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July 21, 2011 2:57 PM   Subscribe

The US Debt envisioned in hundred-dollar bills.
posted by Phire (90 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bonus points for awesome URL.
posted by Phire at 3:00 PM on July 21, 2011 [7 favorites]


What would the US debt weigh on the moon?
posted by found missing at 3:02 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Minus 10 points for basically stealing my idea. Minus 114.5 trillion points for using a made-up number that's approximately 10 times the actual US debt.
posted by dersins at 3:04 PM on July 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


Fabulous find, Phire. I am now suicidal.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 3:04 PM on July 21, 2011


Minue 10 points for really, really stealing my idea.
posted by crunchland at 3:06 PM on July 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


Show me the US Debt envisioned in Bitcoins and I'll be more impressed.

Seriously, putting a pile of money against physical objects means absolutely nothing. I'd rather see the US Debt lined up to the Debt of other countries.
posted by m@f at 3:07 PM on July 21, 2011


Minus ∞ points for the inevitable hurf-durf libertarian/conservative comments which follow.
posted by maxwelton at 3:08 PM on July 21, 2011 [9 favorites]


As I said the first time I saw this, it's impressive but I think it's just giving too much ammo to people who want to cut government spending heedlessly.
posted by zomg at 3:08 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


oooh should have previewed
posted by zomg at 3:09 PM on July 21, 2011


Oh shit, crunchland! I was kidding about stealing my idea, but dude even ganked the graphic style from your thing.

What I'm not kidding about, though, is the fact that the dude is totally full of shit about the 114.5 trillion number. It's a tea party talking point, and completely inaccurate.
posted by dersins at 3:10 PM on July 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Unless the U.S. government fixes the budget, nation's CREDIT CARD debt will topple 15 trillion by Christmas 2011.

I don't understand this. The government pays for stuff with credit cards? Surely it can't mean that. So they're referring to consumer spending, yeah? But what does that have to do with the government's budget? If they fix the budget, will my Discover bill go away? I didn't think so.
posted by desjardins at 3:10 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


We do know that other countries have debt also right? china's debt - external: $406.6 billion

Not saying that debt is a good thing, but its how economists/finance types have decided to run everything.

All of this sudden interest in bonds/t-bills and economics is going to end just as well as when people started to pay attention to muslims...overreactions, exaggerated responses, counterproductive outcomes...
posted by lslelel at 3:10 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The 114.5 Trillion dollar super-skyscraper is the amount of money the U.S. Government knows it does not have to fully fund the Medicare, Medicare Prescription Drug Program, social security, military and civil servant pensions. It is the money USA knows it will not have to pay all its bills.

That is not what "unfunded liability" means. It's money that we don't have on hand right now to pay for an obligation somewhere in the future. And of course it's an estimate based on all kinds of assumptions about what will happen far in the future.
posted by indubitable at 3:11 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


@dersins how is the order-of-magnitude calculation in terms of unfunded liability completely inaccurate? is this a confusion of accuracy and precision? I didn't see an explanation in your link and just want to understand your pov.
posted by lomcovak at 3:12 PM on July 21, 2011


Minus 114.5 trillion points for using a made-up number that's approximately 10 times the actual US debt.

Give it time; it'll catch up.
posted by ceribus peribus at 3:12 PM on July 21, 2011


Well, I guess this is what I get for not updating the page once my guy got into office.
posted by crunchland at 3:13 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, per capita the national debt is $46,134, or about 4 of those $10K stacks. That wouldn't even go up to the person's ankle. Talk to me when we're neck deep in debt!

The dude standing beside the billion dollars? That could be Steve Jobs.
posted by mazola at 3:13 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd rather see the US Debt lined up to the Debt of other countries.

Or lined up against GDP.
posted by weston at 3:13 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


Federal spending has stayed consistently around 20% of GDP since WWII, what made this is the Regan revolution. Ever wonder where all the money went?
posted by Blasdelb at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2011 [11 favorites]


It's not so bad, guys. It's still not as tall as the Burj Khalifa.
posted by sambosambo at 3:14 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Unfunded liability" in reference to Social Security is total bullshit economics (I know, kinda redundant). When SocSec was started the people paying in were supporting the people taking out and thus it has always been and always should be. If you believe SocSec won't be there when you retire, that means the next generation or two are either going to be unable to make enough money or unwilling to let you have any of it. Which are actually rather likely considering the growing stupidity of Americans.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:15 PM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't understand this. The government pays for stuff with credit cards?

