Change Your Facebook Banner

We all know Facebook is awesome for keeping up with friends, sharing about your life, and even distributing ideas. One great new way to get people thinking is to take advantage of the new banner profile with the help of Intellectual Takeout. Here's what one of our banners looks like loaded up on a Facebook profile:

Facebook Banner

If you haven't changed your banner profile, than Facebook is likely auto-populating it with photos from your album(s) or from photos you've been tagged in. While those photos are sure nice, have you thought about changing it to promote freedom? If not, below are some ideas and instructions for you to consider.

Step 1 - Pick one of the images below:

Step 2 - Right click on the image you want and save it to your computer.

Step 3 - Go to Profile Banner on Facebook. Click here. You'll see a menu titled "Upload Your Own":

Facebook Profile Banner

Choose the image file you saved to your computer. Then you'll need to select "Scale, Crop & Rotate Image." After that, click "Upload." Once you click "Upload" you'll need to "Squash", "Scale", and maneuver the image to fit into the boxes. Once it looks good, click "Post" and then follow the directions after that. Enjoy! 

The Amagi

According to Liberty Fund, the Amagi (or Ama-gi) "is the earliest-known written appearance of the word 'freedom' (amagi), or 'liberty.' It is taken from a clay document written about 2300 B.C. in the Sumerian city-state of Lagash." Learn more here.

Amagi Freedom Cuneiform


The Goal is Freedom

We do not seek to implement a rigid ideology, to create an empire, or force people to live a certain way. Rather, the goal is to live in a nation in which individual freedom, including economic freedom, is seen as a just end in and of itself. Indeed, what nation is greater than one that exists to protect and promote the individual liberties of its citizens?

Goal is Freedom


Read the Constitution

We all know there are a variety of ways of looking at the Constitution. Whatever your position, the thing to keep in mind is that it is the document binding the country together, our social contract if you will. It's something worth reminding your friends and family to read. 

Read the Constitution


Only Congress can Declare War

Thinking about Libya? Remember, only Congress can declare war. Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution reads, "The Congress shall have Power  ... To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water." In other words, the President can't make war without the consent of Congress.

Only Congress can Declare War


The 10th Amendment

Tired of the federal government overstepping its bounds? Remind your friends and family that if the Constitution doesn't grant the United States government the power to do something, then that power is reserved for the states or the people. To learn more about the 10th Amendment, click here.

10th Amendment  


The 2nd Amendment

Do you cherish the right to defend yourself? If so, promote that Constitutional right with the banner below. To learn more about the 2nd Amendment, click here.

2nd Amendment


Dear TSA: Read the 4th Amendment

The 4th Amendment states: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." Does that sound like what's happening at the airports and train stations? Show how you feel about it with the banner below. To learn more about the TSA, click here.

TSA 4th Amendment


The 4th Amendment

These days the government is always looking for an excuse to search your stuff. Do we really want to live in a country where cops and government officials can search your person or your property willy-nilly? No. Make sure your friends know their Constitutional rights by using the banner below.

4th Amendment


Time to Balance the Budget

Worried about the federal government's runaway spending? We are, too. $14.3 trillion in debt is way too much. It's time to balance the budget and for the government to live within its means. To learn more about the national debt, click here.

balance the budget



The rise in prices at the pump and grocery store isn't an act of God. The Federal Reserve, the folks in charge of our money, have made inflation a policy. Help your friends and family understand the root cause of what's going on with the banner below. To learn more about inflation, click here.

Inflation Monetary Policy Friedman


Fear the Boom and Bust

Are you thinking things with the economy just aren't right? You're not alone. The folks in charge believe that more credit and printing money will get things going again. While that might be true for a little while, history tells us the effort is unsustainable and ultimately ends in a bust. 

Hayek Fear the Boom and Bust


Depression and Credit Expansion

Ludwig von Mises, the notable economist, once stated that, "Depression is the aftermath of credit expansion." Now that most Americans have experienced the Housing Bubble, driven mainly by credit expansion (easy money), many of us have learned the lesson. Unfortunately, the worst may still be ahead as the federal government props up the economy by borrowing and spending roughly 10% of the economy. If you want to learn more about deflation, click here



Who is John Galt?

If you're looking around, thinking things are falling apart, and that government seems to be working against you, you might be right. In Ayn Rand's famous tome, Atlas Shrugged, "Who is John Galt?" becomes the line that sums up that sentiment. If you haven't read Atlas Shrugged, it's a classic and controversial novel that's well worth a read. Get it here

Atlas Shrugged


Competition is Cooperation

Too often these days society seems intent on promoting the idea that competition is evil and that only by cooperating with each other can we build a just and prosperous future. The reality is that competition is a form of cooperation. Furthermore, competition has created tremendous prosperity, particularly compared to societies organized around forced cooperation. If you want to spread the message that competition is a good thing, then throw up the banner below. To learn more about competition, click here

Competition is Cooperation


Don't Tread on Me

A classic in the liberty movement. Widely recognized as a symbol of the liberty movement, the motto says it all, "Don't Tread on Me." In other words, let the individual be free to pursue his or her ambitions. You can learn more about the history of the Gadsden Flag here.

 Don't Tread on Me

Prices Communicate Information

Few individuals mind when prices go down. But when prices go up, depending on the good for sale, the public outcry can be enormous. More often than not, politicians will want to "fix" things with wage and price controls. History has repeatedly shown, even here in the U.S., that wage and price controls do not work. The ability to freely set prices is fundamental to a market economy. Prices communicate information and help individuals properly allocate scarce resources. To learn more about the role of prices, click here.


