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A Nation in Debt

How Can We Pay the Bills?

Sutton Stokes

23 pages
National Issues Forums Institute
It is not unusual—and not necessarily a problem—for a government to have at least some debt. But how much is too much? Many Americans think the US national debt is too large and want to try to get it under control. By the end of fiscal year 2018, the US government owed around $21.7 trillion in gross federal debt ($15.8 trillion in public debt and $5.9 trillion in intragovernmental debt—money that is owed by one part of the government to another part). It was $10 trillion just ten years ago and is projected to rise to $34 trillion in another decade.

This issue book asks: What should we do to shrink the national debt? In addressing it, we have many things to con- sider and weigh. This guide lays out three ways of approaching the national debt. Some deal with reducing the debt more directly, while others would increase the debt in the short term with no long-term guarantee that the national debt would be reduced. Each suggests actions that we might take, but every action has trade-offs we should consider. By working through each option, we can come to our own individual and collective decisions about what we would support and under what conditions.
Author Bio
Sutton Stokes is the associate director of the West Virginia Center for Civic Life, a nonpartisan organization that helps people talk and work together on public issues. From 2012 until 2016, he was city clerk of Elkins, West Virginia. He has worked as a freelance writer, communications consultant, and outdoor educator. He earned a B.A. in American Studies from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, in 2002, where his studies also included elementary education.