What's that mean to you? It means almost $30,000 in debt for each man, woman, child and infant in the United States.
So long as somebody is willing to keep loaning the U.S. government money, the debt is largely out of sight, out of mind. But the interest payments keep compounding, and could in time squeeze out most other government spending. A major economic slowdown, as some economists suggest may be looming, could hasten the day of reckoning.
The first day the Chinese or the Japanese or the Saudis say, `we've bought enough of your paper,' then the debt -- whatever level it is at that point -- becomes unmanageable.
Texas billionaire Ross Perot made paying down the national debt a central element of his quixotic third-party presidential bid in 1992. The national debt then stood at $4 trillion and Perot displayed charts showing it would soar to $8 trillion by 2007 if left unchecked. He was about a trillion low.
[The New York Times]