Deficit spending, government debt and private sector borrowing are the norm in most western countries, but due in part to the financial crisis, some nations and economies are in considerably worse debt positions than others.
External debt is a measure of a nation's foreign liabilities, capital plus interest that the government and institutions within a nation's borders must eventually pay. This number not only includes government debt, but also debt owed by corporations and individuals to entities outside their home country.
So, how does the US debt position compare to that of other countries? A useful measure of a country's debt position is by comparing gross external debt to GDP. By comparing a country's debt to what it produces, this ratio can be used to help determine the likelihood that a country as a whole will be able to repay its debt.