 Wage and Price Controls Don't Work

Wage and Price Controls


We're on the Road to Serfdom

The famous economist F.A. Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom in which he explored the competing ideas of classical liberalism, fascism, and socialism as well as compared individualism and collectivism. His basic message is that as individuals trade life in a free society for security through economic planning that they will inevitably become more and more impoverished and enslaved to the state (i.e., serfdom). If you haven't read the book, it is a must-read. You can purchase it here. Where are we now? We're on the road to serfdom.

We're on the Road to Serfdom


Property Rights are a Cornerstone of Freedom

Who owns you? Do you own yourself or does the government own you? It's a fundamental philosophical question that reveals how central the concept of property rights is to individual freedom.

Property is a Cornerstone of Freedom


Learn more about the ideas of individual liberty at

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Commentary or Blog Post


That's what the National Debt topped this week, a record.

Go ahead, let it soak in: Thirteen trillion, fifty billion, eight hundred twenty-six million, four hundred sixty thousand, eight hundred eighty-six dollars . . . and ninety-seven cents.


"Republicans in Congress are calling for $2.2 trillion in deficit-reduction, including significant cuts to healthcare programs for the elderly and poor along with tax changes that they argue would boost the economy, congressional aides said on Thursday.

The plan offered by Republicans who serve on a congressional 'super committee' tasked with slashing deficits calls for cuts to the...

"The 2012 political year is right around the corner and the recent failure by the so-called 'Super Committee' to reach agreement on $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction will re-cast the environment on Capitol Hill and shape the 2012 campaign.

With divided control of Congress, and a 60-vote threshold in the U.S. Senate, major Congressional action before the 2012 election is now extremely...

Claire Suddath explains the current budget deficit level and how the projections for the 2009 deficit were actually lower then expected. However, the current national deficit will increase the debt to GDP ratio faster then during any time since World War II. The overarching changes in the national debt since the founding of the United States are also explained. The...

"As Washington scrambles to find the 'just right' package that will allow enough of Congress to vote for an increase in the debt ceiling, some leaders have asked those Americans who make more money to be willing to pay more taxes, calling for fairness to be reflected in the tax code. However, new research from Bruce Yandle finds that from 1979 to 2007 the individual income tax burden on the...

U.S. National Debt FAQs answers some common questions about the national debt, deficit, and why they need to be reduced.

"Members of President Obama’s bipartisan deficit commission argued on Wednesday that the government’s mountain of debt is higher than it appears and already threatens to hamper economic growth. But on a day when Republicans and Democrats bent over backwards to be polite to one another, Democrats themselves appeared divided between fiscal conservatives and liberals...

"In Q2 2009, total debt outstanding in the United States — financial plus nonfinancial debt — amounted to 373.4% of GDP. At the start of 1952, the debt-to-GDP ratio stood at only 130%. In fact, in the last decades the rise in total debt has increasingly outpaced nominal income — a development which gained momentum after the erosion of the last vestiges of the...

"Today, without much fanfare, US debt to GDP hit 101% with the latest issuance of $32 billion in 2 Year Bonds. If the moment when this ratio went from double to triple digits is still fresh in readers minds, is because it is: total debt hit and surpassed the most recently revised Q4 GDP on January 30, or just three weeks ago. Said otherwise, it has taken the US 21 days to add a full percentage...

"Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that huge U.S. budget deficits threaten the nation's long-term economic health and should be addressed soon.

Obama administration officials have argued that the economy, while improving, is still too weak to bear all the new taxes and spending cuts that would come with an...

"President Obama's budget would:

  • Permanently expand the federal government by nearly 3 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) over 2007 pre-recession levels;
  • Borrow 42 cents for each dollar spent in 2010;
  • Leave permanent deficits that top $1 trillion in as late as 2020."

"The federal budget deficit appears to be narrowing slowly but steadily, as corporate and individual income taxes rise thanks to the rebounding economy.

The Treasury Department reported Wednesday that it collected $171 billion in taxes and other revenue last month, the highest March tally since 2008, when Bear Stearns was acquired at a government-run fire sale by J.P. Morgan Chase JPM -...

"The amount of U.S. debt per person has ballooned by more than a factor 50 in the past 90 years. This tremendous increase of inflation-adjusted federal government borrowing was explained in a post on Monday. But as some readers noted, real income has increased as well over the years. If you take rising incomes into account, does the picture look any better?"

Due to the fact that Treasury Secretary Geithner stated that President Obama desired to return to the fiscal policies of the Clinton administration, Keith Hennessey uses this piece to draw comparisons between the two presidents. According to Hennessey, the spending...

"Earlier this week, the Obama White House criticized Members of Congress for examining the effects of the $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts scheduled to kick in next year. Instead, the Administration said it would prefer that lawmakers turn their attention to longer-term deficit reduction proposals. But this is not an either/or situation; both need serious attention.


"IT SEEMED a good idea at the time. But sequestration, an ugly word for an ugly thing, now threatens to rip the heart out of America's defence budget.

Sequestration was part of the deal hammered out last August to extend America's debt-ceiling when it was on the verge of default. The deal set up a congressional 'super-committee' charged with cutting the deficit by $1.5 trillion on top...

"I could not resist posting this beautiful graph of the current state of the momentousness US debt. The graph is particularly useful for eyeballing the historical path of U.S. debt to GDP. Often pundits will say that our current debt to GDP ratio is not unreasonable because it is not too high relative to the period following the WWII and the Great Depression."

"The federal deficit is higher than it has been since the 1940s, in the years immediately after World War II. ...

In every second of 2011, for example, the government spent $114,253—even though it was only taking in $73,043 in revenue. According to Face the Facts, that means the federal government spent $41,210 every second that it didn't actually have."

"To summarize, Ryan’s budget plan would make crucial reforms to federal health care programs, and it would limit the size of the federal government over the long term. However, his plan would be improved by adopting more cuts and...

