymond Rogers,

          I’m not for “centralized healthcare,” not at all. But I want to point out something: total healthcare costs in the US is already about 18% of GDP or about $3.8 trillion per year.

        • normansdog says:

          well, you have a large country just to the north which has just such a health care system, why not take a look at how it works? If Canada is not appropriate for some reason or other, then you have VA health care which is more efficient and cost effective than any private insurance system. I suspect though that facts will not be of any interest.

  18. Mars says:

    Negative winter
    A lower recession runs
    whilst watching the debt

    I threw about 20 words into the Haiku generator…

    • California Bob says:

      Suggest an electric generator if you live in California.

      • RD Blakeslee says:


        • NBay says:

          For the apartment set:

          Harbor Freight Cen-Tech jump starter, $60, 17 Ah @12vdc gel-cell lead acid. It’s just loafing when charging cell phones. USB port didn’t work on mine or sister’s (voltage mismatch?), but has two cig lighter style plug ins and 3 led lights to see what you are doing. Compact, simple, shows charge state.

          Stay in touch with people and Cal Fire updates.

      • WES says:

        California Bob: I hope your electric generator isn’t wind powered!

        PG&E had to cut power to Californians not to prevent fires but because all their wind turbines had shutdown due to the high winds!

        When the wind is too high wind turbine have to shutdown! Without wind power PG&E does not have enough power! Thus rolling blackouts!

        Isn’t green power just wonderful!

        • Wolf Richter says:


          Your forgot the sarc tag, it seems.

          Or you swallowed some silly fake news hook, line, and sinker. Yeah, wind turbines can be turned off when there are very high winds, though they produced electricity throughout the hurricanes that have hit Texas. Yup. Texas. But even if all wind turbines in California were turned off — which is a ludicrous assertion because the winds were very local — it would only be 5% of California’s power supply.

          The biggest wind power producer in the US by far is Texas. The second largest one is Iowa.

        • WES says:

          Hi Wolfe: Wind turbines have minimum “cut in” and “cut out” maximum wind speeds. For wind speeds between these 2 points the pitch of the wind turbine blades are adjusted as needed.

          When the wind speed exceeds the “cut out” point the blade pitch is not sufficient to control wind turbine speed, thus the turbine shuts down for safety reasons.

          The thing about renewable energy is utilities have to have back up power generation facilities available to replace any sudden loss of renewable energy. Often natural gas is used because it can be fired up quickly.

          My son works on wind turbines for GE. Interestingly when wind gusts reach certain speeds, well before “cut out” they are not allowed to climb or work on the turbines. Same if thunderstorms threaten, etc. GE has weather app for this. On such days he stays home unpaid. Yes, he climbs out on the roof to enter into the turbine hubs!

        • Wolf Richter says:


          Sure, I agreed with the assessment that wind turbines can be taken off line. Was very clear about that. But wind power in California is only about 5% of total power from all sources. PG&E is only one of the utilities in California. The grid has plenty of idle capacity during a normal fall day. Taking 2% or 3% off line due to high winds isn’t causing any kind of problem. The fake news was this statement: “PG&E had to cut power to Californians not to prevent fires but because all their wind turbines had shutdown due to the high winds!” That’s just pure BS, and I’m surprised you were taken by it.

  19. DR DOOM says:

    The great Nobel Economist Paul krugman says don’t worry relax ,we owe this debt to ourself. Let’s do more. This reserve currency printing press is great . Dow will be 35000 soon ,don’t miss out ,if you snooze you lose. The rest
    of the world can worry about our debt,we got the magic wand.

    • Frederick says:

      Is that you Jim Cramer? I know buy DB

    • JZ says:

      Follow me and repeat “Debt is money we owe ourselves.”
      Now again, “ Debt is money we owe ourselves”
      One more time “Debt is money we owe ourselves”.
      Good. Now that you feel better and less worried, go out, take loans and buy stuff.

      You know who likes to use the word “We” or “Ourselevs”? WeWork named their company that way.

      The whole point of debt is there are lender and borrower. Here is NO f***ing “WE” in this. One pays the other principle and interest or national military and police will grab your asset and you go bankcrupt.

