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National Debt Clock Overflowed, Extended By a Digit

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the but-don't-worry-balanced-budget's-a-crazy-idea dept.

United States 696

hackingbear writes "The National Debt Counter, erected in 1989 when the US debt was 'merely' a tiny $2.7 trillion, has been moving so much that it recently ran out of digits to display the ballooning figure: $10,150,603,734,720, or roughly $10.2 trillion, as of Saturday afternoon. To accommodate the extra '1,' the clock was hacked: the '1' from "$10.2" has been moved left to the LCD square once occupied solely by the digital dollar sign. A non-digital, improvised dollar sign has been pasted next to the '1.' It will be replaced in 2009 with a new clock able to track debt up to a quadrillion dollars, which is a '1' followed by 15 zeros. That should be good enough for a few more months at least, I believe." Adds reader MarkusQ, "I know Dick Cheney has assured us that 'Deficits don't matter' but I can't help wondering if we should be fixing the problem rather than the sign."

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696 comments

i give it two years (0)

loafula (1080631) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350411)

before another digit is needed yet again

Re:i give it two years (4, Funny)

Asmor (775910) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350949)

Sort of a Moore's Law for debt, eh?

Every 2 terms of republican presidency, the national debt increases by a factor of 10. :D

Incidentally, anyone know what 1989's $2.7 Trillion is in today's dollars?

Cheney is right.... (4, Funny)

flewp (458359) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350415)

Deficits don't matter. All that matters is that your dogs are bigger and meaner than the debt collectors'.

Exccept.... (0)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350497)

Quite a lot is owed to American citizens who have kept their rights to be armed.

It has the makings of a civil war.

Re:Exccept.... (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350925)

For some very loose definitions of keeping. I'm not sure I can legally own a pistol in my state.

Re:Exccept.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25351007)

Sucks for you.. Hey, at least living in Texas is good for SOMETHING!

/libertarian

Re:Cheney is right.... (3, Interesting)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350521)

Yeah, but when the debters include China, where does that rule lead you?

Re:Cheney is right.... (5, Funny)

PachmanP (881352) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350853)

Yeah, but when the debters include China, where does that rule lead you?

Wondering if a Rottweiler can beat 100 angry weaner dogs?

Re:Cheney is right.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350547)

If we apply an old adage to a much larger scale...

If the USA owes $9 trillion, it's the USA's problem. If the USA owes $9 quadrillion, it's the lender's problem... Right?

So, we must SPEND! FOR THE USA! Quick, any more subsidies we can pour into children's wooden arrows?

** Dear future president: Do not attempt this economic strategy. Please don't.

Re:Cheney is right.... (5, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350751)

that might be true if our society weren't so dependent on global trade. but if our trade partners suddenly cut all economic relations with us our domestic economy would collapse. we depend on other nations for manufacturing, investments, and imports/exports.

we might be able to raid other countries for their oil, but we can't use military coercion to force other countries to import our goods or manufacture our raw materials. and since our trade relations with other nations are generally good for us, bad for them, if we're no longer an economic superpower, i imagine most of the developing nations we exploit would cut their ties with us and just nationalize the resources we've hijacked from them like Venezuela has done.

i mean, if we don't have money to lend other nations, the IMF & World Bank would cease to be relevant. and without the power and influence of the IMF/World Bank, we wouldn't be able to dictate the domestic policies of other nations anymore. so 3rd world nations who've allowed us to privatize their industries and open up their markets to us would cease to allow themselves to be exploited.

and quite frankly, we need them more than they need us. many American-based corporate conglomerates would tank if our globalization policies were reversed. WalMart and other retailers wouldn't have cheap sweatshop made goods to sell. Monsanto would lose most of their profits made from selling developing nations GMO seeds every planting season. and 38% of Microsoft's annual revenue comes from sales outside of the U.S. heck, Hollywood makes more money from foreign ticket sales than from the domestic box office ($12 billion a year versus $9 billion).

if our money was certainly no good internationally, or if countries like China decided to collect on our debts, we would be royally screwed.