In this week’s chart, Mercatus Center Research Fellow Matthew Mitchell uses data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to illustrate the increase in the size of federal, state, and local expenditures as a share of GDP over the course of the past century.

"The gridlocked members of the congressional supercommittee should grab President Obama and decamp to a tropical island. Specifically, they should visit Puerto Rico, where a courageous leader is using free-market reforms to reinvigorate this previously moribund U.S. territory."

"The chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) called out the president for his willful neglect of the process in the wake of the failure of the Super Committee to present a deficit reduction plan before the November 23 deadline.

'Though President Obama acknowledged that entitlement programs are some of the biggest drivers of our debt, he has failed to show any leadership in...

"There are numerous clichés concerning the national (i.e. federal government) debt. In this article I attempt to show the grain of truth (and pile of falsehood) in these typical statements. But before doing so, I will first give a quick primer on government debt and its financing."

"Late this month [September 2011], the 131st edition of the Statistical Abstract of the United States is scheduled for release. It will be the final installment of the paper edition of the fact-packed government annual, a planned casualty of the current budget austerity that stands only a slight chance, sources say, of winning a reprieve when Congress tackles appropriations this fall."

"Democrats looking to capitalize on voter anger at Congress began targeting Republican incumbents in the House of Representatives Wednesday, saying they were responsible for the failure of the bipartisan super committee to reach a deal cutting the country's federal debt.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is launching robotic calls to voters in 30 GOP-held House districts,...

"The House votes Friday on a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, and members of both parties say they support one. But a dispute over which version of the amendment should pass could doom the whole effort."

"There's widespread agreement the national debt is a problem.  And since voters have picked up on the issue, you're going to be hearing more about it from Republicans and Democrats in Washington, who last week began the annual circus known as 'the budget process.'"

"Spending by the intelligence community dropped for the second year in a row following the dramatic increases in the years after the 2001 terrorist attacks and it's a trend that will continue."

"The recent flow of funds data released by the Fed shows that a level of private debt continues to soar. For instance, home mortgages as a percentage of disposable income rose to 97.9% in Q2 from 97% in the quarter before. The non-financial debt-to-nominal-GDP ratio stood at a record 2.1 in Q2 the same figure as in the previous quarter.


"When President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 into law yesterday, he was adding to what is already almost guaranteed to be the largest deficit in American history. In January, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the deficit this year would be $1.2 trillion ...

"Today’s release of the 2012Q2 Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit indicates a continuation of the downward trend in household debt, which followed a long period of substantial increases. As of June 30, 2012, total outstanding household debt was down nearly $1.3 trillion since its peak in the third quarter of 2008."

"With the hours ticking away toward a self-imposed deadline, Congressional leaders conceded Sunday that talks on a sweeping deficit agreement were near failure and braced for recriminations over their inability to reach a deal.

The stalemate was the latest sign of partisan deadlock in Washington, which members of both parties do not expect to lift until the 2012 election has clarified...

"The United States is not the first nation to wrestle with large and unsustainable national debt. Economists have identified a number of other instances in which wealthy, industrialized nations have taken on dangerous levels of national debt and have attempted reform. The bad news, as this week’s chart by Mercatus Research Fellow Matthew Mitchell demonstrates, is that the large majority of...

In this piece, Paul Krugman skeptically questions the current popular fervor to cut government spending. Instead of following popular opinion, Krugman declares that "governments should be spending while the private sector won’t, so that debtors can pay down their...

"The latest posting today of the National Debt shows it has topped $14 trillion for the first time.

The U.S. Treasury website today reported that as of last Friday, the last day of 2010, the National Debt stood at $14,025,215,218,708.52.

It took just 7 months for the National Debt to increase...

This piece reports on the national debt increases incurred so far under President Obama's tenure in office. Knoller notes that although President Obama often blames President Bush for the nation's high deficit, it is believed that President Obama will manage...

"In 2011, as in 2010, America was in a technical recovery but continued to suffer from disastrously high unemployment. And through most of 2011, as in 2010, almost all the conversation in Washington was about something else: the allegedly urgent issue of reducing the budget deficit.

This misplaced focus said a lot about our political culture, in particular about how disconnected...

"President Obama placed blame for the failure of the 'super committee' squarely on Republicans, saying their refusal to consider raising taxes as part of a 'balanced approach' to deficit reduction remains the key stumbling block.

'There are still too many Republicans in Congress who have refused to listen to the voices of reason and compromise that are coming from outside of Washington...

"The national debt is skyrocketing. In 2009 publicly held debt is projected to jump to 54.8 percent of GDP, up from 40.8 percent in 2008. A year-to-year increase of this size hasn’t occurred since World War II."

"America’s financial situation is unsustainable. In 2009 the federal government spent $3.5 trillion but collected only $2.1 trillion in revenue. The result was a $1.4 trillion deficit, up from $458 billion in 2008. That’s 10 percent of gross domestic product, a level unseen since World War II. Worse, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that we’ll be drowning in red ink for the...

Debt rose across the rich world during the boom, from consumers maxing out credit cards to financial firms taking on more leverage, and the process of reducing it is still at a very early stage.

"Thus, if the ruling elite has its way, and it shall, as the American people have no opinion on the matter, or can even be bothered to think about it, we are faced with at least half a century of intermittent war and a further augmentation of the national security state that has been draining our wealth like a voracious vampire since 1950. There is no secret...

"In the spring of 1981, conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives cried. They cried because, in the first flush of the Reagan Revolution that was supposed to bring drastic cuts in taxes and government spending, as well as a balanced budget, they were being asked by the White House and their own leadership to vote for an increase in the statutory...