      Ah….. there it is. The national military and police is the borrower, what now? I do NOT know, but please do NOT tell me there is a “WE OWE OURSELVES”.

      The “WE” and “OUR” will smear responsibility and undermine all the skin the in game which is what forces people to have decency. The WE and OUR will intrude your privacy, your private property under the name of WE and OURSELVES.

      Be afraid of the WE and OURSELVES.
      Every time I hear it, it send chills down to my bones.

    • Michel beauregard says:

      KRUGMAN’s argument is that debt is less of a problem as long as the economy is growing faster than the debt. This way, we have a bigger economy to support a relatively smaller debt/GDP ratio. Unfortunately, right now the debt is growing faster than the economy. That’s a recipe for disaster, thanks to the trickle down voodoo economics espoused by the present administration.

      • bungee says:

        The debt has been a pimple growing for 40 years. The present administration is going to do whatever it takes to not have the puss come out on its watch. What do you think the next administration is going to do? Krugman and his ilk are dangerous. They roll out the tired “you don’t run a country like you do a household” argument when what they want to say is “we dont need to pay back debt in any type of real or even nominal terms”. It’s insane really. There’s no perpetual motion machine here, so what makes you think the economy is going to constantly grow? It’s going to contract at some point. And according to your interpretation of Krugman, the US gov should cut its spending so that it contracts more than the economy. And there is the flaw. There will only be cries for expansion, looser policy and fiscal stimulus. From krugman himself probably. And we will get it no matter who is sitting in the white house. I really want to know if someone thinks there is a different possible outcome.
        The reason debt matters is because savers are dependent on the real world value of that debt. But the pressure is too great. We will have to inflate it away to save ourselves from a generation of Krugman’s debts. The longer the debt holds real world value, the heavier the burden on the youth.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      I’m waiting for the millennials to amass some savings. Then, when the Dow is 35,000 and I am old, there will be someone to buy my high-priced stocks. Or maybe not. Perhaps boomers will start dumping stocks for cash.

  20. fred flintstone says:

    Some day its going to be evident that the folks defending us were the ones that killed us. A defense department that should be 300 billion that costs 800 billion per year. Take the 500 billion savings from the defense department and add it to the artificial 500 billion we pay in interest to ourselves and to service debt that inflates…….no deficit.
    Just start a draft and give these 18 year old’s a chance to earn a free college degree with the additional bonus of learning discipline, respect for others and civility.
    Starting salary…….$5,000 per year with room and board, medical,uniforms and transportation thrown in. What a deal! Imagine….actually contributing before expecting a handout or a big time salary. What a concept.

  21. California Bob says:

    Presumably, this plays into China and Russias plan to usurp the USD as reserve currency?

  22. Memento mori says:

    When you are the world’s supercop, deficits dont matter, you print your own currency and others have to accept it. We will soon hit 100 trillion and nothing would have changed, look at the chart, if you predicted 40 years ago that our deficit would be more than 20 trillon today, no one would have taken you seriously , so this has a long long way to go, look at Japan, we havent started yet with deficits, but it is coming and it will last decades.

  23. RON says:

    Keynes himself said “In the end we’re all dead!” So print away! What did he know? Buy the looks of all the natural disasters on the earth including California fires, he had to know something not good was coming our way. Be safe!

  24. kk says:

    When l played ‘Monopoly’ as a youngster at Christmas my older brother would always win because he knew how to play but my mother would take charge as banker and give me more money so the game could carry on. What is the difference?

    • Upstate says:

      Not much difference at all.
      Except now it’s Digital Funny Money.

    • Unamused says:

      Monopoly was invented by a socialist to demonstrate the evils of capitalism, and to this day remains a popular tool for teaching capitalist values, like ruthless greed and destroying your friends. The goal is to win by bankrupting everybody else, thus ending the game – even for the winner.

      In the updated version the first player to own four railroads goes broke, and whoever has Boardwalk never pays income tax or goes to jail and is allowed to cheat.

      • GirlInOC says:

        That’s it. Shut it all down. You win the internet.
        I just want a book of all your comments.