Perhaps it's a metaphor for how the US government pays for stuff on the basis of creditors willing to continue extending credit.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:15 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


@dersins, are you at odds with the value estimated for unfunded liabilities? Or what?
posted by pucklermuskau at 3:16 PM on July 21, 2011


Using the WTC as a physical object by which to compare the stacks of cash representing the national debt is in poor taste, IMO.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:23 PM on July 21, 2011 [6 favorites]


The average human earns US$10,000 in a year? That's it, I'm writing to World Vision.
posted by doublehappy at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2011


Using the WTC as a physical object by which to compare the stacks of cash representing the national debt is in poor taste, IMO.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:23 PM on July 21 [+] [!]

Having a plane marked "Economic Collapse" smashing into the debt would be in poor taste.

Because that's where my mind instantly went when I saw the towers.
posted by gc at 3:29 PM on July 21, 2011


Well there's only one way to solve the debt crisis:

BUILD TALLER BUILDINGS!!!
posted by mazola at 3:31 PM on July 21, 2011 [17 favorites]


@dersins how is the order-of-magnitude calculation in terms of unfunded liability completely inaccurate?
@dersins, are you at odds with the value estimated for unfunded liabilities? Or what?


And... here come the talking points again, formatted all reddit-style and everything. Unfunded liabilities, this, unfunded liabilities that. Even leaving aside completely the question of the validity of that dubious phrase that small-minded small-governmenters relish flinging about at every opportunity (as well as fact that it's calculated on something as uncertain as "future demographic shifts in US [p]opulation) the page title claims it portrays the US debt. Which is not the same thing as "unfunded liabilities" stretching indefinitely into the future, and is about $100 trillion LESS than this $114.5 trillion figure.
posted by dersins at 3:32 PM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


That site is laughingly/sadly less accurate than the Onion's assessment of the current debt-ceiling 'crisis'. "Congress Continues Debate Over Whether Or Not Nation Should Be Economically Ruined" Because the one thing that will bring on Economic Collapse RIGHT NOW is stopping the government from doing what needs to be done. Sadly, President Obama is trying to return us to the economic policies of Herbert Hoover, while the Republican Party is pushing us to the economic policies of King George III or Louis XVI of France.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:35 PM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


And... here come the talking points again, formatted all reddit-style and everything.

That's a little uncalled for, don't you think? I've been trying to follow along with the news on this the best I can, but even so I only have a passing understanding of the economic policies in play - which are in and of themselves hotly contested, anyway. I personally don't quite understand why unfunded liabilities for the government is such an awful number to bring up, since unfunded pension liabilities have in the past cripped big US companies, but I want to be educated. I'd love to see knowledgeable MeFites chime in with their reasoning on why a particular approach or analysis works or doesn't work, and there's no need to assume that people are being intentionally obtuse just because they don't follow your thought process.
posted by Phire at 3:39 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's a thrilling (and also really fucking sad) thought experiment of mine to imagine the calling of the bluff: for America to default on all her financial obligations. After all, if the Republicans want to drown the government in the bathtub we'd seemingly be heading there fast (if the operating budget for the government hadn't been approved months ago, thereby making all of this bread-and-circus standoff shit a show for the camera) if we just let everything go and default.

You want this, assholes? Fine.
posted by sinnesloeschen at 3:41 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh, yeah, the greenback. Down here we now call 'em "playbucks".
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:44 PM on July 21, 2011


No offense to the poster but these little exercises got boring after that "how many pennies make ____" site ten years ago. If anything, this is an exercise in insulting people's intelligence by taking an incredibly intricate and barely-understood concept to most people and making it even dumber by going "OH THAT IS A LOT OF THINGS A LOT OF THINGS ARE A LOT." Wow, the U.S. debt if broken down into billions of things is a big pile of things. That's as much as four tens. And that's terrible.