"Government spending drives taxes, deficits, debt and inflation, so it’s at the core of our economic problems. What to do about runaway spending? The tendency is to imagine that it might be controlled by electing the right politicians, enacting a law like a balanced budget amendment, passing a spending limitation ballot initiative, establishing a super committee or coming up with some kind...

"The Super Committee's failure to produce a deal gives us all breathing room to construct a successful path forward for America."

"Veronique de Rugy examines the fiscal year-over- fiscal year deficit effects of the final healthcare legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), using Congressional Budget Office projections."

"The high stakes game on Capitol Hill to cut $1.2 trillion from the federal deficit ended in a stalemate Monday, effectively suspending tough decisions on budget cuts or tax increases until after next year’s presidential election.

The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction chaired by Sen. Patty Murray (D.–Wash.) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R.–Texas) made the announcement in a joint...

"Superstorm Sandy ran up a super bill of $42 billion across New York state, causing more damage in financial terms than infamous Hurricane Katrina, Governor Andrew Cuomo said."

"Debt is the essential fuel for a superpower that spends billions of dollars more than it receives in tax revenue — every day. The job of the debt auctioneers is to keep things humming smoothly. It's a boring process, but maybe not forever. When adjusted for inflation, the United States' publicly held debt is nearly $8 trillion. That number could more than double...

"While most are keenly aware of the rapidly nearing debt-limit increase deadline, few can explain—or even agree on—what that deadline means: specifically, what are the potential implications of missing the deadline, and what’s at stake in the negotiations for passing an increase?"

De Rugy discusses the affect of interest payments on the national debt. "Starting in 2012, the cost of the debt as a percentage of GDP will explode from a mere 1.8 percent of GDP to more than 30 percent of GDP in 2082."

"Did you know that annual spending by the federal government now exceeds the 2007 level by about $1 trillion? With a slow economy, revenues are little changed. The result is an unprecedented string of federal budget deficits, $1.4 trillion in 2009, $1.3 trillion in 2010, $1.3 trillion in 2011, and another $1.2 trillion on the way this year. The four-year increase in borrowing amounts to $55,...

"About that $14 trillion national debt: Get ready to tack some zeroes onto it. Taken alone, the amount of debt issued by the federal government that $14 trillion figure that shows up on the national ledger — is a terrifying, awesome, hellacious number: Fourteen trillion seconds ago, Greenland was covered by lush and verdant forests, and the Neanderthals had...

"Back in January, we featured a post where we looked at who are the largest holders of the U.S. national debt. Since that time, the U.S. Treasury has revised their data, specifically to identify who the real foreign owners of the U.S. national debt are."

"One of the outside economic-analysis firms that the White House likes to quote is Macroeconomic Advisers. Here’s what the firm said yesterday about where the U.S. economy is heading ... :

Assuming current fiscal policies remain in force, our economic model suggests that interest rates will rise considerably over the next decade, with the yield...

"The great uncertainty about how much debt is too much has tended to make fiscal discipline seem less urgent, rather than more. There is no obvious threshold beyond which investors will demand higher real yields for holding U.S. debt. Vague warnings from ratings agencies about the loss of America's 'AAA' status haven't added much clarity — until recently."

"This week, Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy re-examines the components of the federal debt using the most recent data from the Treasury Department’s Bulletin June 2011 and Monthly Statement of the Public Debt March 2011."

The bottom line is that the debt problem in the United States will not go away as long as we don’t reform Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

"The United States faces economic crisis after members of the bipartisan congressional 'super committee' given the task of finding spending cuts of $1.2 trillion admitted on Sunday night that they are heading for failure."

This week, Mercatus Center Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy examines the annual and cumulative spending cuts under the $1.2 trillion Budget Control Act (BCA) sequester.

"When complicated issues like the debt suddenly become national news controversies, sometimes the tendency is to emphasize the drama of the story rather than explain the basics of the issue. What is the debt? Why is it growing? Should we be terribly concerned about it? And how would we fix it if we had to? Martin Baily answers those questions in the interview...

"The White House released a detailed breakdown of the sequestration cuts to defense and non-defense budgets Friday, giving the clearest picture to date of where the ax will fall if lawmakers fail to prevent the automatic spending cuts with new legislation.

Cuts of approximately $110 billion are set to take effect in Jan. 3, according to an agreement reached by the administration and...

"'There are two basic truths about the enormous deficits that the federal government will run in the coming years.

The first is that President Obama's agenda, ambitious as it may be, is responsible for only a sliver of the deficits, despite what many of his Republican critics are saying.  The second is that Mr. Obama does...

Chart or Graph

"Most of the 77 million post-World War II baby boomers (representing one-fourth of the U.S. population) are still working, but some are beginning to retire. As boomers retire, federal spending for Social Security and especially Medicare, given rapidly rising health care costs, will grow dramatically."

The graph above shows the changes in the United States' government revenue from 1901 to 2011. The graph dramatically shows the decline in postive net revenue for the government.

Spending by the federal government over the last few years has expanded while tax revenues have been flat or below rates seen in 2008.

"The federal budget is a key instrument in federal policy making. Through the budget process the Congress and the President determine national priorities and allocate resources among the many competing needs."

The graph above shows in blue the personal debt of Americans indexed to the growth of America's population in red. Proportionally, debt has been rising rapidly in recent decades compared to the population. Only since the beginning of the 2007-2009 recession has personal debt decreased.

The graph above, using data gathered by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, compares the United States' government's debt to household debt (private debt, personally held by the public) with both indexed for population.

From early 2007 onwards there were signs that economies were reaching the limit of their ability to absorb more borrowing. The growth-boosting potential of debt seemed to peter out. According to Leigh Skene of Lombard Street Research, each additional dollar of debt was associated with less and less growth (see chart 2).

