The country’s debt compromises its level of independence

Last week, thoughtful Americans paused to reflect on and be grateful for our many liberties. To an enormous extent, we owe them to the nation’s founders, who followed up their courageous Declaration of Independence with a Constitution and Bill of Rights that have been reliable insurance for our freeom and prosperity – when we adhere to them.

But as we celebrate our ancestors’ decision to form a new nation and their steadfastness in achieving it, perhaps we ought also to think about our financial independence.

Most of the nation’s founders and early leaders understood the perils of a government deep in debt. Even Alexander Hamilton, who as secretary of the treasury advocated for moderate borrowing by government, had a horror of allowing federal spending to get out of control.

It has done just that. In just a few weeks, the U.S. national debt will top $20 trillion. What does that mean? It means that each and every person living in this country owes about $61,500. For a family of four, that works out to $246,000. If you own a home, did it cost that much?

But it is worse than that. Not everyone pays income taxes, the primary source of money for the federal government. Each taxpayer’s share of a $20 trillion national debt is about $166,000.

Sorry, but as bad as all that sounds, it is not the full truth. Twenty trillion dollars is the official national debt. But the government has obligations far beyond that, for various reasons. Among them are borrowing money from supposedly secure programs such as Social Security, and using it to fund day-to-day operations in Washington. At some point, that money will have to be paid back.

Estimates of the full debt vary. One often-cited figure is $70 trillion. Want to know your share? Multiply the numbers above by 3.5.

We’ll do the math for you: If you are a taxpayer, your share of that $70 trillion obligation is more than $580,000. How independent do you feel now?