Re:Cheney is right.... (2, Informative)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350775)

oops, that last sentence should read "if our money was suddenly no good internationally..."

Cheney's strategy was "starve the beast" (4, Interesting)

Kligat (1244968) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350831)

If you spend a lot on your administration, to win over voters or do whatever it is you want, then when the Democrat gets into office, he or she will be forced to cut spending so as to create a surplus while keeping the Republican's low taxes, lest they get "tax hike" backlash. At the same time, whenever "starve the beast" fails, deficits don't matter, or deficits are the grease that keeps the gears of the economy going.

Republican politicians like McCain say we're supposed to reduce spending, (in order to reduce national debt, though this step on the flowchart may be skipped depending on the audience), and we also should reduce taxes further, but then how will we get rid of the national debt?

Furthermore, if the Republicans are to perpetually starve the beast and fail, clearly their strategy needs to change. They need to raise deficits so much that the interest itself is as burdensome as the current deficit levels by themselves. That, and if the Republicans are perpetually starving the beast, maybe they should at least be doing so with programs like national healthc----oh, wait.

The preferred method of starving the beast is through increases in the national defense budget, it would seem. John McCain has expressed need for a spending freeze in all areas but that, which would cut off funding for new NASA projects (which aren't entitlements, including Orion, which was approved in a separate bill), while his close colleague Lindsey Graham wants to cut the budget by 5% in all areas but national defense.

Signed Binary FTW (5, Funny)

MBCook (132727) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350419)

The largest bit became a one? It overflowed?

So now it's negative?

We're rich! So that's how we were going to pay for the bail-out, SS, medicare, medicaid...

Well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350427)

Looks like we need to print more money

Solutions (3, Funny)

Rie Beam (632299) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350433)

I think I understand now...eventually we're going to get to the point where no computer will be able to track how high the debt gets...and it will simply rollover and the US economy is back, baby!

Analog it (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350445)

Why don't they just make it an analog clock? The hands could simply spin around faster and faster as the situation worsens, which would be much more amusing. The numbers are fairly meaningless anyway.

Re:Analog it (5, Funny)

NFN_NLN (633283) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350487)

Why don't they just make it an analog clock? The hands could simply spin around faster and faster as the situation worsens, which would be much more amusing. The numbers are fairly meaningless anyway.

George W. Bush is that you?

Re:Analog it (5, Funny)

William Robinson (875390) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350999)

George W. Bush is that you?

Must be. In the right part of his brain nothing is left and in the left part of his brain nothing is right!!!

Re:Analog it (1)

Danse (1026) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350489)

Why don't they just make it an analog clock? The hands could simply spin around faster and faster as the situation worsens, which would be much more amusing. The numbers are fairly meaningless anyway.

And they could use it to cool off Times Square too!

Re:Analog it (4, Funny)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350841)

Great idea for a DIY fan!

According to how much the debt increased lately [treasurydirect.gov] if you wrote values from $0 to $10,000 around the frame of your fan, you'd need to make the fan run at about 1,300 - 1,500 rpm to represent the rate at which the debt is increasing.

Be careful though, on some days it can hit an average of 6,900 rpm (like on the 30th of October). That would suck if the public debt made your fan fly apart!

Clock can run in reverse. (5, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350461)

This is the second debt clock. The first version could only count upward, and when the budget had a surplus back in the Clinton years, and the debt began to decrease, the debt clock was shut down. After a year or so, it was then replaced with the current version, which has the ability to count both upward and downward. The downward capability has not been used during the Bush years.

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (5, Interesting)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350523)

Thats really sad isnt it, that we at one point WHERE paying down the debt. And the sad thing is Bush cant even blame the war... he got rid of ALL of Clintons budget concessions not long after becoming president. If he had kept them, even with the war, we would have had the debt paid off by 2011., as of now without serious cuts in spending and raising taxes in some form (which could be as easy as repealing the Bush tax cuts) it could be 2070 by the time we get out of debt. And these are people who sold themselves as fiscal conservatives.

