“How much gold,” the Political Calculations blog wonders, “would the U.S. Treasury have to pay out from the nation’s bullion depository at Fort Knox to fully pay off the national debt of $16.222 trillion (as of 1 November 2012)?”
For fun, let’s pretend that the U.S. does plan on paying back the national debt… and in gold.
Again, for fun.
How much would it take? As of Nov. 1, Political Calculations writes, it would take “a solid gold cube that is nearly 80 feet tall by 80 feet long by 80 feet wide. Transporting all that gold would require over 431 of those standard 20-foot-long shipping containers.”
There’s a problem: If you add up all gold plucked out of the Earth, it makes up a cube only 66.1 feet by 66.1 feet by 66.1 feet… and fills only 249 shipping containers.
And Obama’s contribution since taking office? $5.595 trillion, or a cube 55.7 feet by 55.7 feet by 55.7 feet, or 60% of the world’s recorded gold.
Which means that without the Federal Reserve being able to print money out of thin air, it would be physically impossible to spend as much money as our government has if we were still on the gold standard.
Which also means our current financial course is pretty darn unsustainable:
The 2012 Federal budget—a word I use very advisedly, since there wasn’t an actual, you know, budget—as enacted, spent a total of $3.59 trillion. Of that amount, total mandatory spending was $2.252 trillion. Discretionary spending, i.e., those things in the federal budget that can be arbitrarily changed without changing federal law, was $1.338 trillion. So, 63% of expenditures is mandatory spending which can’t be touched without changing Federal law.
On the revenue side, when you tote up all the taxes, excises, fees, etc., the Federal government collected $2.469 trillion. So, in 2012, once mandatory entitlements were covered, there was a grand total of $217 billion to fund the entirety of the remaining Federal government. The result was a deficit of $1.1 trillion.
So, to boil it down to the simplest terms, our current revenue is just enough to cover our mandatory spending, and about 1/3 of the defense budget. Everything else is funded solely through deficit spending.
When the Bush-era tax rates are raised in January, we will finally stick it to those rich SOBs and get the money they owe us. That will provide a massive influx of tax revenue in the amount of…uh…$42 billion in 2013. By the Democrats’ estimate. Which means the deficit will be slashed from $1.1 trillion to $1.058 trillion.