Combine it with the point that by the end it's clear that the intent of the site is to (falsely) suggest that the debt will spiral out of control because we can't "afford" Medicare, Social Security, the Health Care Act and that awful AWFUL idea of paying people who (gasp!) work for the government money. Or we could you know, not have the Bush tax cuts. Oops, somehow didn't mention that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:44 PM on July 21, 2011 [22 favorites]


For the kids and stuff, y'know. Like buying them a pet rock so they can learn responsibility before you upgrade them to a mouse.
posted by tumid dahlia at 3:45 PM on July 21, 2011


The non-visual version:
A million seconds is 12 days.
A billion seconds is 31 years.
A trillion seconds is 31,688 years.
posted by Ian A.T. at 3:45 PM on July 21, 2011 [3 favorites]


I personally don't quite understand why unfunded liabilities for the government is such an awful number to bring up.

Because it frames the situation in scary statistics that don't mean anything.

If I live for as long as someone my age is expected to and spend about as much on doing that as the average person, I'm going to need a couple million dollars I don't have right now.

Am I a couple million dollars in debt? Not so much.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 3:46 PM on July 21, 2011 [27 favorites]


omg u guys i just had this awesome idea. what if we showed it in nickels??? whoa!
posted by indubitable at 3:50 PM on July 21, 2011


"114.5 trilion dollar skysraper - and no Sky Deck?"

Love the comments.
posted by nevercalm at 3:50 PM on July 21, 2011


Minus 10 points for basically stealing my idea.

Ideas aren't copyrightable, and there is nothing original about your idea anyway. It's been done many, many times over. "If (large quantity) were (arranged in some human-relative configuration) it would stretch (to some distant but familiar reference point)!" has been around since at least the 1970s, probably much earlier. It's a staple of kids' science books: did you know that if all the gold in the whole world were made into a cube, it would only occupy about a quarter of a football field? but for the fact that the book in question remains in the attic of my mother's house, I'd scan in the picture and it would fit in just fine.

Minus 114.5 trillion points for using a made-up number that's approximately 10 times the actual US debt.

It's not a made-up number, and it's not claiming to be the actual US debt, but the total of unfunded future liabilities. Those liabilities do not count as debt because they are not payable, but represent anticipated future expenditure for which no corresponding future revenue stream is currently known to exist. Eitther you didn't read it, or you don't get it.

It's not that I think much of this visualization, but your criticisms of it are just way off base.
posted by anigbrowl at 3:51 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


So is there a gimmicky little visualization of how fucked we'll be if the US government defaults on its debt?
posted by octothorpe at 3:56 PM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


"unfunded pension liabilities have in the past cripped big US companies"
Replace "long-term promises and commitments to their employees" for "unfunded pension liabilities" and you'll be a LOT more accurate.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:58 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


On the bright side, all of your bills are the same color and kind of look the same. Slip a heap of ones into the middle of the stack (nobody's going to check a stack that high) and all of a sudden your national debt is a manageable $115 billion. It's all about the Washingtons.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:00 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


The average human earns US$10,000 in a year? That's it, I'm writing to World Vision.

This doesn't just apply to what we would generally consider a "poor country". If you earned minimum wage in Argentina, you would take home US$5,300 a year.
posted by jontyjago at 4:01 PM on July 21, 2011


Federal spending has stayed consistently around 20% of GDP since WWII, what made this is the Regan revolution. Ever wonder where all the money went?

Blasdelb -- I like that chart, thanks. It appears to come from here. It appears to come from here, but I can't find the original. Any chance of a link?
posted by bowline at 4:02 PM on July 21, 2011


If you believe SocSec won't be there when you retire, that means the next generation or two are either going to be unable to make enough money or unwilling to let you have any of it. Which are actually rather likely considering the growing stupidity of Americans.

The ratio of working people to retirees has been falling, and will continue to do so until about 2030 or thereabouts. The 'social security crisis' stems from the fact that baby boomers had fewer children and tend to live longer in retirement than their forebears did at the time Social Security (and to a less extent, Medicare) were created. As a result, there are fewer people paying payroll tax to support each retiree, and the retirees need to be supported for a longer period.

One of the least economically costly solutions to deal with this fact of life is to reduce barriers to immigration, and literally bring more taxpayers into the economy to make up the difference. We have a limited window of time in which we can do this before wages elsewhere rise sufficiently to reduce supply and cause an expensive labor shortage, which is likely to happen before our wroker:retiree ratio stabilizes. I've posted this so many times now that I'm beginning to feel I should buy it a MeFi account of its own.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:03 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Argh. Blasdelb -- please ignore that request, was thinking of another post.
posted by bowline at 4:04 PM on July 21, 2011


Corporate Tax Holiday in Debt Ceiling Deal: Where's the Uproar?
posted by homunculus at 4:04 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Let's try that again.