The graph above tracks the total public debt since 1966. On January 1, 1980, the national debt was roughly $863 billion. By the end of the decade, December 31, 1989, the national debt was over $2.9 trillion.

Interest Rates on National Debt from 1970 to 2020 based on ten-year treasury notes and three-month treasury bills.

This graph shows how the national debt has increased since 1980. Since having a one trillion deficit in 1980, the national debt has exploded to nearly 9 trillion in 2005.

The chart above compares the population of the United States and inflation as well as the federal government's tax revenues and expenditures. The red line indicates population growth, the green line indicates inflation, the blue line indicates federal tax receipts and the orange line indicates federal spending.

This chart by Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy illustrates the recent expansion of federal spending per American household, using household data from the United States Census Bureau and spending data from the Congressional Budget Office.

This chart by Veronique de Rugy pairs the changes in the statutory debt limit since 2000 with the corresponding debt subject to this statutory limit. Years in which the limit was raised a single time are noted by squares; years in which the limit was raised twice are noted by triangles.

Debt increased at every level, from consumers to companies to banks to whole countries. The effect varied from country to country, but a survey by the McKinsey Global Institute found that average total debt (private and public sector combined) in ten mature economies rose from 200% of GDP in 1995 to 300% in 2008 (see chart 1 for a breakdown by country).

That total - equal to $29,700 per American and $78,683 per household - is the amount as of Sept. 19 that the federal government has borrowed from the public as well as its own accounts such as the Social Security Trust Fund. If the government paid $1 billion a day toward the debt, it would take 25 years to pay off.

This chart by Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy examines likely options for the long-term cost of carrying the debt held by the public if investors begin to demand higher interest rates.

This chart by Mercatus Center Senior Research Fellow, Veronique de Rugy, compiles data from the United States Treasury to illustrate our nation’s total commitments – even if no new participants ever enroll in Medicare or Social Security.

These graphs show the proportion of government spending for various discretionary and non-discretionary purposes. As a result of increased debt, the proportion spent on interest payments is expected to significantly increase by 2015.

Figure 1 shows that spending rises more slowly over the next decade under Ryan’s plan than Obama’s plan. But spending rises substantially under both plans —between 2012 and 2021, spending rises 34 percent under Ryan and 55 percent under Obama.

This graph clearly shows that even if the US debt to GDP ratio is lower than it was at some previous point in history—the MAGNITUDE of the change is worth ... serious attention. Since the 1980s, the effects of a shift toward a dominant Keynesian view of economic policy are clear.

Figure 2 compares Ryan’s and Obama’s proposed spending levels at the end of the 10-year budget window in 2021. The figure indicates where Ryan finds his budget savings.

Turns out, the CBO looked at how at the deluge of debt from its 'alternative fiscal scenario' would impact the economy (and, in turn, total indebtedness). The results are absolutely frightening.

This week, Mercatus Center Research Fellow Veronique de Rugy examines the annual and cumulative spending cuts under the $1.2 trillion Budget Control Act (BCA) sequester.

The chart above compares the President’s budget deficit projections to the Congressional Budget Office’s budget deficit projections under current law. In other words, the policy changes embodied in President Obama’s 2011 Budget puts our country $2.5 trillion deeper in debt by 2020 than it other wise would be if current law were left unchanged.

Do you remember back in April 2010, when the administration was trumpeting how much better the expected budget deficit for 2010 was going to be? When, magically, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget’s projection of the expected deficit dropped by just over $300 billion U.S. dollars from its originally forecast value of $1.6 trillion dollars to $1.29 trillion dollars?

America's per capita debt is worse than any of the European nations which are currently in economic turmoil.

As of March 2011, our gross federal debt amounts to $14.27 trillion. This debt is comprised of debt held by the public ($9.6 trillion) plus debt held in intragovernmental accounts ($4.6 trillion). In total, gross debt is 94.6% of estimated GDP for FY 2011. Debt held by the Federal Reserve—as a portion of public debt—increased 74% from 2010 to 2011.

"Interest rates on U.S. bonds may be ridiculously low, but that doesn't mean the country's future interest payments on the national debt will be."

"Using data from the Congressional Budget Office’s 2010 Long-Term Budget Outlook, this chart illustrates the harsh reality that if we do not deviate from our current path, the majority of future federal spending will be to finance the spending of the past."

If current policies continue, debt held by the public will nearly double in the next ten years. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this measure of debt, which does not include securities issued by the Treasury to federal trust funds and other government accounts, will reach $18.3 trillion by 2021.

"Consumers continued paying down their mortgage debt, even at a faster rate, during 2010 and 2011."

"When we combine nonmortgage and mortgage debt, we find that the active reduction of debt continued in 2010 and 2011. We conclude that while nonmortgage debt rebounded somewhat in 2011, household deleveraging continued, primarily as homeowners continued to pay down their housing debt."

The above chart by Mercatus Center senior research fellow, Veronique de Rugy examines the fiscal year-over-fiscal year deficit effects of the final healthcare legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), using Congressional Budget Office projections.

Actual/projected surplus/deficit of the Federal budget 2000-2022 as a percentage of GDP.

As a percentage of GDP, the federal budget will show a deficit of 7.0 percent in 2012, according to the CBO's current-law baseline.

"The CBO, at the request of Rep. Paul Ryan, recently looked at how various interest rate scenarios would affect U.S. debt (chart and graph via the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget).

U.S. spending on entitlement programs drastically grew between 1965 and 2009. This rapid expansion far outpaced U.S. GDP growth, and thus greatly contributed to U.S. debt growth.

The chart shows how expenditures as a share of GDP spiked during World War II but were reduced rapidly and significantly. However, spending never returned to the pre-war level and has followed a general upward trend ever since.

