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Pop Quiz

Friday December 21st, 2012   •   Posted by Burt Abrams at 1:15pm PST   •  

I’ve been asking a number of friends (mostly Democrats) if they could guess the amount of gross public debt that exists for each U.S. taxpayer. No one has come close. Now with final exams in progress in universities, I reckoned a pop quiz was in order for the readership. So here it is (no peeking at the correct answer).

The U.S. gross public debt per taxpayer is: a) $10,000 b) $26,600 c) $121,130 d) $142,000

Answer a: A dentist friend’s guess (he’s a Democrat)—not even close to being correct. Answer b is wrong, but it is the correct answer to the question: “What is the average college-related debt for graduates of the class of 2011?” Answer c—getting close, but no cigar. Answer c is my calculation for the gross public debt per taxpayer in Greece. Answer d: The correct answer.

Try asking your friends to estimate the gross public debt per taxpayer. When my friends hear the answer they usually noticeably wince. It drives home the reality of the burden on each taxpayer and the enormity of the problem the U.S. is facing. The upcoming compromise to avoid the “fiscal cliff” will slow the build-up of the per taxpayer debt but it will not reduce it. In the last four years, our government has added over $36,000 to each taxpayer’s public debt burden, far more than the average indebtedness incurred by students going to university over the past four years.

If the U.S. is not atypical, our public debt burden will slow our economic growth and raise our normal unemployment rate. Sorry to be a grinch going into the holidays.

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December 2012