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (3, Insightful)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350675)

it wasn't the war that ended the surplus, it was the .com bubble collapsing. And it was only a surplus if you include FICA contributions.

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (1)

carlzum (832868) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350779)

Why not include FICA? Social Security and Medicare contribute the deficit.

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350885)

And as I mentioned elsewhere where someone posted a heavily slanted republican piece about how Clinton never had a surplus, the fact is legally we HAVE to pay down the borrowed debt to Social Securities and Medicare before governmental debt can be paid down. So its really a falsity to say that there was no surplus and debt wasn't being paid down when in fact it was through the only LEGAL way to do it.

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350685)

What's really sad is that you don't know the difference between "where" and "were".

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350773)

and its really sad that you need to spend your time correcting someone instead of contributing asshat.

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350881)

That should be "it's". :)

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350959)

but s/he DID contribute... I couldn't figure out what that sentence meant until your asshat pointed out the error.

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (3, Insightful)

zeda (415) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350593)

"When the budget had a surplus back in Clinton years,"

What struck me most about those times were all the optmistic projections of surplus. There may or may not have been an actual surplus at the time, but even that is questionable when it turns out all these years that the whole basis of wealth and money was questionable.

So maybe there was a surplus, but in what? Real dollars?

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (3, Insightful)

Drakin020 (980931) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350619)

Actually, the debt never went down under the Clinton administration.

http://www.letxa.com/articles/16 [letxa.com]

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (4, Informative)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350711)

actually the assertions are not entirely accurate in that whole spiel. The debt DID go down, but it was the way it went down that was not readily visible. The persons agenda clouds the fact that our debt needs to be paid down in certain ways before it can be paid off completely. Corporate accounting is not the same as governmental accounting, I know this one for a fact working for a school district and the specific ways we have to work our books that would make a corporate accountant freak out.

Re:Clock can run in reverse. (1)

dasunt (249686) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350659)

I would like to see a national debt/GDP clock.

While the size of debt matters, the proportion of debt to the economy matters more, IMO.

I'm sure they can borrow a "1" from a gas station. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350463)

I'm sure they can borrow a "1" from a gas station.

Re:I'm sure they can borrow a "1" from a gas stati (1)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350649)

I'm sure they can borrow a "1" from a gas station.

Actually I was thinking that they could put a glass window in the sign and have Ron Paul stand in for the "1".

Embarrassment (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350473)

It's true, you know. A $10,000,000,000,000 national debt is an embarrassment, whereas $9,000,000,000,000 is not.

Killjoy. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350481)

"Adds reader MarkusQ, "I know Dick Cheney has assured us that 'Deficits don't matter' but I can't help wondering if we should be fixing the problem rather than the sign."

But if we did that then we couldn't have a neat story about a "hacked" clock.

As Feynman said ... (5, Interesting)

richg74 (650636) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350483)

The late Richard Feynman had an appropriate comment for this, I think:

There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.

Perhaps they can get a new model that displays the debt in scientific notation -- it could be named the "Cheney Memorial Clock".

Re:As Feynman said ... (2, Insightful)

LurkerXXX (667952) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350633)

Reagan was the one who set us on this path. It should be named after him.

Re:As Feynman said ... (5, Insightful)

cc_pirate (82470) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350819)

Yeah, but Cheney was the one dumb enough to draw the "Reagan proved deficits don't matter" conclusion from Reagan's actions.

We need engineers in government, not politicians and lawyers. They don't have any respect for what happens when you ignore science and mathematical facts and press on as if they didn't matter.

The Logic of Failure....

Re:As Feynman said ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350913)

They tried that early last century. It was called Technocracy [wikipedia.org] .

Math says it bad, but not quite AS bad (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350491)

First of all, 2.7 in 1989 are worth more than the same amount in 2007. Inflation calculator says 2.7 trillion in 1989 equal 4.6 trillion in 2008.

