Monday, December 3, 2007

Sub-prime mortgage crisis' got nothin' on us!

If you took out one of those adjustable rate mortgages, or if you're swimming in credit card debt, it could be a lot worse. Actually, it already is: the national debt is growing at a rate of about $1 million per minute. So in the time it took you to come to this blog and read this paragraph, the national debt has probably gone up another million. And each day, it adds up another $1.4 billion. Yes, billion, with a "b."

And you thought your financial problems were bad!

According to the Associated Press,
the government is fast straining resources needed to meet interest payments on the national debt, which stands at a mind-numbing $9.13 trillion.

And like homeowners who took out adjustable-rate mortgages, the government faces the prospect of seeing this debt — now at relatively low interest rates — rolling over to higher rates, multiplying the financial pain.

So long as somebody is willing to keep loaning the U.S. government money, the debt is largely out of sight, out of mind.

The national debt — the total accumulation of annual budget deficits — is up from $5.7 trillion when President Bush took office in January 2001 and it will top $10 trillion sometime right before or right after he leaves in January 2009.

That's $10,000,000,000,000.00, or one digit more than an odometer-style "national debt clock" near New York's Times Square can handle. When the privately owned automated clock was activated in 1989, the national debt was $2.7 trillion.

As depressing as this is, it gets worse. You see, just like those credit card companies that keep sending me offers for more cards so I can pay off my other credit cards, there are lenders out here ready to help the U.S. with its irresponsible spending:
Foreign governments and investors now hold some $2.23 trillion — or about 44 percent — of all publicly held U.S. debt. That's up 9.5 percent from a year earlier.

Japan is first with $586 billion, followed by China ($400 billion) and Britain ($244 billion). Saudi Arabia and other oil-exporting countries account for $123 billion, according to the Treasury.

"Borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars from China and OPEC puts not only our future economy, but also our national security, at risk. It is critical that we ensure that countries that control our debt do not control our future," said Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio, a Republican budget hawk.

In the words of the Talking Heads, "you may ask yourself-Well ... How did I get here?"

Good question. It wasn't like this when George W. Bush took office:
Not long ago, it actually looked like the national debt could be paid off — in full. In the late 1990s, the bipartisan Congressional Budget Office projected a surplus of a $5.6 trillion over ten years — and calculated the debt would be paid off as early as 2006.

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