Fifteen trillion dollars. Or is it 16 trillion now? It’s not something I worry about everyday, but when I do think about it, well, that’s a lot of money to owe.
I mean, I don’t even like my JCPenney card getting too far overdue. I try to pay it off monthly, but there are birthdays coming up and, well, a lot of grandkids.
Sixteen trillion dollars. You got it. That’s how much the United States of America owes to, well, whomever we owe it to.
Of course, when I have questions about money, my buddy Mars would be the one to talk to. He works at the U.S. Department of Money, at a satelite station south of Bradford. It was time to take a short road trip.
I was let through the gate when I mentioned Mars’ name, and followed the signs that brought me to the south entrance. This was a larger operation than I imagined!
I buzzed in. The door opened and I was let in. Following the floor arrows, I found Mars’ office.
I immediately saw that Mars was outside his office and he was busy.
“Hey, Mars!” I said
“Hey, yourself” he replied.
“You look busy,” I said.
Mars was feeding paper into a machine printing $50 bills.
“Skeeters’ overdue on break, and we can’t stop the line, so I’m helping out. We got these printers goin’ 24 hours a day ... no letup.”
“Where does all of this money go?” I asked.
“Well, we do replenish old money in the system, and the Department of Defense always has something up their sleeve. Plus, you have the boomer generation getting more and more through Social Security and Medicare.
“What about China?” I asked.
“Yeah, we get their bill every month. Accounting likes to bring that one around and brag about how much interest we’re saving. The principle is a tad over a trillion.”
“I thought we owed all our money to them,” I countered.
“Naah. That’s what most people think! Actually, we owe Japan almost as much, and you never hear anything about them.”
“Then, who do we owe all this money to?” I asked.
“Well, you could say — actually, you can say — we owe most of it to ourselves.”
I was perplexed.
Mars continued. “You buy a treasury, you are loaning money to the government. It’s done more than you think. The Federal Reserve, pension funds, retirement funds, mutual funds, all are involved. Two thirds of what we owe, we owe to ourselves.”
I was dumbfounded. All, or most of what we owe, we owe to ourselves?
“Yeah,” replied Mars.
I pondered that for a few minutes as Skeeter finally returned from break and relieved Mars.
Mars and I returned to his office. I did some calculations.
“But, Mars, the amount we owe is beyond astronomical, how do we begin to repay?”
“Look, that’s not my department. Go see Mrs. Peysbil in accounting for that info. I got my hands full. Tomorrow they’re sending me down to Hazleton to oversee the opening of a new 12-line ‘state-of-the-art’ facility. Hundred dollar bills down there.”
“Another plant printing money?” I questioned.
“We’ll, you don’t want us to end up like Greece, do you?”
(Mr. Pancio lives in Olean.)