New York City offers a unique snapshot of what it means to be American. After all, Ellis Island recalls the historical arrival of many of our ancestors to “the land where dreams come true.”
Snapshots give a glimpse at something. And many people choose to only share the happy and positive peeks at their world. Such a one-sided view could be the root of much of the selective ignorance that abounds in our country.
My guides in New York reminded me that New Yorkers repeat everything three times. Basically because no one is listening to the announcements. Or each other. That simple fact could preach its own sermon.
One of my guides was quick to point out all the examples of mediocrity. In the four years he’s lived there, he’s found that most of New York is a study in mediocrity. There’s no, “If you’re going to do it, do it to the best of your ability.” It’s more like, “Just get it done already.”
Sadly, I think that’s becoming the American way.
The National Debt Clock
I might have walked by the clock without paying attention. From a distance, it’s just a stream of digital numbers that change in a random pattern.
Our guide pulled on my arm and pointed it out. I had to snap a few pictures because…the number kept going up.
Here is a brief history copied from Wikipedia:
The National Debt Clock is a billboard-sized running total display which constantly updates to show the current United States gross national debtand each American family’s share of the debt. It is currently installed on the western side of One Bryant Park, west of Sixth Avenue between 42ndand 43rd Streets in Manhattan, New York City. It was the first debt clock installed anywhere.
The idea for the clock came from New York real estate developer Seymour Durst, who wanted to highlight the rising national debt. In 1989, he sponsored the installation of the first clock, which was originally placed on Sixth Avenue between 42nd and 43rd Streets, one block away from Times Square. In 2004, the original clock was dismantled and replaced by a newer clock near 44th Street and Sixth Avenue. In 2008, as the U.S. national debt exceeded $10 trillion for the first time, it was reported that the value of the debt may have exceeded the number of digits in the clock. The lit dollar-sign in the clock’s leftmost digit position was later changed to the “1” digit to represent the ten-trillionth place. In 2017, the clock was moved again to One Bryant Park, near its original location.
***Inquiring minds want to know HOW MUCH the deficit increased in that short lapse. $4,726,692,000 (nearly 4.75 BILLION in a couple minutes). I wish I was kidding.
Watch it running LIVE here.
Living Outside a Budget
Our government is a poor example of living within its means. Seriously, as much as they tax everyone and everything, there shouldn’t be a problem meeting their expenses.
It’s not like they hand out free healthcare on the corner. Or offer up free college educations to anyone and everyone.
And if you’ve spent any time inside a public school (believe me, I have), you know that the money isn’t being spent there to improve the education of one of our best resources: children.
But, what should we expect? Most people don’t even know what a budget is. Or if they do, they don’t have one. A Gallup poll says only 32 percent of Americans maintain a household budget. That’s only one-third of the millions in our great (if highly indebted) nation.
For more information on this, read the article I reference on debt.com.
There weren’t any statistics on how many of the Americans who had a household budget actually lived by it every month. Based on the free-spending mentality in Washington (DC), I’m thinking it might be another low percentage.
If we want to shake our head at the government’s poor planning, we need to take a closer look at ourselves.
As goes the citizen, so goes its government.
Externals or Internals
The problem isn’t just about budgeting. It’s about priorities.
We’ve become a society fixated on the next new gadget and making everything ultra convenient.
Ten years ago, no one would know what I meant if I said, “Looking for a dog sitter? There’s an app for that.”
Because phones were still NOT all that smart, and not everyone had access to the Internet in their pocket (or purse).
But these days, we don’t even wonder or ponder questions. We just Google it. And Heaven forbid if Google is wrong. It might take a million signatures to verify that inaccuracy.
This mindset makes all the external niceties in life the focus. Where we’re going to eat dinner takes precedence over if we can afford to eat dinner. Or better yet, if we SHOULD go out to eat because it might not be the best for our health.
Internal things like deep relationships are exchanged for fleeting interactions on the latest social media application. Oh, I sent my dad a SnapChat photo on Father’s Day. He knows I love him.
Is that really how we express our internal emotions? Or have we become so shallow that we don’t appreciate the years, and work, and emotion, and sacrifice our parents contributed to our lives.
Really, a phone call only takes a second. And it even uses fewer keystrokes than sending a text message.
Putting Numbers In Perspective
Let’s face it, our mind cannot even comprehend a billion dollars. Most of us believe a million would solve all our financial woes.
Our biggest personal debt is probably a home mortgage. I choke at my nearly $200K one, but my oldest son owes closer to $450K. In that case, a million dollars wouldn’t even pay off that bank once Uncle Sam took his cut.
But what about tens of trillions of dollars? Or HUNDREDS of trillions of dollars? That’s how much money the United States of America owes to its debtors.
And we can’t fathom how much that is or where that money will come from or how it will ever be paid off.
Here’s a little comparison in something we might understand better: Time
113,052,009,072,912 seconds would be 1,308,472,327 days. Which translates into 3,584,855.69 years. Still can’t fathom it?
Using the worldwide average life expectancy of 70.5 years, this 3.5 million is equivalent to the lifetimes of 50,849 people.
Makes me wonder if it will take that many lifetimes before our country can pay off this debt.
And still, the national debt counter continues to rise.
4 thoughts on “A New York View of the National Debt”
Absolutely unbelievable! I was watching and still couldn’t believe my eyes. When debt is so large it becomes unfathomable – like a fairy tale or make believe. The possibility of paying it off -unimaginable.
I thought Jerry was joking when he said that’s what the clock showed. It is crazy to think HOW our country could owe so much money. There’s no chance it will ever be paid back, is there? Unimaginable is right!
Wars don’t come cheap, for one thing. I seem to recall hearing that the last US President who didn’t have a war going was Jimmy Carter – before I was born. Which is maybe why the US has the second highest military expenditure per capita in the world.
On an individual level, it’s frightening how many people – particularly in the younger generations – expect to be in debt for their entire life. If it’s not their student loan, it’s their mortgage (if they’re even able to buy a house). And since it seems inevitable to be indebted, why struggle to pay what you owe?
I know. I am shocked by my youngest son’s student loan debt, but when I tried to talk him out of attending such an expensive private college, he wouldn’t listen. I can’t imagine starting out my married life so far in debt. It’s more money than what we paid for our first house! And, yes, I wonder how they will ever afford their own home.
With my husband hoping to retire in ten years. we’re looking hard at our debt and how to pay it all off (included the house) before he retires. I don’t know if it will happen, and we’ve been careful about not running up consumer debt.
It’s an epidemic for sure.