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The United States Debt has a Direct Impact on Every American, Yet Few Are Aware of How It Affects Their Lives

 

Understanding the National Debt
What Every American Needs to Know
Carl Lane

$18.95 Paper

$55.00 Cloth

  • 120 pages
  • 5.5 x 8.5
  • 7 tables
  • Economics
  • World Rights

About this Book

The United States has a debt problem—we owe more than $18 trillion while our gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in America, is only $17.5 trillion. To pay down the debt, some recommend austerity, cutting federal expenditures. Others suggest increasing taxes, especially on the wealthiest Americans. In Understanding the National Debt: What Every American Needs to Know, economic historian Carl Lane urges that the national debt must be addressed in ways beyond program cuts or tax increase alternatives. But change can only occur when more Americans—including policy makers— understand what constitutes our debt and the problems it causes. The gross national debt is composed of two elements: the public debt (bonds, bills, and notes purchased by individuals, banks, insurance companies, hedge and retire¬ment funds, foreign governments, and university endowments) and “intragovernmental holdings”(money that the U.S. Treasury borrows from other parts of the government, principally Social Security and Medicare).The latter accounts for approximately a quarter of the gross national debt, but that is money that we owe to ourselves, not another entity. The more the government borrows, the less is available for private sector investment, creating a “squeeze” effect that inhibits economic growth. The most burdensome problem is the interest due each year on the debt. Every dollar spent on interest is a dollar less for other purposes. Those elements of the federal budget which are termed “discretionary” suffer. The mandatory elements of the budget—Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the interest on the debt—must be provided for, but defense and national security, education, energy, infrastructure repair and development, and other needs wind up with less. But how can we realistically address our debt challenge?

CARL LANE is professor of history at Felician University in New Jersey. He is author of A Nation Wholly Free: The Elimination of the National Debt in the Age of Jackson, and his articles have appeared in William and Mary Quarterly, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, and other publications.

 

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