Visualizing the National Debt

A little over six months ago, William Brangham and Lisa Desjardins presented a short report on the U.S. national debt on PBS News Hour. Pay close attention to the numbers in the video below and how the size of the national debt is described.

That was on May 23, 2023. The big number they were using in the video was $31.4 trillion. That’s enough to make 13 stacks of $100 bills as tall as the Washington Monument.

Let’s flash forward to a little over one month ago. The Geograph channel on YouTube has put together its own short, animated video to visualize how significant the U.S. national debt is, progressively building up stacks of one-dollar bills inside New York’s Central Park until they reach the size of the national debt.

The $33.6 trillion figure in this video shows how much the U.S. government’s total outstanding public debt was between October 16 and October 23, 2023.

It’s grown bigger since this video. From October 23 through November 30, 2023, the U.S. government borrowed another $242 billion to spend. That puts the national debt at about $33.9 trillion. We will need a new video to visualize it soon with how fast it’s growing.

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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