A dose of dispassionate sanity is long overdue on the topic of deficits, the National Debt, and so-called fiscal discipline. As a result, I am today introducing the “National Debt Thermometer”—a color-coded chart comparing the debt burden of the USA to that of several other nations (see the chart below). I’ll publish it whenever our deficit spending increases the National Debt sufficiently to move the needle higher on the chart, or whenever our GDP grows sufficiently to move the needle lower.
This chart might surprise you. Why? Because it contradicts the emotion-packed conventional wisdom that the USA’s deficits and debt are marching us toward doomsday. But don’t look for any emotional overtones in this chart; it is simply a dispassionate display of the facts.
And what do those facts say? That’s the surprise. The facts say that our National Debt burden, contrary to popular hysteria, is a ho-hum situation: no big deal compared to other countries today, and no big deal compared to where we’ve been in the past. The facts say that the USA’s debt burden is lower than that of Japan, Canada, and France; on par with Germany’s; and higher than the debt burden in the UK, Russia, Iran, and Botswana.
Do those facts surprise you, compared to (a) what we always hear from politicians and ideologues on the subject of deficits and debt, or (b) the emotional hysteria on the web about ticking debt clocks and grandchildren-eating debt monsters? Sorry if it startles anyone, but facts can be stubborn things.
Check back here for periodic updates of the National Debt Thermometer. I’ll post a new one whenever the needle moves.
[Note: Every number that goes into the making of the National Debt Thermometer comes from official sources: the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Public Debt, and the CIA’s World Factbook.]