Or we could you know, not have the Bush tax cuts. Oops, somehow didn't mention that.

XQUZYPHYR -- I like that chart, thanks. It appears to come from here, but I can't find the original post on that site. Any chance of a link?
posted by bowline at 4:06 PM on July 21, 2011


Wow, where did all that debt come from?
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:06 PM on July 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Corporate Tax Holiday in Debt Ceiling Deal: Where's the Uproar?

The debt ceiling deal that doesn't exist yet and that almost nobody knows the terms of? Well, I'll tell you one for certain: everyone will be against it and demanding a revolution when the details are finally announced, and 15 months from now everyone will be saying it made everything much worse or much better, depending on whether their preferred candidate is going up or down in the polls at any given moment.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:10 PM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


So then ... it's time the US started printing $500 and $1,000 bank notes?
posted by bwg at 4:21 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


We pay our debts via tractor trailer full of $100's? Typical government waste.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 4:23 PM on July 21, 2011


East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94's got it. The people who are most railing against the indebtedness of the United States' idea of the perfect president, Bush, is the one who most added to the debt!

This issue is coming to fore right now only because the right is choosing to make it into a political football, since they hope to pin the responsibility for it on Obama.
posted by JHarris at 4:31 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nearing the ten year anniversary, it was kind of chilling to see an airplane that close to the WTC. Just saying.
posted by hanoixan at 4:33 PM on July 21, 2011


The proper units of measure for big numbers are "football fields" and "number of times when stacked would reach the Moon and back". I don't unerstand Statue of Liberty units.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:37 PM on July 21, 2011 [8 favorites]


For some reason I feel like even talking about national debt in terms of the same kind of dollars you and I spend every day is misleading.
posted by silby at 4:54 PM on July 21, 2011


For some reason I feel like even talking about national debt in terms of the same kind of dollars you and I spend every day is misleading.

This is true. A Wall Street bank would be delighted if you ended up paying utterly crippling interest on your debt. China does not want the USA to pay utterly crippling interest, nor do they want to withhold credit, because they want the USA to keep buying their goods indefinitely. Otherwise they would probably end up suffering more than America would. China wants a strong US economy for their own benefit.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 5:00 PM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


Can we visualize this in pallets of hundreds being kicked out of the back of low-flying C-130s over banana republics? You know, something today's conservative can really understand?
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:00 PM on July 21, 2011 [4 favorites]


A football field was included in the one of the graphics for handy visual calibration, twoleftfeet.
posted by panaceanot at 5:01 PM on July 21, 2011


So is there a gimmicky little visualization of how fucked we'll be if the US government defaults on its debt?

A bit dated, but it worked for me.
posted by AdamCSnider at 5:07 PM on July 21, 2011


The US debt envisioned in hexadecimal: DA475ABF000
posted by ryoshu at 5:12 PM on July 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm now convinced that the enormous size of the national debt is due to the fact that our money is printed on unusually thick paper. If we had thinner money our debt wouldn't be so big.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:15 PM on July 21, 2011 [5 favorites]


Ouch.
posted by nickyskye at 5:26 PM on July 21, 2011


It's not a made-up number, and it's not claiming to be the actual US debt, but the total of unfunded future liabilities. Those liabilities do not count as debt because they are not payable, but represent anticipated future expenditure for which no corresponding future revenue stream is currently known to exist.

You were going good right up until your last clause "for which no corresponding future revenue stream is currently known to exist."

The assumption is that taxes will remain at the lowest level in the previous half-century.

First, a little background. Unfunded liabilities are simply money that will be spent in the future that isn't yet accounted for. For example, your child born today will have an unfunded lifetime liability of approximately $2,000,000. That is, your child will need to earn $50,000 a year over a 40-year working career to maintain an average lifestyle. So when your child is born, he/she has an unfunded liability of $2,000,000. That's a big scary number, but it just means your child needs to earn that much over their career.