Secondly, what's really important is the debt-per-capita ratio, and the US population has increased. In 1989 the US population was 246 million; in 2008, it's 305 million.

That means, that in 2008 dollars equivalent, the per-capita debt in 1989 was $18,000, while in 2008, the per capita debt is $32,000.

Yes, we do owe more. But we "only", per capita and in equivalent monetary value, owe about 80% more, as opposed to 370% more, as the original numbers would make you believe.

Re:Math says it bad, but not quite AS bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350529)

Further compounding the issue is that the national debt and inflation are related. Maybe if the debt wasn't as high as it is, the value of dollars between 1989 and today wouldn't be as different as they are. Of course this all becomes very complicated, and I'm not much for economic theory.

Re:Math says it bad, but not quite AS bad (4, Insightful)

dogmatixpsych (786818) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350587)

Someone mod this up "Insightful". AC was not downplaying the seriousness of the debt, he/she merely pointed out that in relative terms the debt is not as bad as it looks. It should be much smaller and we certainly should not be running with a budget deficit as much as we do, but perspective is needed on this issue as AC pointed out nicely.

You're wrong to think it linear (4, Interesting)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350589)

Your ability to repay debt is not linear but depends on the amount as a ratio to your disposable income.

Consider repaying $1000/month on your credit card. For many people that might be hardship. For most people, repaying $2000/month is not 2 times as hard, butmuch harder.

Similarly, repaying $18k per person is a lot easier than repaying $32k, by much more than a factor of 2.

Of course that's all academic since nobody seems to be planning on repaying this debt.

Re:Math says it bad, but not quite AS bad (5, Insightful)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350673)

The problem with applying math that way is that today, more than one in eight US citizens lives below the poverty line, jobs are vanishing at an alarming rate, and the number of parasitic, wealthy corporations and individuals has grown while the middle class has become a much smaller group. And that leaves a much smaller pool of available resources to tap in addressing today's vastly larger debt. Thus, the per capita comparison is ultimately meaningless. Neither the very poor nor the very rich are going to pay.

Re:Math says it bad, but not quite AS bad (1, Redundant)

digitalchinky (650880) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350993)

I think a couple of those US citizens that spout statistics about some imaginary notion of poverty in their part of the world need to get out a bit more, take a trip around a few of the Asian ports of call. Our middle class standard of living makes your notion of poverty look like a life of absolute luxury. A successful college education is a minimum requirement just to slap burgers around a hot plate over this way, and it is considered a decent line of work too. Most people never reach such lofty heights in their employment.

Re:Math says it bad, but not quite AS bad (1)

MrBigInThePants (624986) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350935)

It must also be remembered that Math != Economics.
China would be able to sustain a far less debt per capita than the US for instance. If your unemployment goes through the roof because of outsourcing and the crisis, your methodology is not sensible. If productivity goes south, ditto.
There is a lot more to it and there are some major assumptions there.

Previously, the economics were in the US's favour in this. (i.e. any other country running these sort of books would have been cooked long ago)
Debt crisis and world economy looking shaky mixed in...not so sure about that. I guess we will all see sooner rather than later.

On another note:

I can imagine coming home and saying "Honey, I bought a new car. Don't worry, it has only increased our mortgage by 80%"

That's good value! (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350493)

For 2007, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists listed the U.S. with about 5,400 total nuclear warheads.

So that means each warhead is worth about $1,879,741,432 each.

Re:That's good value! (1)

Eudial (590661) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350933)

For 2007, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists listed the U.S. with about 5,400 total nuclear warheads.

So that means each warhead is worth about $1,879,741,432 each.

Well, that's one way of discouraging nuclear war.

nitpick (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350505)

It is not an extra '1-comma', just an extra '1' because the comma goes after the '0', not the '1'.

he supports the terrorists (5, Funny)

dirk (87083) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350507)

Adds reader MarkusQ, "I know Dick Cheney has assured us that 'Deficits don't matter' [CC] but I can't help wondering if we should be fixing the problem rather than the sign."

