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11 Olympic swimming pools filled with gold, 140,000 winning Euromillions tickets… What the abyssal American debt represents

“Sky is the limit”.

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11 Olympic swimming pools filled with gold, 140,000 winning Euromillions tickets… What the abyssal American debt represents

“Sky is the limit”. The famous adage is a good illustration of the agreement reached this Saturday between Republicans and Democrats. The compromise found, which must still be voted on by Congress on Wednesday, advocates a suspension of the debt ceiling until 2025. Apart from the new increase in the defense budget, most federal spending should be capped for two years. What stabilize and then reduce a bill that amounts to more than 31,000,000,000,000 dollars. A sequence of zeros that plunges us into the meanders of the infinitely large.

Fortunately, the shortcuts offered by the language allow us to speak more simply of “31 trillion” or “31,000 billion” dollars. Concise formulas, which nevertheless carry the risk of a certain statistical indifference: for many, this debt is only one figure among many others. But then what is $31 trillion really?

Certain indicators provided by the US Debt Clock make it possible to better identify this indebtedness. The debt weighs heavily on American shoulders: it is $95,000 per capita. It's as if every American had bought a Cadillac Escalade Sport on credit. A revealing example. The debt per taxpayer reaches 250,000 euros. An astronomical sum.

In addition, the 31,000 billion dollars also represent 10 times the GDP of France, or nearly a third of the world GDP. Symbolically, it would be necessary to fill nearly 11 Olympic swimming pools with gold bars of 1 kg to arrive at the sum of 31,000 billion dollars. Similarly, it would be necessary to pocket 140,000 times the largest sum ever won at the Euromillions (220 million euros) to reach the height of the American debt.

But then what are the main sectors that are digging into the debt? In the first quarter of 2023, 18% of investments were dedicated to Defense. We also find certain classic expenses such as Health Insurance (16.40%), Social Security (15.5%) or even Health (12%), which had particularly inflated during the Covid-19 crisis.

Debt also carries underlying costs: for every dollar taxed in the United States, 10 cents are dedicated to repaying the net interest on public debt. These reach 30 billion dollars per month, which represents half of the current French army budget. No doubt: Uncle Sam's debt is of an extraordinary caliber.

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