What does it mean to Make America Great and Debt Free Again?

Donald Trump claims as president he will ‘Make America Great Again’, but he never defines what that means. The Huffington Post reports that it means ‘Make America White Again’ to explain what era in this country’s history Trump is nostalgic about.

Then Time Magazine’s cover for April 26, 2016 shouts ‘Make America Solvent Again’ and says each American man woman and child owes $42,998.12 to pay off the U.S. (federal) debt.

The fact is that the United States government has never been debt free. Even the American Revolutionary War (1775 – 1783) left the United States in debt. In 1790, thanks to the costs of fighting a revolution, the U.S. was more than $71 million in debt and has never been debt free since.

War is expensive. The American Revolutionary War inflicted great financial costs on all of the combatants, including the United States of America, France, Spain and Great Britain. France and Great Britain spent 1.3 billion livres and 250 million pounds, respectively. The United States spent $400 million in wages for its troops. The War of 1812 cost the U.S. around $105 million. In 1860, the year before the American Civil War started, the U.S. Government debt was $64.8 million. Once the war began, debt grew quickly. The financial cost of the war was significant, totaling an estimated $5.2 billion.

The U.S. also spent $27 billion fighting in World War I.

Keep in mind as I go on that this is not a complete list of all the wars the U.S. has fought. If you are interested, click the following link to see more: Congressional Research Service (CRS)

World War II cost the U.S. $296 billion. In 2011 dollars, according to the CRS, that’s more than $4 Trillion. Vietnam cost $738 billion in 2011 dollars. Then there was the Persian Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Iraq and Afghanistan, alone, have cost the U.S. more than $2 Trillion in 2011 dollars.

But what about that $42,998.12 share of the national debt for every man woman and child in the United States? I found the answer at About News.com.

“The U.S. Treasury manages the U.S. debt through its Bureau of the Public Debt. It’s broken out the debt into two broad categories: Intragovernmental Holdings, at $5.329 trillion, and Debt Held by the Public, at $13.751 trillion (Source:  Debt to the Penny, U.S.

Treasury, as of February 29, 2016.)

“Intragovernmental Holdings – Nearly 30% of the Federal debt is owed to 230 other Federal agencies. Why would the government owe money to itself? Some agencies, like the Social Security Trust Fund, take in more revenue from taxes than they need right now. Rather than stick this cash under a giant mattress, they buy U.S. Treasuries with it.

“By owning Treasuries, they transfer their excess cash to the general fund, where it is spent. Of course, one day they will redeem their Treasury notes for cash. The Federal government will either need to raise taxes or issue more debt, to give the agencies the money they will need.”

Before I go on, I want to point out that working Americans pay into the Social Security Trust Fund through a special tax.  Social Security is an earned entitlement, and the average worker works for 45 years before being old enough to collect from the Social Security Trust Fund that the average workers paid into.  Social Security is NOT welfare.

Back to About News.com

Which agencies own the most Treasuries? Social Security, by a long shot. Here’s the detailed breakdown (as of December 31, 2015):

Social Security (Social Security Trust Fund and Federal Disability Insurance Trust Fund) – $2.786 trillion

Office of Personnel Management Retirement – $873 billion

Military Retirement Fund – $601 billion

Medicare (Federal Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, Federal Supplementary Medical Insurance Trust Fund) – $267 billion

All Other Retirement Funds – $187 billion

Cash on Hand to Fund Federal Government Operations – $508 billion. (Source: Treasury Bulletin, Monthly Treasury Statement, Table 6. Schedule D-Investments of Federal Government Accounts in Federal Securities, December 2015)

Fact: More than half of the national debt is held by the public and every man, woman and child in the United States is the public. Other countries own $6.175 Trillion of the $13.9 Trillion U.S. debt that Time Magazine mentions on its cover.

In conclusion, if every man woman and child in the United States paid $42,998.12 to pay off the debt that Time Magazine says we each owe, does that mean we are paying ourselves for 55.6% of that debt or $23,906.95, because that’s what the U.S. government owes every man woman and child in the United States.  Now, if we only want to pay off other countries that own 44.4% of the debt, then the real cost to each man, woman and child in the U.S. (more than 323 million people today) would be about $19,000 each after we all paid ourselves back for what the feds owe us so why not apply what the federal government owes us to pay off our share of the national debt held by foreign countries? Then the feds would only owe every man woman and child $5,000 each.

I’m sure that every American would love to get a check in the mail for $5,000. For a family of four that would be about $20,000.  The more children a family had, the bigger the check. Then the federal government would be debt free, but what would the media, like Time Magazine, do without that debt to kick around to scare us with?

Maybe what every man, woman and child in the U.S. should do is bill the federal government for what is owed them and if the feds don’t pay up add penalties and interest on that debt. Imagine how much the federal government would owe each U.S. citizen at the end of another ten years. Of course, the government could file bankruptcy and default on what they owe every man, woman and child in the United States.

If that happened, do you think the U.S. government would stop paying corporate welfare that adds up to more than $1 Trillion every decade — a lot less than what they pay America’s working poor so they don’t starve or end up homeless?


Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal.

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