"So somehow the world's two most indebted countries (recall that Japan is about to in total pass 1 quadrillion debt) are out there and buying up the biggest amount of US debt (after the Fed of course)?"

"We account for nearly 50 percent of all military spending; our allies and potential strategic partners contribute much of the rest. (See Figure 2.)"

The chart shows trends in the largest holders of U.S. treasury notes.

This represents the number of times Americans' annual personal income could pay off the national debt. For example, if the ratio is three, that means that Americans earned enough income during the year to have paid off the national debt three times. Put another way, the national debt amounted to one-third of total personal annual income.

The exceedingly low interest rates of the 21st century have allowed the U.S. Debt burden to stay much lower than it would be under more normal interest rates. According to this chart, even a 6% interest rate could dramatically increase the debt burden.

"Six months into fiscal 2012, the margin between public debt outstanding and the statutory limit is $855 billion."

Chart featuring the major foreign countries holding United States debt.

In those instances where reforms succeeded in lowering debt-to-GDP ratios, the researchers found that governments had pursued large spending reductions and modest revenue reductions.

"Interestingly, the chart ... reveals that the trends are starkly different for various loan types; consumers actively reduced debt for consumption-related expenditures for both 2009 and 2010, but new borrowing for education was fairly constant throughout the period."

In 1989, foreign investors and governments held 18% of America's debt. In 2010, U.S. debt had increased by 7 trillion dollars and foreign investors held 46% of the total U.S. debt.

Social Security tax receipts exceeded outlays in every year between 1984 and 2008, leading to a cumulative surplus of $1.4 trillion.

This chart shows the growth of the U.S. national debt from 2007 to 2011--an increase of 36 percent.

"The federal government's budget deficit for fiscal year 2011 was $1.3 trillion; at 8.7% of gross domestic product (GDP), that deficit was the third-largest shortfall in the past 40 years. (GDP is the sum of all income earned in the domestic production of goods and services. In 2011, it totaled $15.0 trillion.)"

"Back in January, we featured a post where we looked at who are the largest holders of the U.S. national debt. Since that time, the U.S. Treasury has revised their data, specifically to identify who the real foreign owners of the U.S. national debt are."

n light of the final debt ceiling kabuki theater, lets take a look at the historical government spending, via Jim Bianco of Bianco Research. Jim gives us this snapshot looking at total Federal government outlays as a percentage of GDP.

Effective interest rates: If debt levels & interest rates rise dramatically beyond 2010, net interest payments could soar.

Under the Obama budget, interest would top 18% of revenue in 2018 and 20% in 2020, CBO projects. But under more adverse scenarios than the CBO considered, including higher interest rates, Moody's projects that debt service could hit 22.4% of revenue by 2013.

What we find is that even after adjusting for inflation, President Obama intends to permanently increase the federal government spending by an average of $576.4 billion during the years from 2010 through 2013. We also see that he doesn’t plan to stop there.

The interactive graphic above shows the overall debt levels for a wide range of countries, based on data supplied by the McKinsey Global Institute.

Analysis Report White Paper

This paper presents evidence that public debts in the advanced economies have surged in recent years to levels not recorded since the end of World War II, surpassing the heights reached during the First World War and the Great Depression. At the same time, private debt levels, particularly those of financial institutions and households, are in uncharted territory and are (in varying degrees) a contingent liability of the public sector in many countries.

"This special report will argue that, for the developed world, the debt-financed model has reached its limit. Most of the options for dealing with the debt overhang are unpalatable. As has already been seen in Greece and Ireland, each government will have to find its own way of reducing the burden."

"The United States needs a defense budget worthy of its name, one that protects Americans rather than wasting vast sums embroiling us in controversies remote from our interests. This paper outlines such a defense strategy and the substantial cuts in military spending that it allows."

"The real challenge is what we face after the recession: significant sustained deficits which, while not quite as eye catching, are equally historic, harder to solve, and pose a greater danger."

"Some things a person does owe to himself–intangibles like respect, integrity, responsibility. 'This above all, to thine own self be true.' But such duties to self are not a debt in the usual sense of a repayable loan or obligation."

"A growing deficit and the related interest cost automatically add to total federal debt and increase the amount owed by each man, woman, and child in the U.S. population."

"This paper explores the possibility of the U.S. experiencing a debt crisis in the medium run, meaning somewhere between 2015 and 2035. It is impossible to state precisely the trigger point for a crisis. At best, we can make guesses about some of the key parameters."

"President Bush signed a $152 billion stimulus bill in 2008 and President Obama signed a $787 billion stimulus bill early in 2009, and the ranks of unemployed continue to swell. Despite the paucity of results, some policymakers are suggesting the need for a third round of debt-financed spending."

"The title of my presentation [at the Nebraska Library Association annual conference, October 2011] 'Learning to Live Without a Statistical Abstract,' signals that our gathering this morning is something of a memorial. The Statistical Abstract, born in 1878 and published annually thereafter, may well be dead...."

"That sad experience should be raising red flags in the United States, where the unsustainable longer-run trajectory of the US public finances is now suggesting the real risk of either a destructive burst of inflation or an outright government debt default."

"If we study our national debt, we can discover some generalizations that help us understand how our presidents and our national character have changed over time."

"As the debt grows, government’s interest burden grows with it. The more of our tax dollars consumed by interest, the fewer dollars available for discretionary spending. What’s worse, more pressure is then exerted to use tax increases to fund mandatory spending programs, such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid."

"This article examines the political and economic implications of China's rising share of U.S. public debt, and asks whether foreign-held debt is a real threat to U.S. prosperity or an excuse for economic nationalism."