Here's the second thing. Typically they use a horizon of 75 years because that is what is required by law for Social Security, but that number wasn't scary enough so they are using an infinite horizon. That's right, it is the liability to the end of life on earth. Now it turns out when you discount future liabilities out beyond 75 years, the liabilities gradually become smaller and smaller in present value terms but it still has the effect of doubling the liabilities over what would be measured only for the next 75 years. So keep in mind these are infinite lifetime liabilities.

But finally, here's the most misleading part -- they provide no context. Just as in the case of your child having a $2,000,000 liability doesn't seem so formidable if you consider it is paid off a little bit each year over a career, the same applies to these unfounded liabilities. Over that same infinite horizon in which they claim $114 trillion of liabilities, the GNP is projected, in the same discounted dollars, to be about $2000 trillion dollars. In other words, our nation will be producing almost 17 times as much as the unfunded liabilities. For some reason they didn't plot that stack of $100 bills, 17 times as high, along side the liabilities. That, my friends, is lack of context.
posted by JackFlash at 5:29 PM on July 21, 2011 [27 favorites]


Metafilter: OH THAT IS A LOT OF THINGS A LOT OF THINGS ARE A LOT
posted by benzenedream at 5:29 PM on July 21, 2011


Show me the US Debt envisioned in Bitcoins and I'll be more impressed.
There are only, I think about $92 million worth of bitcoins in existence, so that would be kind of difficult.

But yeah this graphic is lame because it just shows a huge stack of money. So we have unfunded liabilities of $114 trillion over... how many years? What's the cumulative GDP over that time? How much icecream will be eaten in the U.S over that time period?

There are 300 million Americans. A more useful illustration would be to illustrate it per capita.
posted by delmoi at 5:45 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh and the "unfunded liability" stuff makes no sense. Medicare and Social Security require a constant payout every year indefinitely. So Actually the amount of money that needs to be spent is infinite. Any fixed number makes no sense.
posted by delmoi at 5:53 PM on July 21, 2011


Man, if we just made our currency business card sized (or smaller) we could put a serious dent in this really quickly.

The size of the piles created by an arbitrary denomination proves nothing. If we had trillion dollar bills we could put everything in the kitchen drawer.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 6:25 PM on July 21, 2011


Looks like someone needs to begin Extreme Coupining.
posted by haroon at 6:44 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Demonstrations of what a difference a zero at the end of a number can do are a good thing in as innumerate a culture as America's. We tend not to teach the power of compound interest, so the striking visual, hackneyed as it has become, still has value.

If I live for as long as someone my age is expected to and spend about as much on doing that as the average person, I'm going to need a couple million dollars I don't have right now.

Am I a couple million dollars in debt? Not so much.


On the other hand, as the average American person, your own personal balance sheet is already in the hole for more than your own personal annual income, never mind the 40 odd k you owe on the Federal debt. Long term that house you and the bank own may help out, but maybe not. Here's hoping you don't lose you job.

FWIW, the Feds' current debt that now matches US GDP, so they're doing a little better than Average American. Sensationalist 114 trillion figure notwithstanding, we are going in the wrong direction and it could easily get worse.

Bill Gross has an article in yesterday's FT on how we are pushing other financial limits on the government books. (Google stalled in growth slow lane if you trouble with it.)

Over that same infinite horizon in which they claim $114 trillion of liabilities, the GNP is projected, in the same discounted dollars, to be about $2000 trillion dollars.


Could you cite this 2000 figure and who's doing the projecting? Google fails me. Obliged
posted by IndigoJones at 6:55 PM on July 21, 2011


Here's another interesting way to envision the debt:

All the gold every mined in human history is about 161,000 tons (says National Geographic).
That's 322,000,000 pounds or 4,696,000,000 ounces.

At the current price of about $1,590 per troy ounce, all that gold is worth $7,466,373,000,000.

The debt is $14.5 trillion, or about 1.94 times the value of ALL THE GOLD EVER MINED ON EARTH.

Now, all that gold, if collected, refined, and stacked up in bars, would fit inside three Olympic sized swimming pools. (161,000 tons = 146,056,743 kg; gold density=19,300kg/cubic meter; 147,056,743/19,200=7568 cubic meters. Olympic pool is 50 meters by 25 meters by 2 meters deep= 2500 cubic feet.

The debt, paid in gold, if that much gold existed, would require nearly 6 Olympic-sized swimming pools filled with gold.

