How Big is $9 Trillion? – Willful Omissions From Paul Krugman

August 25, 2009

You may have seen the Paul Krugman post “How Big is $9 Trillion” in which he attempts to defend the Obama administration’s recent announcement that they expect that their policies will increase the national debt by $9 trillion. His tack is to “explain” that $9 trillion isn’t really all that much when you understand it in context.

it’s being treated as an inconceivable sum, far beyond anything that could possibly be handled. And it isn’t.

What you have to bear in mind is that the economy — and hence the federal tax base — is enormous, too. Right now GDP is around $14 trillion. If economic growth averages 2.5% a year, which has been the norm, and inflation is 2% a year, which is the target (and which the bond market seems to believe), GDP will be around $22 trillion a decade from now. So we’re talking about adding debt that’s equal to around 40% of GDP.

Right now, federal debt is about 50% of GDP. So even if we do run these deficits, federal debt as a share of GDP will be substantially less than it was at the end of World War II.

I defer to Paul Krugman on a lot of things because he is transparently smarter than I am. But it is precisely because of this fact that I know he is conscious of the obvious reasons his analysis is hogwash.

First of all, the national debt in WWII was initiated by an existential threat to the very continuation of our country. Mr. Krugman does not make even attempt to make the case that we have a similar crisis that justifies this kind of debt.

Second, implicit in his observation is the concept that since we did fine after WWII, we’ll do fine now. But the years after WWII saw drastic reductions in the inflation-adjusted debt driven by drastic reductions in spending. Mr. Krugman points to no similar possibility in the post-Obama world.

Third, we have something now that we didn’t have in the 1940’s. Back in the 1945, at the height of the spending that saw our national debt rise so dramatically, entitlement spending and interest on the national debt made up a meager 5% of our total budget.

By the end of President Obama’s term (if he runs two terms) we’ll be looking at a federal budget that is 70% mandatory spending. (I assume for the purposes of consistency that mandatory spending includes interest on the national debt because we don’t really have a choice in not paying it.)

Here’s a quick visual of the difference in the budgets in 1945 and 2016. (Ugly, because I did it fast… I’m on vacation.)

1945 vs 2016

If you look at the 1945 budget with the single question “How are we going to reduce our debt?” you can identify the major problem. It’s the defense budget, which is almost 90% of the budget. Interestingly, reducing the defense budget is exactly what we did in order to reduce the debt, cutting it over 80% in 3 years (it helped that we won the war).

As a contrast, President Obama’s solution to reducing overall spending is… well, I don’t think he really has a plan. His projected budget in 2016 has reduced the defense budget as a percentage of the overall budget from 20% to 14%, but military spending isn’t what is killing us. The president has no plans to reduce mandatory spending whatsoever. In fact, his only change to entitlement spending is to increase it.

My problem with Mr. Krugman’s “How big is $9 trillion?” is that he is aware of all the problems I pointed out. He didn’t explain how much $9 trillion is; he obfuscated it. By comparing the debt load in the heart of a world-shaking war to a debt load that was accumulated in (relative) peacetime, he has misled his readers to the real significance of the data.

(By the way… if you would like to blame the debt load on the Iraq war, you should know that those costs have raised our debt by 5% of the GDP. Comparing this to WWII, which raised our debt by 70% of the GDP, is a pretty weak argument.)

59 Responses to “How Big is $9 Trillion? – Willful Omissions From Paul Krugman”

  1. Aaron Says:

    He’s also ignoring the fact that private and commercial debt are also sky-high this time. Not only will our government be in hock up to its eyeballs, but it won’t be able to draw on the other sectors of the economy to bail it out, because they’re broke too.

    Also, after WWII we profited greatly on exports because our industry and infrastructure hadn’t been destroyed like so many others. Somehow I don’t see that happening again.


  2. […] stripes on it and still be home by Christmas." – Ronald Reagan Click Here for More Broken News Political Math schools Paul Krugman on why $9 T isn't chump change (and we ain't chumps). Majority of Americans believe "myths" about ObamaCare: "myths" like wait times will increase. […]

  3. Dan Says:

    Great post, thanks for calling Krugman on his BS.

