As US total public debt outstanding has just topped $23 trillion for the first time, visualising this amount of debt is nigh on impossible.

A video released two years ago, two years ago attempted to do that by showing a visual of $20 trillion made up of $100 notes, and needless to say, the effect is simply mind-blowing.

As we reported, even the average daily increase in public debt outstanding over the period 31 October 2018-31 October 2019 was a staggering $3,578,191,222.80, or $3.58 billion in layman’s terms.

To help put it in perspective, here is a list of 16 things cheaper than the average daily increase in public debt outstanding:

  1. With farmland costing on average $3,140 an acre in 2018, according to the US Department of Agriculture, the daily increase in debt would be enough to purchase 1.14 million acres of land, or around 1780 square miles, an area larger than Rhode Island.
  2. Of course, you would want to something to put on your area of land the size of Rhode Island. Wait another day, and you would be able to buy 21.7 million feeder lambs.
  3. If land was not your thing, on 1 November 2019, you could instead have bought 6122 metric tons of silver
  4. …or 73.5 metric tons of gold. (But then, of course, buying gold is only for authoritarian governments!)
  5. President Trump might be disappointed to learn that the annual GDP of Greenland is less than the daily increase in public debt of the US. Given that Denmark subsidises the economy of Greenland, it’s not clear that either make much economic sense.
  6. If he was feeling altruistic, the President could also double the Net International Reserves of Jamaica, which in 2018 were sitting at $3.2 billion, allowing the country to “better position to withstand external shocks”.
  7. Total spending on lobbying in the United States in 2018 was reported as being $3.4 billion, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Among the big spenders was the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which “surpassed its 2009 lobbying record, shelling out $28 million in 2018.”
  8. In March 2019, $3.4 billion could have bought you Immarsat PLC, which according to its website “owns and operates the world’s most reliable satellite and ground networks, delivering global, mobile connectivity to customers where and when they need it most.”
  9. In 2017, China was reported to be spending $3.3 billion to construct two molten salt nuclear reactors in the Gobi Desert.
  10. Meanwhile, according to Eurasianet, at the start of 2019, Tajikistan’s external debt stood at $2.9 billion. The fact that $1.2 billion was owed to China is believed to be influential in Tajikistan gifting China rights to a 205-ton silver deposit. If President Trump were not spending so much on debt repayments, who knows, perhaps Tajikistan would be gifting silver mines to the United States.
  11. The US could also buy the entire government debt stock of the Bahamas. According to the Nassau Guardian, “The Bahamas International Securities Exchange (BISX) yesterday revealed the value of the more than 200 tranches of Bahamas government registered stock (BGRS) it has now listed at $3.5 billion.”
  12. NASA reckons that it could stop the Yellowstone supervolcano from ever erupting again and could generate geothermal power while it was at it, all for a mere $3.5 billion.
  13. Hans Adam II, Prince of Liechtenstein, the world’s sixth wealthiest royal, according to Time, might be sad to know that his total net worth of $3.5 billion would not allow US public debt to tread water for a day. Or there again, as an independent sovereign, perhaps he would not be too concerned.
  14. At the same time, $2.8 billion could have covered the cost of all losses – insured and uninsured – of the most expensive winter storm ever to have hit the U.S. affecting multiple states in February 2015.
  15. For $3.5 billion, Turkey was able to purchase 140 missiles from the US. A great sale for the arms industry, but still less than a single day’s increase in the country’s public debt.
  16. Finally, even Deutsche Bank’s losses can’t keep up with those of the United States. In the second quarter of 2019, the deeply troubled German bank lost $3.45 billion, according to AP.

Do not fear however, if you are concerned about US public debt, the US Treasury website offers ways that you can contribute to paying down the debt:

At, you can contribute online by credit card, debit card, PayPal, checking account, or savings account.

You can write a check payable to the Bureau of the Fiscal Service, and, in the memo section, notate that it’s a gift to reduce the debt held by the public. Mail your check to:

Attn Dept G
Bureau of the Fiscal Service
P. O. Box 2188
Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188


Article Licence:

CC BY-ND 4.0


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