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It is true that the annual deficits, which are now well over $1 trillion per year, are a big problem.

But I actually want to comment here on the total national debt, which is an even bigger problem (but which most people do not want to pay attention to because they fear the implications of it). 

The reason why there has been such demand for Treasuries still in recent times, despite the high deficits, is because people still regard Treasuries as the safest investment in the world, simply because it has been for such a long time, and because (other than very short-term Treasuries) they still offer a higher rate of return than bank accounts (the interest rate on which has collapsed in the last couple of years).  The problem is that, in fact, the higher interest rate on longer-dated Treasuries really is a risk premium these days - and the risk is actually quite high in the meantime, since we are now running such huge annual budget deficits as far as the eye can see, in addition to the fact that the national debt has already gone past the knee of the exponential and is well past the knee in the meantime, meaning that it is now effectively certain, in light of the (in the big picture) ever-increasing annual budget deficits, that the national debt will actually go exponential, i.e., go all the way, go vertical, and that time is not very far down the road anymore.  Once it does go exponential, the Treasury will not be able to pay its obligations anymore and then the high interest it pays on its longer-dated Treasuries will become an illusion.  As the old saying goes, at that point, the problem will no longer be "return on principal," it will be "return of principal."  In other words, at that point, people who own Treasuries will lose money that they have in them. 

As far as I can tell, the national debt went past the knee of the exponential sometime between about March and October 2008 - in other words, before Obama was even elected.  I can't tell more precisely because the exponential is so huge and, therefore, I don't have a lot of data points (but I do have enough to narrow it down to that). 

My current estimate (this is written on Monday, March 29, 2010) as to when the national debt will go fully exponential – no more than a couple of years or so from now, and quite possibly sooner if the economy goes down soon.   When the economy goes back down, tax revenues will crash and social payments will (probably dramatically) increase, thus very much helping the exponential along. 

Update as of June 3, 2010 - the national debt has now topped $13 trillion; it is reported at $13.0508 trillion today on the official Treasury website referenced in the Related Links section of this website. 

Update as of January 5, 2011 - the national debt has now topped $14 trillion; it is reported at $14.011 trillion today on the official Treasury website referenced in the Related Links section of this website. 

Update as of January 31, 2011 - the national debt is now $14.131 trillion, as reported today on the official Treasury website referenced in the Related Links section of this website.  In other words, the national debt has increased by well over $100 blllion (actually over $130 billion) alone in January 2011. 


It took about six months for the national debt to go from $12 trillion to $13 trillion and about seven months for it to go from $13 trillion to $14 trillion (which means we are clearly on the more vertical part of the debt exponential in the meantime).