Opinion | Politics

Mark Trahant: Our big bad ugly budget challenges can be fixed

"Four words to describe the finances of the United States: Big. Bad. Ugly. Budgets.

Numbers are thrown around that are so huge that the very mention of scares the bejesus out of us. Trillions are tossed about as normal political discourse. A trillion dollars! A number so huge that spelling it out is $ 1,000,000,000,000 (twelve zeros).

But what does this number mean in a country of more than 310,000,000 people?

One way to think about these numbers is to forget the millions, billions and trillions, and shift to percentages.

The budget deficit in 2011, for example, was 8.7 percent of all the spending in the economy, the Gross Domestic Product. Federal spending accounted for 24 percent of GDP with revenues of just over 15 percent. That’s the gap that has to be fixed. Eventually. The total public debt stood at 67 percent of GDP (plus a smaller amount that the government owes itself, basically promises to pay Social Security.)"

Get the Story:
Big. Bad. Ugly. Budgets. (Mark Trahant 1/16)

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