Why does this guy hate America so much?

Re:he supports the terrorists (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350525)

Why does this guy hate America so much?

Who, Cheney? It does seem odd, he's certainly profited by the country's action.

Oh, wait.

Perfect Time (4, Funny)

jelizondo (183861) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350513)

Now is the perfect time to convert to the decimal system!

National debt goes from $10.2 trillion to only $10.2 billion (10^6) without paying a single cent of it!

Re:Perfect Time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350621)

They're already using decimal, that's why all those numbers are base-10. I suppose you're talking about the long scale numeric system.

Re:Perfect Time (1)

Haoie (1277294) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350803)

Just like Zimbabwe [and other countries] "fixing" their hyperinflation by wiping out excess 0s, hmmm?

non-digital dollar sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350517)

OMG the dollar sign is static... it's the end of the world!!!!

Re:non-digital dollar sign (4, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350599)

OMG the dollar sign is static... it's the end of the world!!!!

You're right. After the upcoming total economic collapse, we'll need the clock to be able to display the debt in terms of Chinese yuan or Euros. The current design does not allow for that.

Re:non-digital dollar sign (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350921)

Speaking as a Canadian your gov't has really silenced the critics of the Canandian gov't. Were having an election on Tuesday. It's going to be the most boring election that I can remember.

I guess we haven't learned yet... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350561)

Has no one learned from Y2K? We keep running out of digits for everything because people can't plan ahead. McDonnalds ran out of digits on their signs counting the number of burgers sold. They hit 99 billion served not too long ago and have been replacing their signs with just "Billions and Billions served" I don't think anyone cares any more about the total.

Many gas stations in Canada only have enough digits to display 99.9 cents/L when last year gas soared over $1.30 /L. Many stations have been buying new signs just to display the extra digit.

Now the The National Debt Counter had to be modified. Doesn't any one plan ahead for this stuff or do they just wait for stuff to break and then go fix it because now they have to?

Conservative government? (0, Troll)

Flavio (12072) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350585)

"It's symbolic," Stauber, a 40-year-old pilot from Switzerland, said of the counter's lack of space. "It's a very big symbol. It's a complete failure of the system. It's the most powerful country in the world with a conservative government for the last eight years, and it's running the biggest debt ever."

Just because Bush claims to be a conservative doesn't mean he actually is one!

The US has an incredibly interventionist foreign policy, and Americans haven't experienced a free market for almost a century. I'd like to echo Jim Rogers, and say that all we've seen lately is socialism [youtube.com] .

Re:Conservative government? (2, Interesting)

pthisis (27352) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350967)

Just because Bush claims to be a conservative doesn't mean he actually is one!

The US has an incredibly interventionist foreign policy, and Americans haven't experienced a free market for almost a century.

Historically, that _is_ conservative. Free markets are a hallmark of classical liberalism. Around much of the world outside the US, politics, that's still what those words mean.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_liberalism [wikipedia.org]

The "normative core" of classical liberalism is the idea that laissez-faire economics will bring about a spontaneous order or invisible hand that benefits the society, though it does not necessarily oppose the state's provision of a few basic public goods...Several liberals, including Adam Smith, and Richard Cobden, argued that the free exchange of goods between nations could lead to world peace.

Bush has a lot more historical standing in claiming to be a conservative than a laissez-faire National Review follower would, and certainly he's been socially conservative (an area where, as opposed to economics, there isn't a huge difference of opinions over what's liberal and what's conservative).

Re:Conservative government? (2, Insightful)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#25351001)

Socialism requires the government to help and assist those with less money.

Giving the super wealthy more money is not socialism.

It's a completely different type of wasteful spending. If the bush years were actually socialist then everybody would have benefited and lower income Americans would have seen an improvement--seeing as things have just gotten harder and worse off it's insulting to socialism, as flawed as it is, to call taking from the poor to give to the rich as a socialist agenda.

