A Nation in Debt 2022

How Can We Pay the Bills?

Scroll down for the A Nation in Debt issue guide and other related materials.

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Our nation’s debt has never been larger, and it has the potential to affect not only each of us, but future generations. This issue guide is designed to support people deliberating together about how we should approach the issue. There is no perfect solution, but by considering three different approaches to dealing with the debt, we can try to understand the viewpoints of others and reflect on what is most important to us. Each option sees the debt from a different perspective, and not all options address reducing the national debt equally.

There are difficult questions we need to think about—questions without easy answers:

  • Should all of us have to tighten our belts, or should we ask more from larger corporations or wealthier citizens?
  • Should we take drastic action to shrink the debt, or would that upend the economy?
  • What’s the right direction for tax rates to go—up, to cover our spending, or down, to encourage investment and growth that might expand the economy?
  • Are we willing to live with a much smaller federal government—and if so, what benefits and services are we willing to live without?

Some of the worst problems with the debt lie in the future, so it’s easy to procrastinate. But the effects are becoming visible now. By 2030, given current trends, we’ll spend more on interest on the national debt than on the Department of Defense.

The research involved in developing this guide included conversations with Americans from various backgrounds, surveys of nonpartisan public opinion research, consideration of many people’s ideas and thoughts on the best solutions, and reviews by people who know this topic well.