    That 2016 pie chart scares the willies out of me.


  4. […] Political Math does an epic beatdown on Paul Krugman My problem with Mr. Krugman’s “How big is $9 trillion?” is that he is aware of all the […]


  5. […] Math takes Krugman to task. PM does it very […]

  6. Al Says:

    Your pie charts remind me of the old Pac Man game… right before the little guy starts rotating with the down-spiral sound effect and “Game Over” shows up on the screen.


  7. […] How Big is $9 Trillion? – Willful Omissions From Paul Krugman « Political Math via Cafe […]


  8. […] a comment » Political Math kicks Krugman’s ass. The insane Democratic fiscal […]

  9. Daniel Kuehn Says:

    I find it very odd that you don’t mention a word about taxes.

    Nobody likes taxes, but of course tax policy may have to change too. What is easier in this country – cutting entitlements or raising taxes? I just don’t know. How about both at the same time – how easy do we suppose that will be?

    The first commenter has a very good point about private debt as well.

    Most of your points are well taken, but I think ring somewhat hollow for people who think avoiding a second Great Depression is in fact what we did, and who think that was worthwhile. You won’t have much luck just telling those people to sit on their hands because 90%, 100% of GDP is scary. Of course it’s scary. And 50% isn’t as scary. But are you really suggesting that debt at 90-100% of GDP is more scary than a second Great Depression? It’s no WWII, I wholly grant you that – but the counterfactual you’re proposing doesn’t really hold much water for a lot of people.

    And by the way – Krugman has said over and over again that it’s a bad situation. I think you’re making somewhat of a strawman out of his supposed confidence. Anyone who has been reading him knows that he’s been very concerned. But “concerned” is different from cable pundits who vaguely make references to U.S. bankruptcy. Krugman is well within reason to be concerned but point out it’s not the doomsday that a lot of people are claiming it is.

    • politicalmath Says:

      I understand your concern, but I purposefully chose a date some time into the future in order to avoid the “we saved ourselves from the Great Depression” stuff.

      Most economists agree that the recession is likely to end late next year, early 2011 at the latest. Unfortunately, President Obama’s budget projections continue to forecast massive deficits for the duration of his presidency. Five years after the anticipated end of the recession, they are still projecting deficits that are bigger than the worst deficits logged during the Bush presidency.

      There is no doubt Mr. Krugman thinks that the situation is bad. My concern was only with his comparison with a situation that, in my opinion, clearly did not compare.

  10. Christian Habich Says:

    … for an outsider (Austrian) it only begs the question: How can you make the current President responsible for a situation that obviously is a result of the 8 years of the Bush administration?
    Obama is basically firefighting a ‘bush’-fire with the only economic instruments he has available at the moment.

    With regards to the Iraq war, which is objectively been not only a financial but also political disaster for the USA and led to no security increase whatsoever (rather the opposite) in the USA or the world, you should apply your math also: Set the cost of the Iraq war in relation to the Bush/Obama deficit spending stimulus/packages and you will see how relative things really are.

    • politicalmath Says:

      Homework assignment:

      1) When should we place responsibility for the government on President Obama? 18 months? 3 years? I would love it if the answer was not “when things get better”.

      2) Go out and find out how much the Iraq war actually cost and compare it to recent spending. Answer the following True/False questions:

      True/False – The Iraq war has cost less than the stimulus.
      True/False – The Iraq war has cost less than a third of the financial bailout.
      True/False – The Iraq war has cost less than half of the deficit for this year alone.

      Please re-comment with your answers… I’m curious to see what you find.

      • Christian Habich Says:

        ad 1) Obviously when he has finished firefighting the BUSH-fire and is actually being able to start putting some of his non-firefighting relating ideas into measurable into action.

        ad 2) according to Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard Economist Linda Bilmes the cost reached over 3 Trillion Dollars by March 2008. The daily cost according to the Bush administration was/is $400 Million.

