Menckens Ghost

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Are you smart enough to vote?

Are you smart enough to vote?

By Mencken’s Ghost
March 17, 2012

To be smart enough to vote, you should at least know the basics about deficits and debt.  Here are two questions to determine if you’re smart enough:

Imagine that you and your family have $22,000 in annual income but spend $38,000.  What is your deficit for the year?

            Answer:  $16,000 ($38,000 - $22,000)

Now imagine that you made up the difference between what you earned and what you spent by borrowing the $16,000.  The $16,000 is in addition to $142,000 that you have already borrowed to pay off deficits from previous years.  And in addition to the $16,000 and $142,000, there is $500,000 that you have promised in writing to pay to other creditors.

            What is your total debt?

            Answer:  $158,000 ($16,000 + $142,000)

You are probably saying “Whoa!” at this point as you wonder why the $500,000 hasn’t been added to the $158,000 to get a grand total of $658,000 of debt.  After all, the proper arithmetic is as follows:

$16,000 (deficit for the year)

$142,000 (debt for prior years’ deficits)

$500,000 (other obligations)

$658,000 (total debt)

Well, according to our great federal government, which has a huge Department of Education that monitors national test scores in arithmetic, the proper calculation is to ignore the $500,000.  Why?  Well, there is no arithmetic or ethical reason for doing so--in fact it is crooked and immoral to do so, but this is what the federal government does when calculating its own debt, so it must be okay. 

Let me explain with actual numbers for the federal government. 

First, I’ll add eight zeroes to the numbers listed above.  I’m doing this because the listed numbers are an approximation of the federal deficit and debt but with eight zeroes left off the figures.  When the eight zeroes are added back, the numbers are as follows:

$1,600,000,000,000 (current federal deficit)

$14,200,000,000,000 (federal debt for prior years’ deficits)

$50,000,000,000,000 (other obligations of federal government)

$65,800,000,000,000 (total federal debt)

As you can see, the total federal debt is $65.8 trillion, or $66 trillion in rounded numbers.  But federal bureaucrats, members of Congress, the president, and the crackerjack American media report the debt as $16 trillion, in rounded numbers, not $66 trillion.  In other words, the lying sacks of crap don’t count the other $50 trillion that the federal government owes.

What makes up the $50 trillion? The lion’s share is the difference between what the government owes in Social Security and Medicare obligations to present and future retirees and what is left in the Social Security Trust Fund, which politicians have been using as a piggybank for decades to buy votes by giving voters free stuff.  Essentially, politicians took money from workers’ paychecks to fund Social Security and Medicare and then stole the money to fund other spending.  (Note:  There are also massive shortfalls in funding for public-sector pensions at the state and municipal levels of government.)  

Again, the national debt is actually $66 trillion, not $16 trillion, when the missing $50 trillion is added back in.  To put this number in perspective, the total debt is about 440% of the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States.  To compare, the debt of the Greek government is about 140% of Greece’s GDP.

Having looked at the real numbers, let’s return to the opening question:  Are you smart enough to vote?

The answer is a definite no if you hear politicians say that the national debt is $16 trillion instead of $66 trillion and then you vote for them instead of guffawing in their faces and calling them lying sacks of crap.
Mencken’s Ghost is the nom de plume of an Arizona writer who can be reached at or  

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