Understanding the US Debt | Tyler Chessman
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“I, however, place economy among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared. ”

Thomas Jefferson

History of debt

The United States government has a long history of debt. The last and only time we’ve been debt free was in the 1800’s. Understand the debt from a historical perspective in Chapter 1.

The real debt of the USA

The actual debt of the U.S. government is not $14 trillion.  It is much, much higher.
Learn why the actual debt is closer to $60 trillion in Chapter 4.

Becoming debt free

Can we become a debt free nation? Yes, if we are willing to implement simple but perhaps unpopular changes.  Read the 7-point plan for becoming debt free in Chapter 8.

Understanding the United States Debt

For over 120 years, the United States raised money during times of war or financial panics.  Each time, the leaders of the country worked hard to reduce their obligations, wary of passing debts to future generations.  But starting in the early 1900’s, views about debt and the role of the federal government began to change.  Now, 100 years later, America is over $16 trillion in debt.  Americans need to know why we are in such a horrible financial condition and what changes are necessary to become debt free.

Did you know…

The last and only time we’ve been debt free was in the 1800’s.  Understand the debt from a historical perspective in Chapter 1.

In 1985, 16% of our debt was held by foreign interests.  Today, that percentage is over 50%.  Find out who owns the debt in Chapter 2.

Social Security has been called a Ponzi scheme.  Understand how the Social Security “trust funds” work in Chapter 2.

Some people think military conflicts are the cause of our current debt problems.  However, national defense outlays are only 20% of the total spending over the last 35 years.  Learn where the money is really spent in Chapter 3.

Did you know…

One President increased general government spending by over 1300%, five times more than any other. Look at spending by Presidential terms in Chapter 3.

The actual debt of the U.S. government is not $16 trillion. It is much, much higher. Learn why the actual debt is closer to $60 trillion in Chapter 4.

Argentina was among the wealthiest countries in the world during the early 1900’s? Have you ever wondered why Japan is no longer a rising superpower? Would you be surprised to hear that massive debt is the culprit? Learn why these countries fell, and how the U.S. is following right in their footsteps, in Chapter 6.

Understanding the United States Debt
is available for purchase as an e-book and paperback

About Tyler Chessman

Tyler Chessman has worked in the software industry for 16 years.  He currently helps customers adopt and implement Business Intelligence products.  Tyler became interested in the U.S. debt in early 2009 and decided to put his analytical skills to good use.  He is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, with a degree in Finance.

If you are interested in having Tyler speak at an event, please feel free to contact him directly.

Tyler Chessman's publications

Publications: SQL Server Magazine
• Aug. 2010 – A Walkthrough of PowerPivot for Excel 2010 (Note – this article uses government debt data)
• Feb. 2010 – Optimizing Time-Based Calculations in SQL Server Analysis Services
• Feb. 2010 – The Concepts Behind Time Calculations in SQL Server Analysis Services
• Oct. 2009 – SQL Server Reporting Services Questions Answered
• Nov. 2008 – Integrating SQL Server 2008 Spatial Capabilities with Microsoft Virtual Earth
• Sep. 2008 – SQL Server Integration Services Logging and Data Auditing
• May 2008 – Using Large CLR UDTs in SQL Server 2008
• Dec. 2007 – Working with Estimated Execution Plans
• May 2007 – SQL Server 2005 Data Mining Add-ins for Office 2007
• Apr. 2007 – Excel 2007’s Powerful PivotTables
• Nov. 2006 – Using Reporting Services in an Internet/Extranet Environment
• Jun. 2006 – [Report Builder – the] No-Nonsense Reporting Tool
• Mar. 2006 – Zip Your Data
• Nov. 2005 – SQL Server 2005 Express and Workgroup

Publications: DevProConnections
• Dec. 2007 – Creating a Custom Data-Processing Extension [SQL Server Reporting Services]

In The News

Latest articles from the blog

“No pecuniary consideration is more urgent than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt; on none can delay be more injurious, or an economy of time more valuable.”

George Washington

Further book information

The information presented in this book comes from public sources. Where possible, the data was pulled directly from the government agency (e.g., the Bureau of Public Debt, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, etc.) responsible for collecting and producing a given data set. The charts and tables were created in Excel, using a add-in called PowerPivot, which is now a built-in component of Excel 2013. If you want to get up to speed on PowerPivot, take a look at my August 2010 Article in SQL Server Magazine.

An Excel 2010 workbook, which contains much of the data I present in this book, is available here.
An Excel 2013 version of the workbook is available here.
An Excel Add-in that I use for misc. utilities (e.g., de-pivoting data, generating a date table) is available here.

The underlying data used in the Workbooks is available as an OData feed, which can be accessed at http://www.understandingtheusdebt.com/odata/WcfDataSvcUSDebtv2.svc.  Note this data is maintained as new updates become available.

There is a good chance you’ll find a number in my book that differs from a number you find elsewhere. Those who work in a large company know the challenges of trying to get to “one version of the truth” when analyzing business metrics like profitability, retention, or market share. Every organization I’ve worked with stores data across multiple systems. The data is often duplicated. Certain reports require extraction of data from multiple source systems in order to first transform and then harmonize the data. Some metrics may differ depending on the requestor – consider sales revenue. A financial analyst may want billed revenue. A sales manager may want revenue credited to his region. A services manager may only want to see revenue from service operations within a certain geographical area, which may or may not align with the sales manager’s regional structure.

In this respect the U.S. government is similar to a large organization. Debt and economic data is stored across multiple agencies. Debt numbers are maintained by the U.S. Bureau of the Public Debt, an agency within the U.S. Treasury Department. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Government receipts and outlays are prepared by the Financial Management Service, part of the U.S. Treasury Department, though a comprehensive and download friendly historical summary is available from the Presidential Office of Management and Budget (OMB) or the U.S. Census Bureau. Data is sometimes changed or restated after it is initially reported. Some metrics have multiple definitions. For example, GDP is reported quarterly. The quarterly number is adjusted for the season and multiplied by 4 to produce a seasonally adjusted annual value . GDP is also reported annually. The annual value is an average of its 4 quarterly values. So if I want to calculate debt as a percent of GDP for a given year, do I use the GDP for the last quarter or the annual average? Am I calculating debt as a percentage of GDP for a calendar year or a fiscal year? Is the calculation for the beginning of the year, or the end of the year?

In writing this book, I compared my numbers with other sources to look for glaring errors and to make sure there was a general consensus in calculations. So, if I tell you a given ratio is 83.62% and you find someone else saying it is 85.83%, don’t be alarmed. Most of the numbers and trends in this book are so large that a small deviation makes little difference.

Contact us

Contact Tyler with your questions by using the following form.

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