  25. Harvey Cotton says:

    Everything is fine. The idea of the United States government having debt out of the wazoo is obsolete. The modern way of thinking about it is that everybody else has a surplus out of the wazoo, and that the United States cannot have a debt crisis until it has a currency crisis. And since the United States is the only country that prints U.S. dollars – the major global reserve currency – and the only country that measures its own inflation, it is currently being unnecessarily tight fiscally and monetarily.

    I mean, the United States still pays interest on its debt. The United States still has a private bond market. The Fed still hasn’t expanded the money supply to buy equities. The Fed still hasn’t forgiven the public debts it holds. Future generations will marvel at how frugal we have been.

  26. Lance Manly says:

    For the tariffs you need to subtract the additional money spent to keep farmers afloat. It may be a bit positive, but it is really a fly speck.

  27. Michael Engel says:

    1) Global PMI is falling since Dec 2017. Its especially sharp
    in Germany, where 40% of GDP is export. The $81B tariff is a thud.
    Wall street globalist claim that a trade deal with China causing
    volatility : it bs.
    2) US gov build up reserves in the most important sectors to the gov.
    3) A new gov shutdown, beyond thx giving, probably next year.
    We don’t get along for good reasons : extract the swamp.
    4) Additional UST are needed to pacify global dollar short, before Xmas.
    5) SPX at zenith, above the eye of the storm. Once we move to the right on the chart, the clockwise waves are spinning down.

  28. carl says:

    Debt allows governments to tax the sheep more and more that’s the only real purpose.

  29. Crush the Peasants! says:

    The USG needs to create a second class of US dollar and start all over again.

  30. Iamafan says:

    Just face it. We’re simply addicted to Debt.

    Debt buys us our wealthy life style illusion. You know the economy is in a good place. We can sucker the whole world into buying our money and securities so they can also share our illusion of wealth.

    The belief and rise of Bitcoin and perhaps socialism is a sign of desperation that the system isn’t working or fair for everyone.

  31. Augusto says:

    It amazes me how the rise in personal, corporate and government debt has become generally accepted. It is so clear that all this debt can never be repaid, meaning that someone, a lot of someones, who are owed money are going to get stiffed. Apparently creditors either haven’t come to this realization yet or belief it will be someone else who doesn’t get their money back. When creditors reach this conclusion, likely when the next crisis comes, watch out, or as the song says, “when it all comes down, I hope it doesn’t land on you”.

    • Unamused says:

      It is so clear that all this debt can never be repaid, meaning that someone, a lot of someones, who are owed money are going to get stiffed.

      Snidely Whiplash doesn’t get stiffed. He forecloses on the farm and ties Nell to the railroad tracks.

  32. Wendy says:

    If the debt is to be cut, and that is debatable as to whether it will even occur, there are only three ways to do it:

    1.cut spending
    2. raise taxes
    3. inflation

    No politician will ever do #1, and the wealthy, who pay the majority of taxes (in dollar terms) will figure a way to minimize their burden, so that leaves no options. No wait! I forgot about #3. Our prayers have been answered! Now, off to Starbucks to get my $6.50 coffee….

  33. David Hall says:

    A Hershey chocolate bar cost a nickel in 1966.
    Nixon and Ford took us off the gold standard 1971-1974.
    Inflation set in.
    People were suspecting it might be asset bubbles.

    • NBay says:

      Two relevant and major events of the time, having nothing to do with what “people suspected”.
      1-Cost of the Vietnam War
      2-People stopped saying “Jap Junk”

  34. Gloran says:

    It’s more complicated. It’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, the American Republic as we know it from the old times is dead. But this isn’t the old times. Debt won’t matter until the USA has real economic competition in the international arena, aka the ‘cleanest shirt’ theory. So the US$ may have to wait a few decades until it finally crashes. Or it could just be a smoother landing, as some other country builds up their currency to threaten US$ supremacy. So far that’s nowhere in sight, so we can party like it’s 1929!

    • Unamused says:

      Yes, the American Republic as we know it from the old times is dead.

      Your wealthy benefactors will save the country by offering plantation jobs to all, room and board included.

      • NBay says:

        True, except skip the room and board part…..traditional slavery was proven cost inefficient long ago.

        • NBay says:

          Cell phones will provide “just in time labor apps” for the wealthier homeless.