I remember when.... (1)

Brad1138 (590148) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350603)

I remember when the debt hit 1 trillion dollars in the early 80's. All the talk about how a trillion dollar bills would stack to the moon 3 times over, or something like that. I remember a Johnny Carson monologue where he said, "if you have 1 trillion chicken McNuggets you could reconstruct 3 chickens" :)

I remember that being the first time I every really started worrying about it. I figured its ok, they'll get it under control sooner or later. Well here we are about 25 years later, the only time it has looked like it might be under control was during Clinton's second term. This is really getting ridiculous, the over the last 25-30 years the vast increases have come under the "conservative" Republicans. We have to get this under control or it will eventually destroy our Country.

So hear I am again, really worrying this time, but I figured its ok, they'll get it under control sooner or later.

Absolute number tells us nothing (3, Informative)

fermion (181285) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350625)

The reason the debt clock has this problem is because it is sensationalistic and does not give us any real information. What we should be looking at is not the debt, but the debt in relation to some other metric, such as multiple of median income, amount per person, percentage of GDP. Using this later metric, Reagan left us with a debt of about 70% of GDP, Bush will leave us with a debt of 80% of GDP, while Clinton left us with a debt of about 60% of GDP. It is interesting to think that Truman, Ike, Kennedy and even Nixon, all worked to help the US future by reducing the % debt. We even have to give carter so kudos for not increasing it as a % of GDP. The scary thing is that during the great depression GDP fell perhaps 20 or 25%. If this happened in the next few years, our GDP might fall to 9.5 trillion, and we might see a national debt of 110% of GDP. This would be like a family with the median of $50,000 having unsecured debt of $55,0000. How they would pay this off would be extremely unclear.

Wrong (4, Interesting)

Kludge (13653) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350739)

The debt clock gives a per family portion. ~$86k. Compare that with the median income. Whoo!

Re:Wrong (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350947)

86k... so let's say that debt were to NOT increase any further, and we'll ignore inflation and interest rates and oh my.. all that stuff that makes generalizations on Slashdot largely inaccurate because the sheer number of variables involved would make even the most battle-hardened programmer go *bleep* and find a comfy padded-wall white cell..

where was I...

oh yes, ignoring that... it could all be paid off in a mere 10 years if every family (ignoring the ones who are truly at the poverty line, and ignoring that the truly wealthy can stand to pay much, much more) were to pay $8.6k/year? Sounds doable. Never gonna happen, of course.

Re:Absolute number tells us nothing (2, Informative)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350789)

I'm not sure that percent of GDP is such a great way to measure the national debt, since government spending and investment (e.g. making loans to the government) both count positively [wikipedia.org] towards the GDP. All else being equal, I would expect that the debt/GDP ratio would decrease as a result of deficit spending.

Re:Absolute number tells us nothing (1)

HairyCanary (688865) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350891)

Consider for a moment that something like a third of the "GDP" is made up. For example, counting rent that would be paid if a homeowner was not living in their house but renting it out instead. That's weasel math IMO. I don't trust the "GDP" the gov't comes up with anymore. Along with the CPI and "hedonics", it's all a bunch of BS that tries to snow the citizens into thinking our problems aren't as serious as they really are. Some day the voters might realize that our gov't accounting style is Enron-style, and things could get momentarily interesting. I hope.

Re:Absolute number tells us nothing (2, Insightful)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350939)

A lot of countries have debts greater than a year's GDP. I think that even less than a year's GDP is a problem, as you suggest. If the economy is growing, we can afford to pay for today's stuff next year, but what happens when the growth turns out to be unsustainable?

In the US, it's a problem of reigning in entitlements, as well as reigning in stuff like military spending, and the same for pork barrel spending, but there aren't enough courageous legislators that are willing to do all that, and the same goes for voters that are willing to give up things like that in order to pay down the debt. I am worried that there will come a time when habits like that simply can't continue and there would be a pretty hard crash as a result. A little bitter medicine now might prevent utter calamity later, but as a society where so many are acclimated to debt and having everything now won't understand that until it's too late.