        Add up the war cost for the economies in Europe, Asia AND Iraq itself and you have two to three stimulus packages at least and a big part of your explanation for the recession we are all suffering from ….

      • Al Says:

        According to LA Times as of April 11, the Iraq war has cost about $694 billion and will surpass the cost of the Vietnam War (adjusting for inflation) by year’s end. So:

        The Iraq war has cost less than the stimulus. :TRUE

        According to Associated Press as of July 20, the financial bailout has so far cost $4.7 trillion…
        The Iraq war has cost less than a third of the financial bailout. TRUE! Way less… and it’s a damn shame that a scientific calculator is required.

        According to the CBO as of a couple days ago, the deficit for FY 2009 will be $1.6 trillion.

        The Iraq war has cost less than half of the deficit for this year alone. TRUE. Wow!

        The conclusion is that the Iraq War has certainly been an expensive undertaking. But blaming America’s current economic woes on the Iraq War is unfounded and… well, just dumb.

      • Kimble Says:

        Europeans are so bizarre with their hatred of Bush. It just doesnt make any sense.

        If they want to give Obama a free pass on everything he has done after taking over because he is dealing with problems that have their origins in the time prior to his term then to be consistent they should also give Bush some slack too.

        Afterall, 911 was the culmination of decades of national security failures. Iraq too. Yet the Euros arent willing to give him an unconditional pass with his attempts to put out those fires.

        Is it because Bush was a white Republican?

        Probably. Europeans are famous for their racism and intolerance of differing political views. Remember Hitler?

    • politicalmath Says:

      I’m deeply saddened to see that you didn’t actually do any of the things I asked. Facts are not poisonous, you will not suffer a rash due to rubbing up against them.

      Since there are no facts in your first point, I’ll just jump right to the second one.

      The $3 trillion Iraq number is, for lack of a better word, bullshit. It uses methodology that no one uses to come to a conclusion that the authors have predetermined. No one uses that kind of methodology to determine anything since much of the assumptions are non-falsifiable.

      Similarly, if your “$400 million a day!” is meant to elicit shock, consider me underwhelmed. Which is it? Did the war cost $3 trillion? Or $400 million a day? Those two numbers are not the same number.

      Perspective time!

      We paid almost $1,000 million per day in interest during that period. So, if you will permit me to repeat myself, Iraq is not the cause of our budget problems. If you persist on saying that it is, you will do nothing more than prove yourself to be utterly uninterested in the facts as they stand.

      • Christian Habich Says:

        @ Kimble

        Nobody hates Bush and I really like Amerika. I probably consider myself more conservative than yourself and would most likely vote Republican, if I were a US citizen.

        > Is it because Bush was a white Republican?

        So objectively argueing to give a black President a chance is now considered ‘racist’??? Interesting statement indeed, coming from the home country of the (legally allowed(!)) KKK, White Power, etc. and where African Americans are still considered second class citizens in many parts of the nation unless they are NBA or NFL superstars.

        > Probably. Europeans are famous for their racism and
        > intolerance of differing political views. Remember Hitler?

        Yeah, right, that is why Europe has the most pluralistic mix of political parties and directions in the world and a successful conglomerate uniting these different political opinions called the EU (stands for ‘European Union’ … if you haven’t heard it before, which is most likely the case – judging by your reply).

        Your reference to Hitler is not only stupidly far fetched out of any context whatsoever but absolutely pathetic. You obviously know nothing about historical facts and your prime information source seems to be FOX News and MSNBC. Poor you…!

        @ politicalmath

        Since you insist to put a time-scale to your point 1) – I’d say give YOUR democratically elected President 3 years. Then there might be enough results of his (re-)actions visible to judge, whether they were good or bad.

        First of all, the figure is/was very well researched by two of the most respected US economists of our times – probably a ‘bit’ more qualified than some subjective journalist of some newspaper or magazine that you have your information from. In addition to that, if you read their reports, the 3 Trillion encompasses the TOTAL economical cost of the war – not only the naked cost for sending over the poor guys and to pay off Mr. Blackwater for the dirty work…

        Thirdly nobody (at least not me) was blaming the current recession entirely on this stupid, illegal and uneccessary war – I said ‘big part of your explanation for the recession we are all suffering from …’.