    • Cyclops says:

      FEDs will simply inflate everything! Old debts is repaid with inflated dollars. Minimum inflation must be 2% or plus annually so the FEDs can easily replace with cheaper inflated dollar! Musical chairs continues!

    • james Lundy says:

      Your on the right path. Understand from international big bankers the us is worth 500 trilliion, above and below ground resources. At just over 20 trilliion we got a long way to go and a lot of partying to do.

  35. Iamafan says:

    All you need to know. (from FRED Series)

    Monetary Base; Total (BOGMBASEW) 2019-10-23: 3,235,902 millions
    In Nov 28, 2007, 836,090 m

    Market Value of Marketable Treasury Debt (MVMTD027MNFRBDAL) Sep 2019: 17,134.1 billions
    In Dec 2007, 4,754,2 B

    Stock Market Capitalization to GDP for United States (DDDM01USA156NWDB)2017: 153.21100
    In 2007, 137.606

    And these numbers did almost nothing to many Americans.
    I guess we (old people) can all fit in Mexico; unless we open the borders.
    Moving haven’t sounded this good.

    • Just Some Random Guy says:

      “And these numbers did almost nothing to many Americans.”

      You’re right. Outside of like 100 people in NYC, nobody invests in the stock market. 401k, IRA and state pension plans are all 100% cash under the mattress. Right?

  36. Normansdog says:

    Can’t repeat it often enough, money is created by the government out of thin air and not by the population doing work. The money in circulation is all debt, every single last cent. No debt, no money.

  37. Just Some Random Guy says:

    It’s cute how progressives in the comments section are suddenly worried about debts and deficits. Where were you all between 2009 and 2016 when the debt doubled under Obama?

    And while I don’t know if you can ever define the best economy ever, right now the economy is up there. Unemployment at 3.5%, GDP growth at 2%, mortgages at 3.5%, income growth at 3%, record high real median household income, record high stock prices, all with virtually no inflation. What more do you want?

    • Unamused says:

      It’s cute how progressives in the comments section are suddenly worried about debts and deficits.

      It’s cute how conservatives in the comments section are suddenly okay with debts and deficits, as they always are when Fearless Leader has an “R” after his name.

      People who believe “Debt is money we owe ourselves” didn’t read the fine print: “Debt is money owed to our rich by the rest of us who are never going to be able to pay it back.”

      Debt peonage isn’t forever because most people have an expiration date, but there are clever ways to make it hereditary.

    • Bobber says:

      It’s not very sophisticated to put blame on Republicans or Dems. Its a fight between capital and labor, rent seeking and hard work.

    • Lisa_Hooker says:

      I want a 5% yield on 30-day CDs for my 40 years worth of saving. That’s around the average interest that savings paid for the 40 years spent accumulating said savings (not even considering the 18% around 1980). Then the FED changed the plan in December of 2000 and we got ripped-off and are being ripped-off ever since.

      • Lisa_Hooker says:

        Interestingly, all the current money market interest rate data sets available on FRED now begin in 2009. Couldn’t find anything starting in the ’80s or ’90s or before. Used the 30-day CD secondary market rate as a proxy.

  38. DR DOOM says:

    Empires do not pause and self correct on their way to collapse. They do become myopic ,paranoid and eventually blind and more corrupt than necessary.(corruption to some degree is necessary). In the end they are huge drunken staggering beasts that must be watched with a jaded eye if one wishes not to be crushed when it falls.We the people have allowed this to happen . We were warned and given the remedy early in our constitutional republic. We have failed in the most basic of all things protecting the value our republic , , our money . We the people do not even know what money is , we are told what money is .

    • Unamused says:

      We the people do not even know what money is , we are told what money is .

      It’s not your money. It’s the Federal Reserve’s money. It has their name on it, so everybody knows. They’re just letting you use it to get yourself into financial trouble.

      • daniel weise says:

        If you owe the Bank a million dollars you have a problem. if you owe the bank a trillion dollars the Bank has a problem. “monetizing” the Debt will be the only option = Inflation and devaluation of the Dollar. the ONLY other option would be a booming economy in the next few years,any Bets?

