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Letter: National debt

Here’s a question for you, and I don’t have the answer: the national debt is estimated to be in the $16 trillion range. But there is a difference between explicit debt (the principal) and implicit debt (the interest due on all the principal). This calculation comes up when looking at government retirement programs at all levels, when talking about how much in debt a given state is in, for instance. Its budget deficit may be $500 billion, but add to that the retirement and other obligations made into the future. In the case of the U.S. government, does the $16 trillion figure include interest? If not, we would be looking a substantially higher figure, even with the low interest rates paid on U.S. treasuries.

WALTON CHAPMAN

Shelburne Falls

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