Sunday, August 8, 2010

Public v Private (3)

One PDF from the Fed provides "debt outstanding" numbers for the years 1975-2009. Another provides numbers for the years 1956-1995. For earlier years I turned to the Historical Statistics (HS) "Net Public and Private Debt," series X393-409. The HS PDF provides debt numbers for the years 1916-1970. So now I have overlapping numbers that take me from 1916 to 2009. Nice.

The HS PDF is an older format or something, and I couldn't copy the numbers into a textfile. I had to type it all in by hand. When I finished, I did a graph of it. Visual inspection, looking for typos. Anyway, here it is:

No obvious errors. But something struck me: This graph looks just like every other graph of debt. It looks just like those graphs of all the debt we've accumulated recently. It has the same upward sweep of increase.

The reason the graph looks like this is? That's what growth always looks like: faster and faster increase. I wouldn't read too much into this, but there is no reason for panic when we look at current debt numbers. Debt graphs are often presented to stir up panic. We need to fix this problem surely and soon. But panic won't help us fix it.

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