At this moment the US owes China about $1.28 trillion, that’s right, $1,280,000,000,000. This, however, only represents about 8% of the national debt. China is the biggest overseas creditor.
The total debt to other parts of the federal government is $4.76 trillion which is 28.4% of the total debt.
The biggest creditor of the US is Social Security. The trust funds contain US Treasury securities totaling $2.76 trillion. It might seem unusual that the government owes money to other arms of the federal government. The scary part about this is if the government defaults on the debt, no one actually knows how Social Security and Medicare checks would be affected.
Secretary of Treasury, Jack Lew, has said, “If we have insufficient cash on hand, it would be impossible for the United States of America to meet all of its obligations — including Social Security and Medicare benefits.” So basically, we have a problem and with no solution and no idea what will happen if we don’t fix it.
I don’t know how difficult it is to compromise and raise the debt limit, but no matter which party has the majority in any branch of government, the debt limit has been either raised or adjusted 78 times since 1960.
With everything going on and all the concerns, one thing is certain: Section 4 of the 14th Amendment forbids defaulting on the debt. The text states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.”
The bottom line: if nothing changes, then the government can only spend what it makes, instead of spending more than it makes. The budget and accounting books would HAVE to be balanced. With an estimated $3 trillion in revenue coming into the government it will have to work with only that amount to pay for the interest on national debt ($240 billion), social security payments ($860 billion), Medicare and Medicaid ($860 billion), veteran benefits ($140 billion), and basic operating costs of government functions ($106 billion). Leaving $800 billion to pay for transportation, education, retirement programs, defense spending, welfare spending, the affordable care act and much more. The country will survive on a balanced budget, but there will be major spending cuts.