Recently discovered new species,
native to the District of Columbia.
Okay, so in order to give our daydream a veneer of verisimilitude, let’s pretend instead that the members of Congress and the president are the victims of a cunning biological terrorist attack—they are infected with truly massive doses of both the Responsibility Bug and the Austerity Virus.
And then—under the unnatural effects of these sneaky terrorist pathogens—the American political leadership decides to cut the deficit outright, and start retiring the national debt.
Yeah: That’s much more realistic.
How much would they have to cut, in order to pay off the national debt? And how long would it take, to retire that national debt in its entirety?
Well, in order to figure this out, first they’d have to get honest about exactly how much is the U.S. Federal government’s debt. (Honesty is a perverse side-effect of the Responsibility Bug and the Austerity Virus. Scientists are working feverishly to try to stop this honesty stuff.)
Total outstanding Treasury debt is $9.7 trillion—but that’s not the entire Federal government debt. To those $9.7 trillion, you have to add another $4.6 trillion, which corresponds to “intragovernmental holdings”—basically IOU’s or markers the Federal government has put in the famed “Social Security lockbox”.
Thus the total Federal government debt: $14.35 trillion.