    • Anon1970 says:

      Many Americans were more concerned about stopping gay marriage and abortions and overthrowing dictators in the Middle East. Now we are paying the price. Not all of us, mind you. I am actually doing quite well and have enjoyed almost 15 years of retirement. If things really turn ugly and I have no good solutions, there are always drugs. The Family Values folks have condemned their children and grandchildren to a miserable future, at least on this earth.

  39. Mises laid out exactly what happens when governments run on deficit financing. Monetary inflation, capital misallocation, mispricing of assets, a crack-up boom, and fiscal collapse. You can forget MMT!

  40. 43 kept repeating the mantra “The economy is strong” right up until the end. After ten years of subsidizing corporate growth, at the expense of main street, you wonder how the next crisis plays out; revenge of the nerds, or final capitulation? USG is the symbol, listed on NYSE. Somewhat lower credit rating of course, analysts point to their lack of revenue.

  41. Dale says:

    The debt ceiling is like daylight saving time. It’s something we all know is stupid and counterproductive, but it’s traditional.

    Speaking of which: tonight!

  42. Bruce Sammut says:

    The Fed and the Treasury are out of control.


  43. nick kelly says:

    WR: this is off topic, could have been under ‘consensual hallucination’, but it wasn’t until 2 days ago (Nov 1) that one smokey hallucination was dispelled in a huge Globe and Mail ‘expose’ with the headline below:

    ‘All dried up: How Bay Street cashed in on the cannabis frenzy before the carnage’

    The large visual for the piece was a withered pot plant on a desert floor.

    Yes, the party is over, and after a year of boosterism (including designating a cannabis reporter) the Globe has turned bitchy.

    Last year’s (Oct?) piece in WS mentioned the stock of Tilray, based in Nanaimo, Van Isle, briefly surpassing US $150, making it more valuable than Clorox or American Airlines. It’s now $22. In the opinion of one of the new class of pundits NOW tapped by the Globe, most of these outfits are going bankrupt.

    But even the Globe’s new glare does not get at the underlying problem with the hype it used to echo: cannabis is by miles the most cheaply produced psycho-active substance.

    Tilray wants to dress its workers in white lab coats, grow under lights and proclaim itself ‘a pharmaceutical company’. That doesn’t change the fact that quite good cannabis (21 % THC) can be grown outdoors,in fields. just like spuds or tomatoes.

    In Uruguay, the first country to legalize, cannabis can be purchased over the counter for 1 US dollar per gram. A large Canadian co proudly announced they had lowered their production costs to over $5 C per gram! They actually got a bump from that, but it was a few months ago, before the crash.

    If anyone thinks that over $500 C a pound is dirt cheap for an easily grown, legal commodity, they are still hallucinating.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      nick kelly,

      Here is the article you referenced and authored:

      I just looked at the chart in the article. Tilray briefly shot to $300 intraday. By the time you wrote the article, it was back in the $120 range. Now it’s at $22, as you said. So how much is an ag company worth that is losing lots of money and is under pressure from all sides? Nothing, eventually. But as you pointed out, the fascinating thing is the hype all this engendered and that people ate up.

    • Tyson Bryan says:

      The price of pot is supported by an alphabetic police collective including the DEA, FBI, CIA and your local JTTF etc. Global production vastly exceeds anything the human population can possibly consume by a factor of at least 5.
      A small % of the annual crop is “busted” and burned. The bulk of it is purchased by the street agents of these police orgs and then burned or composted out of existence.
      This back door disposal system acts as a crop price support at the $500C/lb level.
      Freelance growers I talk to refuse to believe this, but freely admit they have only a very vague knowledge of who the further downstream buyers may be.
      The pot market has been a mass idiotic spoof for the past 20 years or more.

      • Kye Goodwin says:

        Here in Canada we’ve now had a full year of legal cannabis, and yes for recreation, not just for the medical justification. So far its hard to say what’s going to happen. One surprise: the legal price is still much higher than the illegal price, about double in coastal BC where I live. I wouldn’t be investing in any cannabis operations until they demonstrate that they can make a profit at the prices people are used to paying.