Imagine a team of doctors hovering over the bed of the U.S. economy. With charts in hand and apparatus all around them, the medical team confers about a patient that has been in intensive care since June of 2009, which is when the recession ended. While the patient listens, the senior physician makes a quick rundown.

"This paper argues that current U.S. expenditure is far greater than necessary to support an efficient economy or an equitable society, so expenditure should be cut regardless of the fiscal outlook."

"The specter of a credit downgrade looms, and it is frightful. A downgrade threatens to push interest rates higher, making it more difficult for consumers to borrow, for businesses to hire, and for the economy to grow."

"Households headed by older adults have made dramatic gains relative to those headed by younger adults in their economic well-being over the past quarter of a century, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of a wide array of government data."

"Given our strong economy, lenders, both domestic and foreign, have thus far been willing to finance our national debt. However, in light of projected deficit and debt burdens, this may change."

"Experience in Illinois indicated that our home state’s budgeting process regularly evaded the intent of our constitutional and statutory requirements for balanced budgets and sound accounting principles. Now complete, our report discovered that the budgeting and accounting problems we first identified in Illinois are rampant in other states."

"For most individuals, maxing out one’s credit card is usually a sign of a spending problem—but not if you’re Congress. For the first time in history, the national debt has hit $12 trillion, and it will soon exceed the $12.1 trillion maximum amount of debt allowed by law."

This report looks at the federal government as if it were a business, with the goal of informing the debate about our nation's financial situation and outlook. In it, we examine USA Inc.'s income statement and balance sheet. We aim to interpret the underlying data and facts and illustrate patterns and trends in easy-to-understand ways.


"Keith Hennessey of Stanford University's Hoover Institution talks with EconTalk host Russ Roberts about the debt ceiling and the budget process. Hennessey, who worked for Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott on budget issues in the late 1990s, explains the politics of the debt ceiling and the budget process. Using his past experience as a staffer, Hennessey gives those of us on the outside a...

Using a penny as a visual aid to demonstrate one billion dollars, Bob Williams explains the massive growth in America's national debt in recent history. This video provides a brief, clear, and rather overwhelming example of the great financial burden that is piling up for future generations.

Aaron Sturgill created this video for Know-Y's National Debt Video Contest.

"Senator Barack Obama talks about the national debt."

"Do you know what the national debt means to you? This video explores some of the most shocking facts about the current U.S. debt, including the whopping $125,000 each citizen would have to owe today if we had to pay off our country's debt."

"A satirical short film taking a look at the national debt and how it applies to just one family."

"Huge budget deficits and record levels of national debt are getting a lot of attention, but this video explains that unfunded liabilities for entitlement programs are Americas real red-ink challenge. More important, this CF&P mini-documentary reveals that deficits and debt are symptoms of the real problem of an excessive burden of government spending."

"Dreamland" is a video created by Intellectual Takeout through its project. It is the first of several videos aimed to raise awareness with moms about the national debt and the perils America faces. The video is careful to point out that it is not just politicians and the government that have embraced debt, but also many Americans.

"The erosion of private property rights, a prodigious federal debt, and a nearly incomprehensible tax code are all part of an overweening administrative state that today threatens the liberty of all Americans.

The Second Constitution Town Hall on April 16, 2011, addressed these issues and took questions from a live audience. Congressman Mike Pence and Hillsdale College faculty and...

"The erosion of private property rights, a prodigious federal debt, and a nearly incomprehensible tax code are all part of an overweening administrative state that today threatens the liberty of all Americans. The Second Constitution Town Hall on April 16, 2011, addressed these issues and took questions from a live audience. Congressman Mike Pence and Hillsdale College faculty and leading...

"The Federal Government is addicted to spending. Watch this video from the Heritage Foundation to learn about the trouble we are in and where to find solutions."

According to Shapiro, each American's share of the National debt is $45,000. Shapiro uses a man-on-the-street format to inform people of the National Debt problem.

Michelle Payne created this video for Know-Y's National Debt Video Contest.

"It's official, trillion is the new billion. No longer is government spending talked about in terms of a mere ten digits. With the recent flurry of government spending, we are going to need another three zeros to make sense of it all. One trillion dollars is a number that few people can comprehend, let alone your standard nine digit calculator. So what does one trillion dollars look like?"

"Watch Congressman Pete Stark blow up when Jan Helfeld asks him why Stark believes, 'the more we owe, the wealthier we are.'"

Peter Schiff, a candidate for Senator in Connecticut, explains the economic crisis.  Schiff argues that the economic collapse is not over.  Because of our inability to allow markets to restructure, Schiff argues, the coming downturn will be much worse than expected.

"Bankrupting America is back with our second edition of Real or Fake. Can you tell which of these facts about our government's spending are real or fake?

Shrimp on treadmill? Extraordinarily well paid life-guards? Could these possibly be real? Watch and find out."

"Joke-telling robots, expensive walking tunnels, Blackberries for smokers, and training American prostitutes to drink responsibly. What do these things have in common? They're all questionable government spending projects in a time when our economy is struggling and people can't get jobs....or, maybe we just made them up.

Put yourself to the test. See if you can outwit the Rebel...

"Samantha, mom of two, and Sam, uncle of 300 million Americans, have very different ideas of responsible spending."

This video declares that it is time to "wake up" and realize that the huge amount of debt America is incurring is threatening the next generation's future.

"Stephen shows just how much the government is borrowing by simply 'putting it on their tab,' and the consequences these actions will have on the future generations."

"This video takes you to the United Estates--a gated community in sunny Florida--to help you understand the impact of Congress’ decision to annually raise our nation’s debt limit without addressing the out-of-control spending that keeps us buried in debt."

Daniel Hannan's new book, The New Road to Serfdom: A Letter of Warning to America, urges Americans not to take such things as federalism, the rule of law and limited government for granted.

