Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Silliest Letter to the Editor Ever in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

So by this point, I have gotten used to the right-wing rants in the Letters to the Editor in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. However, I have not gotten used to the letters that are mind-boggingly stupid for reasons that have nothing to do with ideology.

Today's Letters to the Editor had one that really stands out in the mind-boggingly stupid category.

Savings bonds should be used to cut national debt

Much of the American expense of World War I and World War II was paid by war bonds. Today, federal savings bonds must be used to reduce the national debt. Professional athletes and entertainers should be used to promote the plan.

The mature dates for the bonds should be five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, 25 years and 30 years. President Barack Obama and Congress must use bipartisan reason. Reasonable budget cuts must be made in defense and social justice programs.

Roy Wetherington, Tifton

Seriously, Mr. Wetherington thinks "Federal Savings bonds should be used to reduce the national debt." There's just one little problem with that thought.


I apologize for the all-caps, but I feel this situation warrants it. From the Treasury Department's FAQ about the national debt:

What is the Debt Held by the Public?

The Debt Held by the Public is all federal debt held by individuals, corporations, state or local governments, foreign governments, and other entities outside the United States Government less Federal Financing Bank securities. Types of securities held by the public include, but are not limited to, Treasury Bills, Notes, Bonds, TIPS, United States Savings Bonds, and State and Local Government Series securities.

This is really concerning that neither the author (who seems to be on the more well-read side given that I'm finding letters to the editor from him in all sorts of publications including the Christian Science Monitor) nor the Atlanta Journal Constitution staff realize how silly of a suggestion this is. Moreover, it may give a picture of just how little the American people (especially the less well-read ones) understand the national debt.

At the highest level, the national debt can be broken down into "debt held by the public" and "intergovernmental holdings." Debt held by the public is described above, while "intergovernmental holdings" refer to debt that parts of the U.S. government owe to other parts of the U.S. government.

The most recent monthly report from June 2011 gives the "debt held by the public" to be 9.742223 trillion dollars and the "intragovernmental holdings" to be 4.600864 trillion dollars.

Most of the "intragovernmental holdings" (about 4.3 trillion) is for retirement and disability trust funds, including the Social Security Trust fund and the Medicare trust fund(s).

Of the "debt held by the public", most of it (9.32 trillion) is held in various forms that can be bought and sold on the open market.

Of those types the cannot, 169,754 million dollars (or .169754 trillion dollars) is held in the form of United States Savings Bonds, which are distinct from market-tradeable bonds in that they can only be redeemed by the person in whose name they are issued.