        Maybe also you should expand your information source beyond the ones recommended or owned by the Republicans?

        Respectfully,

        Christian

  11. Mark T Says:

    Unfortunately, in 2019, our economy will not represent 70% of the global production capacity as it did in the late 1940s.

  12. Admiral Says:

    Not to even mention how Krugman probably bashed Bush’s deficits to kingdom come. Someone ought to find out how hypocritical on this, like so many, issues he has become.

  13. Richard Walch Says:

    Here’s what Krugman wrote about Milton Friedman in 2007:

    “While Friedman’s theoretical work is universally admired by professional economists, there’s much more ambivalence about his policy pronouncements and especially his popularizing. And it must be said that there were some serious questions about his intellectual honesty when he was speaking to the mass public.” (New York Review of Books, Feb 15, 2007).


  14. How about moving the argument from “we can grow our way out of the debt dilemma” to “we don’t need these programs to begin with”. I will not accept the premise that the entitlements we have today must necessarily be there tomorrow. I don’t want to hear about projected future growth, I can recall the Brookings Institute treatise on Social Security almost 30 years ago. The first page contained the premise, given inflation at 2-3% we see no problem meeting future outlays. I am paraphrasing greatly but the point is before the ink was dry on that report inflation was 3 times that projection.

  15. Al Says:

    1) When should we place responsibility for the government on President Obama? 18 months? 3 years?

    I would say “now”. It’s more a function of actions taken than one of elapsed time.

    If the new president and Congress are inhibited from taking meaningful actions because of the mess left over from the previous government, then the time frame of responsibility could conceivably be measured in years. But this new president assumed office along with a Congress composed of nearly a super majority of his own party and, together, they made significant and measurable changes to the nation’s spending. Given the enormity of these changes, it’s kinda hard to continue blaming the previous government with a straight face.

  16. Rob Says:

    “His tact is to “explain”…” TACK! The word is tack (“a course of action or policy, esp. one differing from another or preceding course”.)


  17. […] Math’s new post beats down Krugman as hard as that Shamwow guy beat that hooker who was biting his tongue […]

  18. Andrew Says:

    Will you be updating you National Debt Car video based on the new projections?

  19. Dan Murray Says:

    Bravo. Well said.


  20. […] How Big is $9 Trillion? – Willful Omissions From Paul Krugman You may have seen the Paul Krugman post “How Big is $9 Trillion” in which he attempts to defend the Obama […] […]

  21. DismalScience Says:

    The composition of the presidential budget is irrelevant. Until Harding’s administration there was no such thing.

    With that said, I’m not sure what warrants so much hysteria over the nominal figures of the deficit projections. Based upon the summary tables that you so courteously linked to, debt service as a proportion of GDP is a mere 3.2% by 2016, which is the same proportion we currently spend.

    Last time I checked 3.2% in debt service is perfectly reasonable.

    • politicalmath Says:

      Perhaps.

      I am disinclined to use GDP as a measure because the government doesn’t own the GDP. The government can’t use money that doesn’t belong to it, so it makes more sense (to me, at least) to use government income as a measure. That way you don’t skew the percentages due to budgets with absurd deficits.

      Using government income as a measure, we will have increased the interest-to-income ratio from 10% in 2008 to 15.5% in 2016.

      • DismalScience Says:

        I understand your disinclination to use GDP as the denominator here, but that doesn’t change the relationship between output and debt service.

    • politicalmath Says:

      Of course it doesn’t change that relationship… I’m not one of those people who thinks that my personal preferences are the makers of reality. Unfortunately, instead of trying to convince me that this is a valid relationship, you responded in a condescending way.

      I’m willing to be convinced that GDP-to-interest is a valid comparison, but you need to do so with logic and facts, not with sneering at your opponent.

