Friday, September 30, 2011

If the US Were a Household . . .

I heard this on the radio not too long ago.  When you hear about the US economy, the national debt, etc., the numbers are staggering – and difficult to comprehend.  Who thinks in terms of trillions anyway, except maybe macroeconomists and astronomers?

To get a handle on the current economic situation of the United States, let’s bring the numbers down to something we can deal with.  We will compare the numbers to a household by lopping off a few zeroes.  This may help us, in a very general way, understand our current economic situation.

If the US were a household, we would say it was bringing in $238,000 per year.  Not bad at all.

The problem is, the household spends $355,000 per year -- $117,000 more than it brings in.
And, therefore, to sustain its lifestyle, the household has been borrowing (especially in the last several years) and, therefore, owes $1,460,000.

Yes, we need to cut spending drastically and yes, we need to raise revenue. And, it seems to me, we certainly need to pay down that debt.

That's easier said than done, of course.
Here are the numbers, which were pulled from several sources:

Total revenue in from all sources (individual tax returns, corporation income tax, employment taxes, excise, gift and estate taxes): $2.3 trillion (Source: Tax Stats at a Glance, US Internal Revenue Service;,,id=102886,00.html)

Total spending (mandatory [i.e., social security, medicare, Medicaid, unemployment, interest on the national debt]: $2.2 trillion; discretionary [i.e., Departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce, Labor, etc.]: $1.4 trillion): $3.6 trillion (source: US National Budget, A New Era of Responsibility, Executive Office of the President of the United States, Office of Management and Budget, p114 [year 2010];

Total national debt: (publicly held: $10 trillion; privately held: $4.6 trillion): $14.6 trillion (source: US Dept. of the Treasury, Bureau of the Public Debt;