Re:Absolute number tells us nothing (2, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350997)

Yes, but the GDP is bullshit. It makes societal harms into positives (Hurrican Gabby hits and causes $5 BILLION damage, that ADDS to the GDP). Another common scenario is a foreign car bought in the US at a dealership, because the transaction is in the US, it, again, adds to the GDP. Peter Schiff and many others put forth arguments much better than mine, go google it. It is a feel-good measure put out by the government in the same fashion the offical inflation figure is (which hardly accounts for real inflation).

The point is, you need to stack the deficit against some other number that isn't complete nonsense. Perhaps trade deficits. Japan has a huge national debt (3x ours in terms of GDP), but it can keep going purely because it makes so much stuff and good trade balances. OTOH, our industry has been exported, we hardly make anything to export anymore.

Economics should not be hard, at least the basics. Consider the country as a huge household. You have debts and you produces things. It should make sense that an economy, to stay healthy has to overproduce and underconsume. A farmer cannot expect to thrive if he eats all his harvest of wheat in his own household PLUS has borrow to consume other people's harvests. A farmer is best off when he underconsumes (only part of the crop is internally consumed and the rest exported).

Japan is like a high swinging professional living way beyond his means but because he brings home the big bucks from clients, can keep paying the increasingly large minimal balances on his credit card - though that will come to an end. America, OTOH, is more like a blue collar worker - can't afford a smaller debt to begin because he doesn't have a high paying job.

Please don't compare the GDP, after Truman we still had a huge manufacturing base left over from WW2 and were exporting to the world. We don't have that anymore. A farmer's household cannot stand for long if he consumes his entire crop for himself and that of his neighbors on credit. That's what we, as a nation, have been doing and it won't work forever.

Here's to hope (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350635)

The neo-cons have ran America into the ground. At this time, about 98% of our entire debt is entirely reagan and W.. I can only hope that Obama will do the right things.

God save America, because the neo-cons have not.

Re:Here's to hope (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350691)

If you really think the big O and his compatriots in Congress are going to lower government spending, think again.

The idiot Republicans spent like that because they wanted people to think "they cared". Their spending was a poor imitation of Democrats.

In January, you will have the real deal and they can't save money by gutting the military like Clinton did.

What nonsense! (3, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350663)

There's no need for extra room in the display. Just convert to hex, then you only need 13 digits:

10,150,603,734,720.00 (decimal) = 93,B5F,213,EC0.00 (hex)

Whoever came up with the idea of buying a new LCD clock should be fired for wastefulness.

Re:What nonsense! (1)

nacturation (646836) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350815)

There's no need for extra room in the display.
Just convert to hex, then you only
need 13 digits:

10,150,603,734,720.00 (decimal) = 93,B5F,213,EC0.00 (hex)

Whoever came up with the idea of buying a new LCD clock should be fired for wastefulness.

What, no base-64 clock?
 

Re:What nonsense! (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350847)

Just convert to hex

Better yet, convert to base 36, so we can use the entire alphabet. Every once in a while, the value displayed would spell out something interesting like HOLYSHITWEAREFUCKED.

Re:What nonsense! (1)

sr180 (700526) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350875)

It is all ok, they got a great deal on finance while purchasing the new clock!

No need to replace it... (1)

fortapocalypse (1231686) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350695)

Display the count in binary and you're all set!

Re:No need to replace it... (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350905)

Yes, 10010101011001010100000101110011110100001111 gives you a much better idea of how bad it is than just 10,266,382,646,543.

Press Your Luck (1)

Dwedit (232252) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350697)

When Michael Larson was on the mid-1980's game show, "Press Your Luck", the scoreboard only held 5 digits and a dollar sign. When Michael broke the $100,000 barrier, they removed the dollar sign to accommodate the next digit. Sounds exactly like what happened here, except the national debt is no game show.