      I’m trying to understand why you think GDP-to-interest is a good metric and the only thing I can come up with is that you think it is valid because it makes our debt service look small. Basically, it is a tactic to get people to not worry about the debt service. That makes it more propagandistic than useful.

      I’m saying there are more valid relationships we should use because those relationships allow for a more complete understanding of the situation and are therefore more useful.

      We don’t pay the national debt interest out of the GDP. We pay it out of the government treasury. This comes from the GDP (obviously), but using GDP instead of federal income is separating the debt service by an unnecessary degree. When I ask why we would want to do such a thing, the only answer I can come up with is “Because we want to make the debt service look small.”

      Since my goal is not to make the debt service look small, but to understand how big the service is in relation to the federal budget, I don’t use this metric.

      • DismalScience Says:

        Politicalmath,

        My apologies if I’ve insulted you in some way as it was not my intention.

        Using debt-service/GDP as a metric for a healthy level of debt is appropriate for a number of reasons. First, we are concerned with the macroeconomic consequences of running large deficits. As such, we need to look at the income of the entire economy, not just the government. As you are probably aware national income is equal to private consumption, private investment, government spending (the net difference between taxation and spending) and net exports. To look only at one aspect is a little misleading.

        Even if we use your metric the results are still reasonable: 15% of federal income devoted towards debt service is certainly sustainable.

        Second, the debt-service/GDP ratio serves an important signal for investors in evaluating risk in both direct and financial investment. In the former, a nation that keeps it’s debt service low relative to GDP is thought to exhibit long-term macro stability. In the latter, the risk of default is very low. In fact, the US has never defaulted on an interest payment since its inception.

        Third, federal budgets are more dynamic than outstanding debt and macroeconomic variables. The debt service / GDP measure offers a more stable index from which more accurate forecasts can be made.

        Now, you accuse me of using a generally accepted method of rating an economy’s debt load as a tactic to “make the debt service look small,” yet you commit that very fault in your pie charts which suggests that cutting mandatory payments are the only feasible way to reduce the national debt. The two charts give the reader the impression that the largest chunk of expenditures (defense in 1945, mandatory payments 2016) must be cut in order to reduce the deficit. This is misleading for two reasons. One, we had a 10 million man army at the end of the war which had to be cut, so that those soldiers could return to the labor force. Two, the top marginal tax rate in 1945 was 94% and by 1948 fell to 88.13%. This is not the case for 2016.

    • politicalmath Says:

      I apologize for coming off as snippy. I pretty much assumed that you were one of the kinds of people who freaked out the our debt tracked federal receipt growth over the last 8 years and is now trying to make additions to the national debt sound like a happy skip through strawberry fields. That was clearly my mistake.

      I’m going to try to repeat your position in my own words. Let me know if I’m misunderstanding you.

      We would use interest-to-GDP largely because the GDP is a more stable metric than either federal budgets or federal incomes.

      But you don’t seem too bothered by my use of income-to-interest since devoting 15% of income to debt is also sustainable.

      Did I get that right? I want to make sure I understand your position instead of jumping to conclusions based on a poor understanding on my part.

      If I can ask… what is an unsustainable debt service level?

      Also, I’m not quite following you in the last part. Yes, my implication was that we would have to cut mandatory spending to reduce deficits. Glancing through the budget numbers, I don’t see how we can do it otherwise. It is certainly harder to reduce entitlement spending than it was to reduce the size of the military post-WWII, but that was kind of my point. It is disingenuous for Krugman to compare our debt level in 10 years to our debt level at the height of WWII since our ability to cut spending is so hindered by political realities of the entitlement programs.

      I’m not sure what you’re suggesting when it comes to the top marginal rate issue. Are you saying that we could raise the top marginal rate now (and therefore more tax revenue) whereas we could not before? Or are you saying that they were able to jump-start the economy by lower the top marginal tax rate?


