The Realm of Niftyness: Articles

Article 24

The National Shrug

by John Gephart
July 8, 2002

Assume for a second that you're working your dream job. Maybe you're a swimsuit model photographer, or a race car driver. Or maybe you're just some guy that they pay to eat a lot of cheese. It doesn't matter, just play along.

So how much are they paying you for this "work?" Most people would blurt out "a million dollars" with a giddy smile on their face. But hey, a million bucks doesn't go as far as it used to, so let's say $6 million just to be safe.

Now, as you're sitting there enjoying your fantasy, let me put something in perspective. The current national debt is $6,121,960,085,127.31. In fact, in the time it took me to type that, it went up another 400 grand. All told it's more than 600,000 times your new imaginary salary. It's enough to make you trade in your salary to live on just a fraction of the interest.

If you read the newspaper now and then, you've seen how large the number is. You've probably grimaced at the size of it. It just keeps rising, ballooning upward further and further away from any realistic chance of paying it all off.

Not that you'd want to pay it off, of course. A million dollars worth of $100 bills weighs in at a hefty 20.4 pounds (no wonder Hollywood burglars always bring those sturdy duffel bags). Apply that to the National Debt and we're talking over 62,000 TONS of cash. You'd need a fleet of forklifts just to deliver it.

But let's assume for a second that you rounded up a bunch of friends and forklifts to do the job. Where are you taking the money? (No, your basement doesn't count) Does the average citizen even know who we owe this boatload of greenbacks to?

I certainly didn't know, so I did some research. Granted, I used the internet and it took me all of two minutes to find, so check the facts if you're the type of person that has time to do that sort of thing. I imagine that you're probably more like me, though, and willing to happily accept (and repeat to friends) anything you see in print. If I was to write that Canadians hate monkeys, it would become true, so I certainly shouldn't put that idea in your head. Even if they really do hate them. Worse than men wearing fancy hats.

Anyway, back to the debt. It's no real shock to learn that most of the cash is owed to, brace yourself, foreign parties. Only they aren't really partying since we have all of their money. Unless of course they took all of our I.O.U.'s, put them into a big vat, and danced around in it for awhile.

As of 2001, foreign parties controlled 43% of our Treasury Bonds and t-bills. Yes, our precious t-bills. I can see the concern in your face. Oh wait, that's probably just confusion and apathy. Don't worry about not worrying about it, I don't either.

What's to worry about, really? I mean, besides the fact that every man, woman, and child in this country would have to shell out $21,300 to cover their share of the tab. We all have that much change in our couch cushions, right?

I think what gets me the most is the humor in all of this. Here we are, the United States of America, doling out countless buckets of cash to just about anyone that asks for it. Need medical supplies for your third-world pit? They're yours. Do your rebels need some rockets? Take what you need. That city you always wanted to build but can't afford? Let us do it for free.

And what do we get back for all of our kindness? Smiles and bills. Lots of bills. You'd think that perhaps a few of these rich foreign nations we've helped in the past would give us a little slack, but I haven't ever heard of that happening.

Then again, maybe they did give us slack. Depending on your outlook, we're either the guy who forgets his rent check every month or the world's most favorable credit card owner. We owe all of this money to everyone, but no one seems to be pressuring us to get it all back. So up goals the total, minute by minute.

Know what? We aren't going to give that money back. Letting us put it all on credit is like loaning money to that cousin who is always trying to quit smoking crack - you'd have to be smoking crack yourself to think we're going to start paying up. Your money is gone. We spent it.

This is America. God Bless the U.S.A., because we're got all the power and an arsenal of pointy toys. I have been waiting since I was a teenager for the day that some future president will walk up to a podium and declare our debts null and void. Think of it as a service fee for being the world's policeman. Think of it as a bully stealing your lunch money. Think of it however you want, but we're not paying.

Well, maybe we'll give a few bucks back to Canada. You can't help but love that crazy nation of monkey haters.

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