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How the National Debt Could Hurt Your Wallet

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — With the national debt exceeding a staggering $15 trillion, bank savers have every right to wonder, “How is this going to affect me?”

The answer: In ways you may never have imagined.

It’s worth taking a trip to USDebtClock.org to see just how much of the debt each American might be responsible for. For Instance, according to the Web site, each taxpayer is on the hook for more than $134,000 worth of that debt, and each citizen owes about $49,000.

DebtClock.org also shows just how fast the debt grows. For example, while keeping an eye on the site, I noticed that the national debt rose $3,000,000 in two minutes. Here are some other key pieces of data from it:

  • U.S. federal spending is higher than the U.S. federal budget deficit by more than a 3-to-1 ratio.
  • U.S gross domestic product, at $15.1 trillion (the real measure of growth for the U.S. economy), is lower than the national debt, meaning our public debt obligations surpass our entire country’s income.
  • Total unfunded U.S. liabilities (for things such as Social Security and Medicare) stand at $117 trillion.

Perhaps a little relativity is in order. Back in 2002, the national public debt amounted to only $6 trillion. So with a $9 trillion jump in 10 years, just how is all that debt affecting your bank savings vehicles? Negatively.

While hiking taxes and reducing spending are two possible ways to control the debt, there is little political will in Washington to do both (Republicans don’t want to hike taxes on the wealthy and Democrats historically offer to cut spending in debt negotiations, but rarely actually do so).

So, there’s really only one other place to turn: the Federal Reserve. And its favorite debt-management tactic is to have the treasury print more money.

That’s what politicians want (especially in an election year), it’s what bankers want and it’s what creditors including China want (if only to ensure their debts are getting repaid). But it’s not what Main Street Americans want – or need.

By printing more money, the government triggers inflation, and that leads to a huge hit on the U.S. dollar, and by extension, the middle class, primarily in the form of higher commodity prices (such as oil and gas) and higher prices on consumer staples including beef, bread and milk. But it doesn’t lead to higher bank savings rates. The Fed still has to keep rates low to encourage a “healthy” credit environment, and low rates hit bank savers right where it hurts – in the wallet.

So there you have it – higher consumer prices but lower savings rates, all tied to the highest public debt figure in U.S. history.

Unfortunately, that figure grew by $75,000 in the time to took to finish this article.

—For more of the latest news on how inflation hits your wallet, visit MainStreet’s “Inflation” topic page!

Read More:   banks, inflation, savings
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