Some of our more observant readers were confused when we wrote last week that the national debt reached $24 trillion at the start of the year. “Wait!” Hotline readers responded. “The national debt is more than $33 trillion.” We should have been more precise.
Yes, the national debt is now $33.6 trillion.
But we were referring to the “publicly held debt” – which is now roughly $26 trillion. Debt held by the public “consists of all national debt held by any person or entity that is not a U.S. federal government agency. The publicly held debt does NOT include the $7 trillion that the government owes to itself, such as money stolen by Congress from the Social Security system.
Since the federal government does not have a legal obligation to pay Social Security or other government benefits, these are not legal liabilities of the government. They are simply political promises to pay that may or may not be honored.
Either way you measure it, we’re in a world of hurt financially if we don’t turn things around.