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National Debt Burden

Who bears the burden of the U.S. national debt?

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Although the principle and interest on the national debt are paid with money from U.S. taxpayers, almost all U.S. citizens bear the burden of the national debt. This is because it often manifests in lower wages, weak economic growth, inflation, and combinations of such results. These economic mechanisms are not always obvious to voters, which allows politicians to blame others for problems that they caused with government deficit spending. Contrary to the media, the primary driver of the national debt is not tax cuts, as the share of the U.S. economy collected in taxes has been roughly level or risen for as far back as data extends. Nor is it national defense, which has fallen from 53% of federal spending in 1960 to 13% in 2021. Instead, the main driver of the national debt is social programs, which have grown from 21% of federal spending in 1960 to 73% in 2021.

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