Re: national debt is no game show (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350821)

'tis from the other side of the world!

Sell Assets to pay down debt (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350725)

We should sell Hawaii to Saudi Arabia. That ought to be worth at least 10 trillion. Problem solved.

its all fun and games until... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350777)

I often wonder if we/USA like to make fun of problems and the people that are willing to work on them. After all, its not like this problem is effecting us, right? So why care? We can laugh some more right!?! We can play the blame game too. LAUGH...LAUGH After all who would call in this debt, and how would they force us to pay? Laugh..Laugh...

Lets put more people into office that will help increase it, because we really are going to take the time out to figure who will help fix this country and who will not. However, that really is not an easy task, but are these questions really getting asked or are the people running for office not giving enough details to determine which plan will work?

It is sad to be USA citizen in this day and age.

Another Republican "Victory" (5, Insightful)

cc_pirate (82470) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350807)

What "fiscal conservatives"!

But wait, the debt has grown insanely under every single Republican president in the last 40 years.

How could that be?

The Republicans aren't fiscally conservative at all. Every single republican president has spent like a drunken sailor and GWB is the worst of the lot.

The only thing more stupid than Tax and Spend is Spend and Spend.

Off to China (1)

tecc91 (1232638) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350849)

Wow! I hoped it would never come to this, but I guess I have to move to China! Even if we never touch the principal, the interest alone is enough that the US likely won't get ahead.

So, how do you fix the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25350855)

Everyone knows the problem - "The Government" spends "too much" (in this case the US Federal Government.) I am sure the Libertarian Party website will enumerate in great detail what the Federal Government has no business doing...
At the same time, both Federal and State governments seem to be putting a lot of their eggs in one basket, so to speak, by "taxing the rich". I believe (Cost of Government) / (Number of Citizens) = the fair tax per citizen. Anything else is unfair, but necessary simply because not everyone can afford their fair share.

Why not? Because, the "Cost of Government" is too large compared to "the fair tax".

What we have today, is that a relatively small percent of the "top earners" pay 90% of the taxes. The problem with that is when things get tough, the rich get hit worse, in the pocketbook. (duh, the poor, have no money.)
Don't get me wrong, when things get bad, the poor are physically worse off - out on the streets, going hungry... bad stuff at a basic level. But when the "rich" get hit, not only do they not buy that new BWM, they pay less in taxes. This leads to a vicious cycle of politicians whining that "we need more taxes" to cover the shortfall...

I think I saw somewhere that NYC alone, was going to be short BILLIONS in tax revenues because a few thousand "Wall Street" tax payers aren't doing so hot this year.

Likewise, California is driving many of its "rich" citizens out of the state, to the benefit of places like Nevada and Texas, who have no personal income tax.

The way the political system is set up today, the problem is not getting better. The same overspending politicians get re-elected over and over. So, what would fix the problem?

Legally, only constitutional amendments. So, what should they be? Term limits, hard spending limits (% of GDP), a requirement to justify spending bills by having them cite constitutional authority to do so? What about an entirely new branch of government as an extra check and balance - like a non-political DRAFTED body that has veto power over any law? (E.g. something like a grand jury to oversee the various legislatures. Except rather than selecting from random registered voters, select from random people who have actually paid taxes, per their tax return.)

I don't know... just looking for real ideas for constitutional amendments to address the structural problems, not a flame ware. Things are polarized enough - the defacto two party system that is entrenched is part of the problem in and of itself.

Debt (4, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350877)

If I owe you a hundred dollars, I have a problem.

If I owe you a hundred billion dollars, you have a problem.

Webcam? (1)

coleca (447414) | more than 5 years ago | (#25350981)

Is there a live webcam of the debt clock anywhere?

I checked Google and just came up with a bunch of Flash versions of the clock and a million hits on this same story from a week ago.. :-)
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