        Another problem longer term for would-be cannabis profiteers is that the supreme court has firmly entrenched the right of each Canadian household to grow 4 plants. Four plants, even grown outdoors, can provide a lot of product, for many people more than they would want to consume. In the long run this might become the main source of cannabis. There’s a big financial incentive to anyone willing to get it together, on the order of $1000 to $4000 annually of pot that daily users would no longer have to buy. I’m waiting to see someone try a You-Grow cannabis business. It would have to grow on each private household property and take a simple cash fee for setting up and tending the crop.

  44. Iamafan says:

    And the Fed Fun (Pinocchio would lose his nose) continues …

    From the week ending Sept 18 (when the repo conundrum happened) till Oct 30; bank reserves rose approximately $100 billion.
    But we have repo(ed) about $2,276.692 billion (about $2.3 trillion) and the Fed bought about $45.006 billion of T-bills.

    So even not-QE funding can’t seem to keep the lid on the stink anymore.
    Never mind that the Fed is a bunch of UN-ELECTED people. Democracy at its best.

    • medial axis says:

      There’s a thread just started over at r/bitcoin that the Bitcoin community might start a GoFundMe for JPM, BofA, Wells Fargo, etc…, given the 2008 bailouts plus the not-QE doesn’t seem to be working. Perhaps some real money, money you cannot conjure out of thin air[1], might help.

      [1] Producing bitcoin requires up front capital investment (circa $1000 per mining rig last time I looked) plus on going running costs (electricity and internet bandwidth). In case you didn’t know.

  45. Michael Engel says:

    $23T + Liz = $73T.

  46. Norma Lacy says:

    to Freemoney. Regarding Carroll Quigley. I have the cult book Tragedy and Hope of which I have read a bit. I stopped at his pages describing the Irish revolution, which were both brief and inaccurate. What I cannot understand is the reverence for this “historian” who provides no bibliography; no references of any kind; and no index. Can any one explain the fascination? Or is the book perhaps meant to be read as a series of instructions?

  47. Just Some Random Guy says:

    The debt is too high!!

    Also: Hey let’s spend $100T on the green new deal and another $50T on Medicare for all!!

    I love this stuff, best comedy around.

  48. Bobber says:

    If federal debt grew at 5.6% but GDP at only 3.7% as stated in the article, then near 2% of GDP was artificial stimulus, or about $400B. Now add in the growth of private debt over GDP. That’s a huge unsustainable force propping up this facade.

  49. Michael Engel says:

    1) Bubble extrapolation lead to bookkeeping moderation.
    2) US bubble of debt is climbing vertically on the left hand side of the bubble.
    3) Every bubble eventually reach a peak, correct to a swing point down below, rise again in the last attempt to save the status quo, before a global economy destruction, where the current old world order will change forever….
    4) A gov shutdown might start this vicious process. First in moderation, moderation, moderation, then to debt eliminated and complete tuneup.
    5) “You can’t always get what u want”, a motif that
    repeat itself for x4 years, will be fulfill without variations.

  50. Mars says:

    Another great WS essay.

    I looked for a comment relating to the opposite of reducing debt making debt (among other topics) a non-issue given the current administration and the proclivity for misdirection .

    What are the odds of a hot war, somewhere?

    I understand this is speculative and I’m not trying to provoke political/patriotic hyperbole ala ZH but it would affect the debt conversation a bit.

  51. Peter Kerr says:

    A politician must think that to really address the debt would make one tremendously unpopular, even if it didn’t result in a depression. Better to let it run and just hope it doesn’t blow up on your watch – and if it does there’s always the “nobody could have seen this coming ” excuse.

  52. R2D2 says:

    US is starting to look a lot like its Motherland…

    US today looks a lot like the British Empire, circa 1920!

    Unsustainable debt to fund a giant home and international empire… GDP growth and business IP leaking away to hungry foreign powers… a change in national culture from “positive belief” to relentless negative sniping from the sidelines.

    US is starting to look like England!

  53. Rob Hawcroft says:

    The Fed H8 survey has BUSLOANS in contraction since August and BUSLOANS are lower now than they were in April… Q4 S&P earnings now expected to decline per factset’s weekly.

    But the magic of not QE and rate cuts has elevated the market.

Comments are closed.