  22. […] this, Political Math writes: First of all, the national debt in WWII was initiated by an existential threat to the very […]


  23. […] Political Math (hat tip: Russ Roberts) takes a closer look at Paul’s first comparison: implicit in his observation is the concept that since we did fine after WWII, we’ll do fine now. But the years after WWII saw drastic reductions in the inflation-adjusted debt driven by drastic reductions in spending. Mr. Krugman points to no similar possibility in the post-Obama world…. Back in 1945, at the height of the spending that saw our national debt rise so dramatically, entitlement spending and interest on the national debt made up a meager 5% of our total budget. […]


  24. […] Political Math (hat tip: Russ Roberts) takes a closer look at Paul’s first comparison: implicit in his observation is the concept that since we did fine after WWII, we’ll do fine now. But the years after WWII saw drastic reductions in the inflation-adjusted debt driven by drastic reductions in spending. Mr. Krugman points to no similar possibility in the post-Obama world…. Back in 1945, at the height of the spending that saw our national debt rise so dramatically, entitlement spending and interest on the national debt made up a meager 5% of our total budget. […]


  25. […] Hamilton points to the blog Political Math which observes, literally, graphically that the problem with comparing 70 years ago to today is […]

  26. tedsteakhouse Says:

    In now bringing the 1950’s into the discussion, Krugman fails to mention the tax increases during the Korean War (after tax decreases in the immediate aftermath of WWII).

    Tax receipts as a percent of GDP went from 14.5% in 1949 all the way up to 19% at the height of the war and averaged 17.8% for the period of 1952-1960.

    If Krugman had said the $900 trillion was not that big a deal because we will also increase the tax burden by 23% like we did during the 1950’s (without any impact to GDP or employment) then it would be a fair argument.

    It seems odd that he leaves this part out since I cant recall very many articles over the past 9 years where he hasnt mentioned increasing taxes as our only way out of avoiding fiscal catastrophe.

  27. Jim Glass Says:

    Great chart!

    We might also want to pay some attention to the smackdown match Krugman verus Krugman.

    Which one to believe?

  28. Mal Says:

    using debt to GDP or debt-service to GDP is the accepted methodology in international comparisons. In every analysis I’ve seen on the macro-economic situation of countries, this is the relevant number.

    I also don’t agree with the argument that the government doesn’t own the GDP. While it may be correct in itself, it misses the point. The debt really isn’t government debt. Its the national debt. The citizens of the USA owe that debt, and that is why its relevant to compare debt to GDP in my opinion.

    As for unsustainable public debt levels? From my experience looking at countries all over the world, the USA can sustain anything up to 200% easily. Of course it would hurt a lot to spend that much, but its possible. Given the current economic situation, Japan is approaching the 200% figure pretty fast. In the recent past, Italy was well over 100%, and so was Belgium. The ‘mandatory’ spending part of their government budgets, as well as the size of the government as a percentage of GDP was considerably larger than the USA will be in 2016-2020.

    This is not a matter of whether the USA is able to pay its debt, it is. Its all about whether the USA is willing to pay its debt, and thus, willing to implement the reforms needed to continue paying the debt.

  29. Jake McKenzie Says:

    After reading most of the comments and post I have to say this makes me sick.

    No matter which way you spend it the biggest strain on the budget is military spending. By comparing military spending to military spending to that of WWII is ridiculous. We are not even fighting inept enemies in a dessert half way across the world and it is the biggest strain on the budget.

    The military industrial complex as Eisenhower put it a missed placed power which will corrupt the very structure of our society. It is so large that whole communities rest there lively hood towards it and it makes up over half of the government jobs in this country which account for 8% of employment.

    This military still costs more than what America spends on healthcare and I ask you for what? How many people died on 9/11? How many innocent people have died in Afghanistan war both foreign and domestic? How many people die because they are automatically declined health insurance in THIS country because we do not have socialized medicine like the REST of the idustrialized world?

    I say ok you want your war like the Iraq war to liberate the people of Iraq from a dictator, go right ahead and have your war. But don’t stand in the way of the president when he says he wants to liberate the people of THIS country from injustice of free market health care.