Young economists and journalists discuss the rising national debt.

This video was produced by Intellectual Takeout through its project. The video is the first of several that will raise awareness about the national debt with Generation Y. 

"The U.S. federal government collected $2.2 trillion and spent $3.8 trillion in 2011. At the same time, it was $14.6 trillion in debt. These numbers are too big to comprehend, so what if we scale it down to an average household's income level? If you spent the way the government does, you might be contemplating bankruptcy. What should be done to ensure the government gets its fiscal house in...

Primary Document

"On its current course, United States fiscal policy threatens to hobble the nation's prospects for economic growth. Economic theory suggests that an important source of the problem is the government's ability to purchase services for current voters with taxes levied on future generations. A balanced budget requirement, by "internalizing" both the costs and benefits of government services,...

James J. Hill was a great businessman and amassed the immense fortune typical for an early 20th century robber baron. As the title suggests, this book compiles his many speeches.

"We begin a new year at a moment of continuing challenge for the American people. Even as we recover from crisis, millions of families are still feeling the pain of lost jobs and savings. Businesses are still struggling to find affordable loans to expand and hire workers. Our Nation is still experiencing the consequences of a deep and lasting recession, even as we...

"Over the past few years, U.S. government debt held by the public has grown rapidly—to the point that, compared with the total output of the economy, it is now higher than it has ever been except during the period around World War II. The recent increase in debt has been the result of three sets of factors: an imbalance between federal revenues and spending that...

"Once again the federal government has reached its 'debt ceiling,' and once again Congress is poised to authorize an increase in government borrowing.  Between its ever-growing bureaucracies, expanding entitlements, and overseas military entanglements, the federal government is borrowing roughly one billion dollars every day to pay its bills...

Among other things, this bill calls for the repeal of the Trouble Asset Relief Act.

"To establish a fee on transactions which would eliminate the national debt and replace the income tax on individuals."

"To establish a trust fund to hold new Federal revenue from mineral exploration, development, and production in Alaska and the Outer Continental Shelf in order to reduce the national debt."

"Historical Tables provides data on budget receipts, outlays, surpluses or deficits, Federal debt, and Federal employment over an extended time period, generally from 1940 or earlier to 2012 or 2016.

To the extent feasible, the data have been adjusted to provide consistency with the 2012 Budget and to provide comparability over time."

"Expressing the sense of Congress that there should be a freeze on new discretionary non-defense, non-homeland security, non-intelligence spending whenever there is a Federal budget deficit."

"Is the United States bankrupt? Many would scoff at this notion. Others would argue that financial implosion is just around the corner. This paper explores these views from both partial and general equilibrium perspectives. It concludes that countries can go broke, that the United States is going broke, that remaining open to foreign investment can help stave off...

It is my duty to recommend to your serious consideration those objects which by the Constitution are placed particularly within your sphere - the national debts and taxes.

"As there is reason to believe that you are still in Congress, I refer you for the political state of affairs here to my public letters, which you will find long and particular.

I am a little apprehensive, as the great exertions of America during the last campaign have not produced correspondent events, that either relaxation or divisions may succeed. They are both to be dreaded, and...

"The excitement which grew out of the territorial controversy between the United States and Great Britain having in a great measure subsided, it is hoped that a favorable period is approaching for its final settlement. Both Governments must now be convinced of the dangers with which the question is fraught, and it must be their desire, as it is their interest, that this perpetual cause of...

This document provides the OMB's assessment of issues relating to the United States Budget. Among other things, this piece gives a variety of charts and graphs describing the national debt, budget deficits, and the many expenditures that...

"This report concerns a mechanism different from the Joint Committee sequester. The Budget Control Act put into place a set of discretionary spending caps. If the Congress spends more than these caps allow, a sequestration of discretionary spending ('discretionary sequester') is ordered. This report discusses whether, under the actions taken to date by each chamber of the Congress on...

This proposed amendment to the Constitution would require that expenditures of the Federal government not exceed receipts of the Federal government. There would be, however, exceptions to the rule. A three-fifths vote by both houses of congress could increase expenditures beyond receipts if for specific purposes.

According to Joe Weisenthal, this speech finds "Dallas Fed Chief Richard Fisher...warning of the impact of cash that's not being lent out, and what he sees is debt monetiziation -- the Federal Reserve financing the government's spending directly.

"To apply recaptured taxpayer investments toward reducing the national debt."

"Since the commencement of the term, for which I have been again called into office, no fit occasion has arisen for expressing to my fellow-citizens at large, the deep and respectful sense, which I feel, of the renewed testimony of public approbation. While, on the one hand, it awakened my gratitude for all those instances of affectionate partiality, with which I have been honored by my...

"Each January, CBO prepares 'baseline' budget projections spanning the next 10 years. Those projections are not a forecast of future events; rather, they are intended to provide a benchmark against which potential policy changes can be measured. Therefore, as specified in law, those projections generally incorporate the assumption that current laws are implemented.

But substantial...

"Throughout our nation’s history, Americans have found the courage to do right by our children’s future. Deep down, every American knows we face a moment of truth once again. We cannot play games or put off hard choices...

"The United States is facing significant and fundamental budgetary challenges. The federal government's budget deficit for fiscal year 2011 was $1.3 trillion; at 8.7% of gross domestic product (GDP), that deficit was the third-largest shortfall in the past 40 years. (GDP is the sum of all income earned in the domestic production of goods and services. In 2011, it totaled $15.0 trillion.)"

"I sit down to write to you without knowing by what occasion I shall send my letter. I do it because a subject comes into my head which I would wish to develope a little more than is practicable in the hurry of the moment of making up general despatches.

The question Whether one generation of men has a right to bind another, seems never to have been started either on this or our side of...