General Question

mattbrowne's avatar

How much will national debt clocks help raise the awareness about the astronomical proportions of public debt?

Asked by mattbrowne (31623points) April 4th, 2009

The National Debt Clock is a billboard-sized display installed on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan which is constantly updated to show the current United States public debt and each family’s share. In the midst of extensive media attention devoted to the financial crisis of 2007–2008, some news reports again turned to the National Debt Clock as a symbol and metaphor, particularly highlighting the fact that the clock ran out of digits when the U.S. public debt rose above $10 trillion on September 30, 2008. Inspired by the example of the National Debt Clock, similar projects were started elsewhere in the United States, as well as in other countries such as Germany. (from Wikipedia)

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13 Answers

jrpowell's avatar

Nobody will give a fuck. We all know but people don’t really care. Look at Bush. It skyrocketed under his watch and nobody cared. It is only a big deal when you don’t like the guy in charge.

I have gas in my car and the TV still works. Fuck it. Life is good.

oratio's avatar

I don’t get the point of it. Kind of like the Terror Alert Level. It can only make people feel unsettled. What are people supposed to do? It’s the government that is in debt.

Bluefreedom's avatar

I already know my government is deeply in debt. Looking at a gargantuan clock showing me that doesn’t help at all. In fact, it makes me even more indifferent to the debt than I am now because it’s more of an eyesore and a downer than anything else.

YARNLADY's avatar

Nobody has the foggiest idea what on earth it means, and even if we do, we know there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. It’s a total waste of precious resources and not the least bit green.

mattbrowne's avatar

@oratio – People elect governments.

oratio's avatar

@mattbrowne Yes they do. The only thing a thing like that clock can do, is justify cutbacks.

mattbrowne's avatar

@oratio – With the severe recession politicians are facing a dilemma. A stimulus package increases national dept. No stimulus package means struggling companies and individuals will pay less taxes which also increases national debt. Maybe a moderate stimulus package is the best approach. It’s Germany’s approach. Who will be right? We don’t know. We will know in 2–3 years. But we should never forget the issue of the increasing debt. We are charging expenses to our grand children’s credit cards.

squirbel's avatar

Not enough people are aware of what it means. You can walk up to random people, show them a picture of the clock and ask them:

“Did you know this clock really exists?” [The “really” is there to cause reasonable doubt, so that if they don’t know about the clock, they are likely to think you’re crazy and think it’s safer to answer “no”.]

“Do you know what this clock means?” [And watch the myriad of “special” answers.]

No one knows what it means – and those who see it everyday have learned to see debt not as a liability – but as an asset.

YARNLADY's avatar

@squirbel I’ve noticed that too. When people see that we can spend money we don’t even have, they are happy, not sad.

wundayatta's avatar

It’s not total debt that matters, but debt service as a percent of gross national product. And to know the context for the current ratio, we’d need to see a trend line from the beginning of the century, if not before.

So no. A debt clock measuring total debt would be worse than worthless. It will give people the wrong idea about what is going on.

mattbrowne's avatar

@daloon – Good point! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

qashqai's avatar

I would be much more worried about China owning 25% of U.S. treasury securities. That’s hell a lot of money and power in their hand.

mattbrowne's avatar

@qashqai – It is, but it will be worth less if inflation goes up. The Chinese are very worried about this.

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