Vote For “Matthias” Y-Care Video

After months of not putting anything up, I finally made a new video. Created for the Y-Care National Debt video contest, it’s a fairly radical departure from my previous fare, but I think it’s entertaining. Please vote for me (Matthias Shapiro) at the Y-Care video vote and help me win the $5,000 prize. (I have a very large scale visualization of the national debt that I’m working on, but I really need some capital to pull it off. This would be an awesome way to help me with that.)

Let me field a couple of questions about the production:

  • Do I really owe $45,000 of the National Debt? – No, you do not. I rounded down. Based on the latest estimate, there are 312 million people in the country and the US National Debt stands at $14.1 trillion, so you owe a shade under $45,200 at the time of writing. But it’s probably more than that by the time you read this.
  • Is that really $45,000 dollars in that bag? – No, it is not. I am not insane enough to carry around $45K in a bag and show it to people. Instead, that is $2,250 worth of one dollar bills with $20 bills on the top and bottom for a total of about $2700. For me, that is still a vast amount of capital. I ended up just taking it out of my savings, shooting the video and then quickly putting it back in.
  • Did you catch the guy who tried to steal the money? – Yes. We had sentries surrounding the area.
  • Wait a second… how can a baby owe $45,000 in debt? – The $45,000 number is a per-person estimate. If we were to do a “pre-household” estimate in which the mother and baby are counted together, it would be almost $123,000 per household. I went with the “per-person” estimate because I don’t have enough free cash to fake $123,000 in cash. If I used $20 bills to fake it, that would require $6,100 in ones and 122 $20 bills on the top and bottom, for a total of $8,540.

Think about that last bit for a second.

Most people don’t even have enough cash to fake the amount of money the federal government owes on their behalf.

The scope of the problem is truly staggering. I hope that my video has communicated it well. If you think that is the case, please vote for me (Matthias Shapiro) at the Y-Care video contest.

14 thoughts on “Vote For “Matthias” Y-Care Video

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  2. Derrick

    I make my math students compute this using rules of exponents when discussing big numbers.

    ($12×10^12)/(3×10^8 people) = 4×10^4 $/person

    That said, I wonder why you didn’t calculate how this averages across tax brackets. I mean, according the conservative playbook, aren’t the wealthy people paying all the taxes? I ask this a serious question because I know you are not a partisan hack. Do you think it would be more fair to compute a weighted average?

  3. Bill

    @derrick: Yes, the wealthy are paying all the taxes. In fact, relative to the total population of the US, only rougly 1/3 have net income tax contributions at all. So the debt “per taxpayer” is comparable to the “per household” number that politicalmath mentioned. I think that he probably didn’t want to bring it up in the video because all it really does is muddy the waters and divisively confuse the issue.

    @politicalmath: you should really install a “donate” button. Here’s an incentive, the day I see a donate button on your home page, I donate $20.

  4. politicalmath Post author


    The reason I didn’t do this for the video is because it had a 90 second limit. Just summarizing the essentials was hard enough. Normally, I would agree… a truly proper understanding of National Debt distribution would be to split it up according to income distribution.

    HOWEVER! There is one easy way to do that: Take the household income of roughly $50,000 (taxes are assessed on a per/household basis, not a per-individual basis) and compare it to the per-household debt distribution ($123,000). Then, we can give people a simple formula:

    Take your income. Multiply it by 2.5. That’s what you owe.

    This isn’t an exact calculation. For example, the $50,000 number is a median of household earning and the $123,000 is an average of debt, so we’re not really comparing apples to apples. But I think two things are clear: 1) We owe a truly vast amount of money 2) I couldn’t possibly explain the details properly in 90 seconds.

  5. Captain Profit

    I’m not so sure there’s a correlation there. No matter what your income, or how much tax you pay, nobody is paying down the national debt.

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  7. rooster

    And this is why I like your blog so much. Although I have been thinking about how can we even get out of debt? There is no way, is there?

  8. Randy

    Does your next one include the ‘off budget’ programs. From what I recall, that is over twice what the ‘official’ debt is.

  9. Bill

    @randy. Actually, the “unfunded liabilities” are currently *8 times* the debt.
    Social security unfuded liability: 15 trillion
    Prescription drug liability: 20 trillion
    Medicare: 78 trill

    The problem with including those in considerations of the debt is that they can be changed by act of congress (or by simply failing to meet their obligations). The bonds issued cannot. Also, the unfunded liabilities are projections, not *fact*. That said, the absurdity of the numbers makes it pretty obvious that those projections won’t come to pass, our currency and government will collapse long before those liabilities get transferred to debt.

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  11. Jim

    You need to look at the federal budget, current deficit, and cumulative deficit relative to the overall size of the economy. Then compare it to how comfortable you would be as an individual if you had the government’s debt ratio.

    With a cumulative deficit of more than $14 trillion, and only $2.6 trillion of projected receipts for FY 2012, you’ve got a multiple of 5.4. Putting this in perspective, if your household gross income was $100K per year, then your corresponding household debt would be $540K. That’s how the US government deficit looks in comparison to its annual receipts. Uncomfortably large and getting larger.

  12. Pam

    I really appreciate your videos which help me understand the urgency of the financial mess we are in. Thank you for the pennies, the Jack Daniels, and everything else you’ve posted.

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