Now, as it happens, the Treasury already has a lot of gold! It holds 261,498,899 troy ounces of gold, with a market value of $415,783,410,000, which is about 5.5% of all the gold ever mined, or about 1/6th of one Olympic swimming pool. So we actually only need another 5 and 5/6th Olympic swimming pools filled with gold.

Let's get started!
posted by beagle at 6:59 PM on July 21, 2011


Could you cite this 2000 figure and who's doing the projecting?

Actually, I worked it out backwards since the absolute number is rather arbitrary depending on if you choose a 75-year, 100-year or infinite horizon. The generally accepted value, regardless of horizon, is about 6% of GDP which you can get from a variety of sources like the CBO and OMB. So for the infinite horizon, $114/.06 is about $2000 trillion.

What this means is that we don't have an unsolvable debt crisis. All we have to do is raise taxes (or reduce spending) by 6% of GDP above the baseline.

Poof. Debt crisis is gone forever. Given that taxes are at 50-year lows and taxes are among the lowest in the developed world, even a 6% increase, while significant, isn't the end of the world.

We could also instantly eliminate the debt if we simply had the same low-cost health care system as every other industrialized nation such as Canada, UK, Germany, France, Japan, etc.
posted by JackFlash at 7:25 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't understand this. The government pays for stuff with credit cards?

Yeah, they got an amex. So some tough choices coming, to they cash the rewards in on a banana Republic gift card, or Samsonite luggage? Apparently Geithner is all about the luggage while Bernanke is all over Banana Republic.
posted by the noob at 8:12 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


woah - that's about a few hundred acres of trees - and a few hundred gallons of ink
posted by pyramid termite at 9:23 PM on July 21, 2011


Ok, Fight Club is an 11 year old film based on a 14 year old novel and blowing up the highrises where credit card companies keep offices at is not going to reset the global economy, and not even local sub-upper-classes' finances.

What would it take to completely confuse the global economy - a lot of it is real time and redundant and constantly being updated and there are tons of backups - ?

Is it even possible - without killing most everything on the planet - to irrevocably crash the international economic system? I can imagine scenarios that disrupt it for various periods of time but an international meeting or five would reset it again at essentially what it "used to be." At least for the rich and powerful; in any of these scenarios, the non-megarich are going to suffer.

Unless you're self sufficient on land and require nothing/very little from outside of what your land can provide. I wonder how this subtle idea infects urban/suburban families in their choice of buying real-estate (land + dwelling upon said land). Fuck lawns. Fuck water sucking pesticide needee green bloody English lawns of the gentry.
posted by porpoise at 9:46 PM on July 21, 2011


It's hard to understand a big number like "a trillion" and I applaud any attempt to do so.

Here's one way to understand "a trillion". If you had 10 million orgasms a day it would take you 273 years to have one trillion orgasms.

I'm not saying that wouldn't be time well spent.
posted by twoleftfeet at 10:14 PM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


There was a link upthread to center on budget priorities? Can't find it now... It's in my tabs though... Here's the fucking moneyshot, and it's what's pissing me off about all of this...
But policymakers should not hold the debt limit hostage to approval of deficit reduction measures that satisfy various ideological or political concerns. Policymakers cannot let the government default.
The debt limit is NOT future deficits. It is NOT the time to be arguing about fiscal issues and holding things hostage. These are things that THIS VERY CONGRESS, you know the one that is controlled by Republicans... Voted to put into action. It is THEY who have created this current budget, and now they are refusing to pay up when the bill is due.

I saw it somewhere... Can't remember where, but the analogy is this "It'd be like if you and your Republican buddies (ha, republican buddies? me?) all ordered some pizza, and then when the dude comes to the door, your friends are like, "No way, I'm not gonna pay for this." YOU FUCKERS ORDERED IT.

Grrrrrr.

On the one hand I wish shit would just get so fucked up, but on the other hand, my parents (as much as want them to GROK just how fucked up their support of Republicans is, I love them too much to want them to suffer... I also have a roommate who isn't a Repub, and who relies on many programs who will be hurt by this shit. I think we need a rule that says "your constituency gets what you vote for - if you vote not to help out, then well your guys get fucked...")

Bah it's late, I'm tired and angry.

OH WAIT, sorry. My proposal.

