Public Debt On TSE: Counting Up The Dollars And Sense

Oct 17, 2013

Credit U.S. Federal Reserve / Truth In Accounting

The debate in Congress over raising the debt ceiling was focused on the $16.7 trillion borrowing limit. That's a huge number that has been increasing rapidly since the Great Recession. The chart above from the U.S. Federal Reserve shows the federally reported public debt jumping from $6 trillion after the 2001 recession to almost $17 trillion this fall.  

Sheila Weinberg says that's not even the half of it. Her group, Truth in Accounting, pushes for a full and clear accounting of government debt. By her estimation, U.S. debt stands at more than $70 trillion. Debt is defined as a financial promise so Weinberg adds in Social Security benefits, Medicare coverage, veterans benefits are other entitlement programs. Unless those obligations change, Weinberg adds them to her calculation of the federal government's debt load.

Separately, she figures state governments have made more than $1 trillion in financial promises through retirement and health care benefits. Florida's share of that is $14.5 billion as of 2010, according to