What Could You Do with the U.S. Debt of $14 Trillion?

Here are some ways to wrap your head around $14 trillion of debt.

January 28, 2011, 2:43 PM

Jan. 31, 2011 — -- While the debate over whether to lift the federal government's $14.3 trillion debt limit roils in the nation's capitol, the country's total public debt outstanding is growing daily.

That much cash is hard to imagine, even if you're Donald Trump. So with the help of usdebtclock.org, let's first look at what that kind of money can buy, then we'll put the size ofhe debt in perspective.

1. 3,824,812,630 Super Bowl XLV tickets

If the average price of a ticket to this year's Super Bowl at the Cowboys Stadium in Dallas is $3,676, according to Forbes, then the country's debt could buy out 3.8 billion Super Bowl tickets. That could cover attendance for the next 53,122 annual games, if average attendance at a Super Bowl game is 72,000 people. Or we could just invite half the entire population of world, including China and India.

2. 2,422,185 Hines Wards

The vocal wide receiver of the Pittsburgh Steelers has a salary of $5,804,680. That means $14 trillion could buy 2.4 million years of salary for Hines Wards.

3. $45,068.58 per person in the U.S.

The U.S. debt comes to over $45,000 per man, woman and child, given the current U.S. population of 311,969,269.

4. Almost the entire annual output of the U.S.

The U.S. GDP is $14,870.4 billion using current dollars, according to the Commerce Department on Friday. That means the debt is about 95 percent of GDP, the value of all economic activity here.

5. The U.S. defense budget for the next 20 years

The defense budget is $690.8 billion, which means the country's debt could cover this largest budget item for the next 20 years.

6. 9.4 times the U.S. Budget deficit of $1.5 trillion, according to the Congressional Budget Office's 2011 forecast.

7. 58 million homes

Stephen Bronars, senior economist with Welch Consulting, said that at the median home price of $242,000, the deficit could buy over 58 million homes. That would surely boost the sagging housing market.

8. 400 of the country's largest companies

You could buy the country's 400 largest companies, according to their market capitalization, said Bronars. Or you could buy 35 of the equivalent of Exxon Mobil, the largest company in the country, with a market value of $399.52 billion. Or $14 trillion is the equivalent of 35 of Apple Inc., which has a market cap of $310.79 billion.

9. 103 New York State budgets

The nation's debt could cover the cost of 103 NY State budgets, which is $136.5 billion. This year's budget ends on March 31 but the state's budget gap next year is projected to be about $10 billion.

10. 2,169 Haitian economies

The GDP of Haiti is $6.48 billion, according to the World Bank, which means Haiti's GDP is 0.04 percent of U.S. debt.

11. 34,545,482,137 Lady Gaga tickets

Lady Gaga had the highest average priced concert in 2010, based on shows with a minimum of 1,000 tickets, according to StubHub. The average ticket price to her Radio City Music Hall show on Jan. 23 last year was $407. (She also had the highest grossing concert tour based on gross sales.)

12. All the taxes collected, state and federal

With current annual US tax collection of $2.16 trilliion and $1.17 trillion for the combined states, it would take more than four years to pay off the debt if every penny went toward that purpose.

How Bad Is the Debt?

Tom Digaloma, head of fixed income trading at Guggenheim Partners, said $14 trillion may sound astronomical, but it is not as worrisome as the deficits of other countries, such as Japan. Standard and Poor's just recently downgraded Japan's sovereign debt rating to AA- from AA, its first downgrade since 2002. By some measures, Japan's public debt is more than twice the size of its GDP, according to Debclock.org.

Though Moody's Investor Service and the IMF warned the U.S. about its debt levels, Digaloma said it will not be long before the U.S. increases its GDP and boosts employment levels, easing the debt ratio.

"Our economy is in a deflationary environment and I think we need to continue to spend money to get it back on track effectively," said Digaloma. "The most important component is to get our GDP pumping -- and when we get that pumping we can certainly handle the current debt levels."

Bronars of Welch Consulting said what is most concerning to economists and policy makers is the future obligations of the government, such as Social Security costs.

"A lot of people in Washington are concerned about the costs of those programs increasing," said Bronars.

On that front, the Social Security fund is on track to run out of money by 2037, according to the the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. In 2011, the office calculates that Social Security will take in $45 billion less in payroll taxes than it pays out in benefits, a number that is expected to grow each year.