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a few modest calculations [Jul. 29th, 2011|06:08 pm]
Conservatives Corner


Want another way to put U.S. federal debt and U.S. federal spending in perspective? Here's what I got from a few minutes of math. (I'll write trillions as 1,000s of billions to keep it clear.)

The total U.S. federal debt is $14,293 billion; the total U.S. federal budget is $3,601 billion. The richest man on earth - Carlos Slim of Mexico - has a net worth of $74 billion (including family members). So the U.S. public debt would burn through Carlos Slim's entire fortune in 1.889 days, and U.S. federal spending would burn through it in 7.822 days. Note that this isn't income, but total net worth. It requires total expropriation and liquidation - which means no future income taxes, investments, job creation, charity, employment, company creation, or anything else from this man's fortune. This is breaking the richest man in the world down to pauperhood.

Now, the four richest men in the world in net worth are: Carlos Slim (and family) at $74.0 billion, Bill Gates (U.S.A.) at $56.0 billion, Warren Buffett (U.S.A.) at $50.0 billion, and Bernard Arnault (France) at $41.0 billion. That's a hair under three times Carlos Slim's fortune taken alone. So the U.S. federal debt would burn through the fortunes of the world's four richest men in under 6 days, and the U.S. federal budget would burn through it in a bit under 24 days.

This does not count U.S. state government debt of $1,198 billion or U.S. local government debt of $1,743 billion.

This does not count unfunded U.S. federal entitlement liabilities, which are estimated at between $62,000 billion at $120,000 billion, which to fully fund in a year would burn through the total net worth of the world's four richest men in between a bit over 33 hours (assuming $62,000 billion) or a bit over 17 hours (assuming $120,000 billion).

So the next time you hear that the rich are greedily holding onto all the money and causing our problems, or that they just need to pay yet a bit more tax, or that tax cuts are to blame and spending has always been sensible, or that the government should load us with more entitlements, programs, bureaucracies, loans, subsidies, grants, railroads, buildings, bailouts, stimuli, and so on ... just remember the math above, and ask yourself if any actual solutions are being proposed.

I agree with President Obama: we need a fundamental transformation. But what we need is a transformation into economic, fiscal, and political sanity. Which means a government that isn't devouring our ability to survive economically, much less remain competitive in a rapidly-evolving world.

It means an actual free market economy - with real money, which is gold and not government-inflated paper - and a rationally-sized government (one that protects us from enemies foreign and domestic, and that's it). We need it as soon as possible. The transition will be painful - but how much more painful will it be (and how much worse will the poor and the sick and the old do) - if we put off the inevitable any longer?

Time is running out.

Michael R. Brown
29 July 2011

Debt source:
Net worth source:

Recommended reading, for a view of just part of the 100 years of this situation's developing:

[ It is more difficult to determine top world *income* earners, but when I find it I will do a follow-up. Obviously the burn-through rates will be much faster. ]

[User Picture]From: patriotress
2011-08-06 03:31 pm (UTC)
"But what we need is a transformation into economic, fiscal, and political sanity. Which means a government that isn't devouring our ability to survive economically, much less remain competitive..."

Spot on!
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