The current national debt clocks in at just more than $19 trillion, according to securities trading website TreasuryDirect.
The conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity held a lecture about the growth and impending impact of the U.S. national debt on Wednesday night.
“If you were to stack dollar bills up upon itself, it would circle the equator 49 times. It would go to the moon five times,” said Daryn Iwicki, state director of AFP’s New Jersey chapter.
The national debt grows every year, and will continue to do so for years to come, and every day, the debt increases by $2.48 billion, Iwicki said.
The steady increases would lead to cuts in entitlements and social programs in the long-run, he said. Among other consequences, the retirement age will likely be raised by 2040.
Of the current national debt, every citizen owes approximately $59,000. But that figure includes all citizens, including those who do not pay taxes. When the figure is calculated using only those who pay taxes, each person’s debt nearly triples, rising to roughly $160,000, Iwicki said.
“(During President Obama's) time in office, we've accumulated an extra 8 trillion dollars of debt,” he said. “We are looking at this particular president incurring more debt than all of his previous predecessors combined. Here's the problem — so did George Bush. This is not a left-right issue.”
He said the partisan spats over the budget that have threatened to shut down the government over the preceding years have been fights over only the discretionary budget, which total roughly 13 percent, or about $520 billion, of the national budget, which is now $3.8 trillion.
Measures to deal with the debt do exist, but a perfect solution does not, he said. The debt could be reduced by cutting spending, raising taxes, selling U.S. assets or defaulting on the government’s debt.
If the government defaults on its loans, it would not be able to borrow from foreign countries again, meaning international trade would no longer be possible, he said. And selling off all of America’s assets would not be enough to reconcile the debt.
Likewise, cutting all government spending, excluding entitlements, would not eliminate the debt, but it would render the federal government effectively useless, he said. Raising taxes would dent the debt, but any such increase is extraordinarily unpopular with the public.
Eliminating tax loopholes for corporations would help stop the growth of the debt, he said.
“The enormity of corporate welfare — now I don't know what the exact fiscal figure is of ending all of corporate welfare — but that would be a great place to start.”
According to a January 2016 Gallup poll, 65 percent of Americans were at least “somewhat dissatisfied” with the amount of taxes they pay. Six percent said they were “very satisfied.” The remaining respondents said they were “somewhat satisfied.”
Returning to the growth of the national debt, Iwicki said the cost of deficit spending is shouldered by a single group — the underage, a fact he called ironic given that this group cannot vote.
The situation is even more grim for college students, who carry the costs of their schooling along with the debts imposed by spending, he said.
According to the Institute for College Access and Success, a non-profit foundation that monitors student debt, Rutgers students leaving the University with an undergraduate degree now do so with an average debt of $25,228.
“Think about this as a college student … you’re going to leave with a burden of debt on your shoulders,” he said. “That burden weighs on you. It’s tough to get approved for things when you have that much debt saddling your budget.”
Nikita Biryukov is a School of Arts and Sciences junior majoring in journalism and media studies. He is an associate news editor for The Daily Targum. Follow him on Twitter @nikitabiryukov_ for more.