The Debt Ceiling Plans in Real Terms: iPads, Cars & Trips

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NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Of the many struggles voters have dealt with in following the months-long debt ceiling debate, one of the biggest is simply the unfathomable numbers legislators are dealing in.

First, Vice President Joe Biden was said to be brokering a deal that would cut spending by $2 trillion, then President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner were rumored to have agreed on some $3 trillion in cuts. Now, the two leading plans are Boehner’s proposal to raise the debt limit by $900 billion in exchange for $915 billion of government spending cuts and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s proposal to raise the debt ceiling by $2.7 trillion accompanied by $2.2 trillion worth of spending cuts.

Visualize the savings this way: The amount of money saved if the country adopts Boehner’s plan would theoretically be enough to give every man, woman and child in the U.S. a handout of $2,934, based on current population estimates from the Census Bureau. That could pay for at least two round-trip flights per person from New York City to Beijing, or pay for two months’ rent in a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago, and it’s just shy of enough to buy six of the cheapest iPad 2 models. Perhaps more tellingly, that would actually represent more money than half of Americans have in disposable income at the moment.

The savings from Reid’s plan, on the other hand, would be enough to give every person in America a check for $7,054. That would cover more than half the price tag of a new Chevrolet Aveo Sedan and could pay off nearly a third of the average nonmortgage debt held by each consumer. And, to put it more directly in comparison with Boehner’s plan, the savings from Reid’s would be enough for every individual to buy 14 of the cheapest iPad 2 models and have a little change left over.

Every minute of every day, the debt increases by thousands and thousands of dollars, thanks in part to the whopping interest payments the U.S. must pay to foreign lenders. So don’t expect to get any checks in the mail from Uncle Sam; whatever plan is approved – these or any other option that comes to the table – the national debt will continue to increase, it's just a question of how much.

If you’re a little late to the debt ceiling, check out MainStreet’s primer on everything you need to know about where the issue stands today.

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