What Drives Long-Term National Debt Growth?
With the current 106% debt-to-GDP ratio, there’s no doubt that today’s government debt is high. The last time the United States reached this mark, it was during the aftermath of WWII in the late 1940s.
But despite nearly historic debt levels, it does not seem that the national debt is a key issue for most citizens and groups. What drives this accumulation of debt in the long run, and at what point does the debt level become so high that it becomes an undeniable and critical issue for the country?
Today’s infographic comes from the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a NYC-based group that focuses on educating people about the fiscal challenges of growing government debt. The graphic illustrates the main factors driving the debt upwards, as well as the potential impact down the road.
The trouble with debt is that it delays today’s challenges well into the future, making it a tempting short-term solution when other things aren’t working. However, over time, that burden increases steadily, and the situation quickly represents the “frog and boiling water” parable.
So what’s raising the temperature of that water?
Right now, the aging of the Baby Boomers is a key factor, and the amount of people receiving social security benefits will swell from 62 million to 88 million people by 2035. At the same time, Medicare’s hospital trust fund will run out of money by 2029, and the program will only remain solvent until 2034.
Whether it’s the growing enrollment in these programs or the rapidly escalating costs of healthcare itself, more money will be put towards Social Security and healthcare over the coming years.
By about 2045, government spending on major health programs will nearly double in size to greater than 9% of GDP.
Today, interest on the debt is equal to about 1.4% of GDP.
However, if the projected pace is maintained, it’s anticipated that interest payments could be equal to 6.2% of GDP by 2047 – this is roughly 2x the average annual amount the federal government spends on education, infrastructure, and R&D combined.
As economists will point out, the government controls the monetary supply and can easily “print” money to make these payments. This is absolutely true, but it also creates an array of other problems such as inflation and increasing distrust in the monetary system.
Though this boiling point looms further down the road, having a plan to cool the temperature (or to jump out of the water) could be a prudent one to keep in our back pockets.
How Much Do Americans Trust the Media?
Media trust among Americans has reached its lowest point since Trump won the 2016 presidential election.
How Much Do Americans Trust the Media?
Media trust among Americans has reached its lowest point in six years.
Gallup began its survey on media trust in 1972, repeating it in 1974 and 1976. After a long period, the public opinion firm restarted the polls in 1997 and has asked Americans about their confidence level in the mass media—newspapers, TV, and radio—almost every year since then.
The above graphic illustrates Gallup’s latest poll results, conducted in September 2023.
Americans’ Trust in Mass Media, 1972-2023
Americans’ confidence in the mass media has sharply declined over the last few decades.
|Trust in the mass media||% Great deal/Fair amount||% Not very much||% None at all|
In 2016, the number of respondents trusting media outlets fell below the tally of those who didn’t trust the media at all. This is the first time that has happened in the poll’s history.
That year was marked by sharp criticism of the media from then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.
In 2017, the use of the term ‘fake news’ rose by 365% on social media, and the term was named the word of the year by dictionary publisher Collins.
The Lack of Faith in Institutions and Social Media
Although there’s no single reason to explain the decline of trust in the traditional media, some studies point to potential drivers.
According to Michael Schudson, a sociologist and historian of the news media and a professor at the Columbia Journalism School, in the 1970s, faith in institutions like the White House or Congress began to decline, consequently impacting confidence in the media.
“That may have been a necessary corrective to a sense of complacency that had been creeping in—among the public and the news media—that allowed perhaps too much trust: we accepted President Eisenhower’s lies about the U-2 spy plane, President Kennedy’s lies about the ‘missile gap,’ President Johnson’s lies about the war in Vietnam, President Nixon’s lies about Watergate,”
Michael Schudson – Columbia Journalism School
More recently, the internet and social media have significantly changed how people consume media. The rise of platforms such as X/Twitter and Facebook have also disrupted the traditional media status quo.
Partisans’ Trust in Mass Media
Historically, Democrats have expressed more confidence in the media than Republicans.
Democrats’ trust, however, has fallen 12 points over the past year to 58%, compared with 11% among Republicans and 29% among independents.
According to Gallup, Republicans’ low confidence in the media has little room to worsen, but Democrat confidence could still deteriorate and bring the overall national reading down further.
The poll also shows that young Democrats have less confidence in the media than older Democrats, while Republicans are less varied in their views by age group.
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