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Visualizing Uncle Sam’s Debt


Most Americans have debt.  Mortgages aside,  43% of US households spend more than they earn in a year.  It is no wonder that the median household has a balance of over $2,000 on their credit cards.  The average balance is over $8,000, but that is skewed by a small number of less-than-thrifty individuals.

The US government also spends more than it earns.  Whether this is an extension of its electorate or the setting of a bad example, the country as a whole is in worse shape than the sum of its parts.

We could go on about the trillions of dollars in debt, but numbers that large can feel really abstract. So,  let’s take the nation’s spending down to the household scale.  The median household pulls in $50,233 per year, the federal government around $3 trillion.  Some basic arithmetic will put them in scale.

Now let’s look at our lenders.  The majority of the Uncle Sam household debt is owed to the people of the United States.  We can let this slide for now and focus on the foreign lenders, who represent one quarter of the total debt.

Below are the top seven foreign lenders, visualized as credit cards, while the image at the top shows the total of  foreign lending.  All numbers have been brought down to the U.S. median household scale.  Just imagine your household with these balances and you will have a better perspective on just how large these debts really are.