    • Al Says:

      Your numbers don’t add up, Mr. McKenzie:

      This military still costs more than what America spends on healthcare

      According to HHS as of May, 2009, the total U.S. expenditures for health care in 2007 was $2.2 trillion. According to DOD, however, the defense spending for 2007 was $548 billion.

      “Trillions” of dollars are still considerably more than mere “billions”, even with new-fangled mathematics.

      • Al Says:

        Perhaps I should have considered that you only meant to include federal government spending on health care, which also doesn’t make sense to me as we are still primarily a capitalistic society. Nonetheless, you’re still wrong: Medicare and Medicaid spending alone topped $600 billion for 2007.

    • politicalmath Says:

      Sorry, but your numbers are all wrong. I would be more open to your view if you had pointed to a single link or study that supported your point of view, but as it is all your statements are essentially statements of faith.

      And misplaced faith at that. Here are the following statements that are easily fact checked and simply wrong.

      – “No matter which way you spend it the biggest strain on the budget is military spending” Mandatory spending is already more than military spending and is growing faster.

      – “This military still costs more than what America spends on healthcare” Um… no. The government alone spends almost as much on healthcare through Medicare and Medicaid than it spends on the military. That’s ignoring the trillions in private healthcare spending.

      You need to get your numbers right first. Then we’ll talk.

  30. Eric Says:

    found great information here, it nice to read your article, i will visit this blog again and again, just keep posting usefull information like this, thanks


  31. […] way, some are finding his reasoning to be lacking. James Hamilton at Econbrowser points to Political Math, which debunks the claim that the $9 trillion debt is okay because it’s on par with where we […]

  32. Lindsay Says:

    I just stumbled upon your blog recently and I want to thank you for taking the time to post these articles. I pride myself on being knowledgeable in my own field, but when it comes to numbers I turn into applesauce. I am very happy to find someone who can explain the math in simple terms for us non-math people.

    This article puts the $9T in perspective, and I completely agree with you concerning the differences between 1945 and now. We will never have the scenario where we can recover the national debt like we did back then again, because we will never have the labor force back into jobs like we did when the soldiers came home after WWII. Even after the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, our soldiers will come home….to being soldiers….Also, as you so kindly pointed out, our budget was of a totally different make-up, where it was more flexible. Unfortunately, until we pay down our national debt, we won’t have the flexibility of creating new programs or funding. We have to work with what we’ve got. We can’t stretch a dollar anymore than 100 cents.

    That being said, I’m requesting that you make a similar pie for today’s budget — to help put things in perspective. Where are we today? I know that we aren’t in a good place, but like I said, numbers have never been my thing. I’m actually more comfortable with Greek than I am with math (to twist that phrase around)! So, thank you so much for putting it in terms that we left-brainers can understand🙂

  33. D Rumsfeld Says:

    Krugman does not make sense. The $9trl is additional debt, it is added on. The current debt is $11.8trl plus $9trl takes you to $20.8trl. $20.8trl of a projected GDP of $22trl is 94.5% NOT 40%! This is banana land country.

    Have I missed something!

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  35. […] How Big is $9 Trillion? – Willful Omissions From Paul Krugman: […]

  36. Donny Says:

    Just goes to show just how much money $9 trillion really is…not enough! Just kidding of course.


  37. Mr president ,you seem to be confuse.I would like to say that please be calm and do not be aggressive because in aggression and anger a person can not take good steps.

  38. DRdove Says:

    What a bunch of BS. Most of the mandatory spending comes from payroll taxes not from income taxes. Take out the part covered by payroll taxes and then compare the charts for a real picture. Payroll taxes are a set percentage paid by the working man. Not by the rich and corporate taxers so it can’t be counted as an entitlement and a burden on the government. Get real.

  39. Wade Says:

    I enjoy what you guys tend to be up too. This type of clever work and coverage!
    Keep up the wonderful works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to my personal blogroll.


  40. […] Political Math (hat tip: Russ Roberts) takes a closer look at Paul’s first comparison: […]


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