--------

For my 2012 campaign I have come up with a new initiative. I call it "Cuts for cuts". It's easy for them to cut services, because they suffer no pain in doing so. So my idea is to propose that for every billion dollars in cuts in benefits, or every billion dollars of cuts in taxes or something like that... A lottery is held for every male representative/senator (who still retains a penis -- you'll see why this is important in a bit) who voted for such cuts. The "winner" will have his willy cut off. As the cuts continue, the willies will continue to flop on the ground, spasmodically jerking in agony, until, lifeless and limp it lies on the floor, beheld by all and sundry as a continuing warning... If this continues to happen, and the lesser heads have flopped, the greater heads shall roll. Since there's no more Willys to be chopped, and all genders have an actual head on their shoulders (I said head, not brains... we all know Republicans don't have such things, except a Reptilian stem that only exists for one purpose to conquer and destroy and enlarge its territory, but higher functions like empathy and proper rationality seem to elude them, it seems)... So anyways, now that the willys are done, and the heads are evenly distributed across all genders, there won't be any more discrimination against women in the next phase, and anybody who votes for such cuts will now be subject to that most Robespierrean punishment...
posted by symbioid at 11:10 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here is list of the debt to GDP ratio of various countries around the world.



As you can see, the United States is hardly uniquely indebted compared to other countries. True, foreign governments do hold a large amount of our debt, but that simply reflects the fact that our T-Bills are viewed as a safe investment. One exception possible exception to that fact is China, who purposefully buys our T-Bills in order to depreciate its currency relative to ours. They do this in order to make their exports cheaper because they want to stimulate growth and employment in their manufacturing sector. If they were to stop doing this and somehow cause confidence in the ability of the U.S. to repay future T-Bills to collapse, thus forcing our government to default on all its debts, it would cause their manufacturing sector to collapse, undermine the social contract driving their economy, and threaten the very existence of their governmet.

Right now the the interest rate that the U.S. needs to pay when it sells new T-Bills is at historic lows, due to the facts that that interest rates in general are at historic lows and investors really don't have many other places to go if they want a "safe" investment that generates a steady rate of return. Such a state of affairs will continue until either the Federal Reserve foolishly raises interest rates, or the economy fully recovers from the recession in terms of employment and growth.

Here is a link that shows the different amounts of interest the U.S. government needs to pay on new T-Bills since the 1960's. Notice that it is at a historic low.



We do not need to close our deficit at some point, but right now would be a really bad time to do it. We risk making future debt repayment harder since high unemployment means people aren't working and paying taxes, thus reducing tax revenues, cuts to social services and education lower the productivity of our workforce, thus lowering our potential future GDP, and we risk plunging our economy back into a recession, which would cause the deficit to widen even further.
posted by eagles123 at 11:47 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Darn, I always mess up the links:

List of Countries by Debt to GDP ratio

Historical Interest rates on U.S. treasuries
posted by eagles123 at 11:53 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, since someone posted a link to something by Bill Gross, I want to mention two things:

1) The Rogoff Reinhart work is interesting, but it is still somewhat unclear whether they discovered a that high public debt causes slow growth, or that high public debt is correlated with slow growth. It is an especially pertinent question since recessions slow growth and thereby produce deficits because, even absent attempts at stimulus recommended by economists, they represent unanticipated drops in government revenue. It is also important to note that crashes are usually preceded by high private sector debt as well, which this one was.

2) In another place (I believe a quarterly letter to his clients) Bill Gross recommended massive stimulus in the short term in order to return to full employment, followed by deficit reduction afterward. The reason he did this is because, as he mentioned in the article, he believes that the best way to pay off public debt is through growth, and that the biggest danger facing western economies is slow growth. Cutting government spending too soon in order to balance the budget threatens to plunge the economy back into a recession, which would make deficit repayment even harder.

The failure of austerity programs that have been enacted in Europe over the past year lend credence to this view.
posted by eagles123 at 12:17 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow wrote: On the bright side, all of your bills are the same color and kind of look the same. Slip a heap of ones into the middle of the stack (nobody's going to check a stack that high) and all of a sudden your national debt is a manageable $115 billion. It's all about the Washingtons.

The wonder of our debt being denominated in our own currency is that we can completely legitimately do that if we so chose. It's impossible for us to be forced into a default situation. The dollar losing its value ought to spur exports anyway, so it wouldn't be an entirely bad thing, except that then we'd be sending our actual stuff to other countries in return for pieces of paper (or more likely bits) that are worth whatever they say they are.

beagle wrote: The debt, paid in gold, if that much gold existed

What kind of moron would exchange a debt instrument for real assets when you have the option of exchanging it for another debt instrument (namely a $100 bill)? We aren't on the gold standard any more, Toto.
posted by wierdo at 2:38 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and I'll just leave this here. (along with the thought that the longer the stagnation goes on, the less money we all have)
posted by wierdo at 2:42 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was really interesting. Thanks, weirdo.
posted by crunchland at 4:20 AM on July 22, 2011


crunchland said: "Minue 10 points for really, really stealing my idea."

No way, they stole my idea. Alas, I can't find where I posted it on boingboing.net. No citation, no win. So enjoy, MF! cuz we'll meet on judgement day and then Vint Cerf can decide.
posted by Twang at 4:35 AM on July 22, 2011


Cutting government spending too soon in order to balance the budget threatens to plunge the economy back into a recession, which would make deficit repayment even harder.

The failure of austerity programs that have been enacted in Europe over the past year lend credence to this view.


Back into recession? Who are you gonna believe, government figures or your eyes?

NB also that recent fiscal stimuli has pretty much failed to get US motors running. Plus added more debt burden. Not that I have a better idea.

Above was mentioned evil corporations not repatriating off shore revenues for taxation. Surely that's a case for lowering US corporate rates vs those overseas? Zero percent of anything is zero. Make US corporate rates more in line with other countries and the money might flow back. (Or am I missing something?) Mostly, just simplify the tax code and tax attorneys will waste less time and money on gaming the system - a thing apparently under proposal within the compromise committee even as I write..

I'll believe it when I see it.

We aren't on the gold standard any more, Toto.


Them as keep buying it apparently are.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:44 AM on July 22, 2011


IndigoJones wrote: Back into recession? Who are you gonna believe, government figures or your eyes?

Words have meaning. We haven't been having consecutive quarters of falling GDP, so it's not a recession. The word recession doesn't mean a stagnant economy, it means a shrinking economy.

If someone's saying the US economy is good for anybody but the megacorps, commodities brokers, and white people with graduate degrees, they're being wilfully blind. That still doesn't mean we're in a recession. We're in a situation that isn't improving, but also not in an actively deteriorating, economically. (There are plenty of measures and institutions that are actively deteriorating, but the broad economy isn't one of them at the moment)

Hell, if it's about just me and mine, the economy's been fine the whole time, aside from maybe two months where my clients were too busy shitting themselves to spend money on anything but maintenance.
posted by wierdo at 7:48 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pushing Crisis: GOP Cries Wolf on Debt Ceiling In Order To Impose Radical Pro-Rich Agenda
posted by homunculus at 8:52 AM on July 22, 2011


The economy is just fine. What isn't fine is job growth, and perceptions. Business tightened its belts during the recession and figured out how to get the work done with not as many people. Good for the economy, bad for jobs.

Perception is the big one though. People think that the insane growth in the 90s and the 00s was normal. It wasn't. Flipping a house in six months for a profit isn't normal. Getting 10% raises every year isn't normal. Being able to buy a car, a house, all new furniture, get married and having a baby all in the span of 18 months is not normal. It would be nice if it was, but as we learned, it isn't sustainable.
posted by gjc at 6:42 AM on July 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


gjc wrote: The economy is just fine. What isn't fine is job growth, and perceptions. Business tightened its belts during the recession and figured out how to get the work done with not as many people. Good for the economy, bad for jobs.

When your GDP growth is almost entirely in financial paper pushing and a commodities bubble, the argument is pretty easy to make that the broader economy isn't fine at all. Especially when most of your banks (by deposits) are technically insolvent. I'd love to know what their balance sheets looked like with mark-to-market even on the assets supposedly being held to maturity. Even with all the offloading of crap to the Fed, I have a sneaking suspicion that it wouldn't be a pretty picture.
posted by wierdo at 8:19 AM on July 24, 2011


while the Republican Party is pushing us to the economic policies of King George III or Louis XVI of France.

Playing Chicken with History
posted by homunculus at 10:19 AM on July 24, 2011


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