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What the Coronavirus did to the National Debt, Your Bill Exceeds $37,726


In March Congress added $2.3 trillion to the national debt with the stimulus package. Most were jubilant to receive a stimulus check. But what does this mean? Just to pay this back today would cost each taxpayer $18,863 (compare U.S. Debt Clocks Nov. 2019 with April 2020).

In May the Treasury Department announced that it will borrow another $3 trillion this quarter making our total coronavirus indebtedness $5.3 trillion and thus what we owed for the smaller loan more than doubles (Matt Egan, The US is becoming the king of debt. It's a necessary risk, CNN Business). To pay both loans in August would be more than $37,726 per U.S. taxpayer.

Those who pay no federal taxes, which is about 50% of American adults, are not assessed. “The latest spending packages are estimated to be worth about 14% of the country's economy…the national debt soared above 100% of GDP” (“Coronavirus: US to borrow record $3tn as spending soars,” BBC News, May 4, 2020).

So what is a trillion dollars? To begin with a trillion is the number one followed by twelve zeros. A trillion dollars is a thousand billion and a billion is a thousand million. These numbers mean very little to the average person. who count their money in tens, twenties and hundreds .

One mathematician gave us a very practical way of evaluating our outstanding debt. One trillion one-dollar bills stacked atop each other (not end to end but flat) would reach nearly 68,000 miles into space—a third of the way to the moon (See CNN News Cast, Feb. 4, 2009). If so, the debt thus far incurred by the coronavirus alone, $5.3 trillion, would reach to the moon and two-thirds back to earth.

Senator Mitch McConnell gave another illustration just as awe striking. He calculated that if we spent a million dollars every day since Jesus was born, we still would not have spent a trillion dollars—only three-fourths of a trillion dollars (Ibid).

Who will pay these two coronavirus loans? Since we never liquidate our debt—only increase and pass it on to posterity—our grandchildren yet unborn, will be saddled with this debt plus the interest on it. How can I prophesy with such certainty? The United States has not been free of debt since Warren G. Harding 98 years ago (US Debt by President by Dollar and Percentage Who Increased the U.S. Debt the Most? Depends on How You Measure It. By Kimberly Amadeo Updated November 04, 2019)?

Yes the coronavirus is a massive rogue wave that has sunk many businesses in its path but following closely behind it is a tsunami almost six times its size—the national debt—that is and will bring down this country because our children cannot pay it either. Our national debt has soared to $25.5 trillion, and with the newly announce $3 trillion loan to $28.5 trillion. Our debt in one dollar bills laid flat atop each other will now go to the moon and back almost five times.

I ask students, “Who gets to go without so that this debt can be paid?” “Go without!!!?” That is a concept foreign to this generation!! They do not know, and neither do their parents and grandparents who laid it on their backs. When they are told that their share to liquidate this debt is not just $37,726 for a coronavirus, but $205,440 per taxpayer—due immediately, they get angry (see Someone should have told them that government handouts are not free.

The 13th Amendment ending slavery has been rescinded, they are America’s new slaves. Bondage was given them before their birth, or while they were in the womb, or before they were old enough to know what it meant to be sold into slavery. The past generation wanted nice costly programs for free and were willing to sell their children to have them. Worse, the older generation is still anxious to incur even more debt on our defenseless children and grandchildren. Are we not the most debt addicted, insensitive generation in U.S. History?

Yes these are hard times and in such adding to a national debt is said to be justified. What isn’t justified is that in prosperous times, of which most of the last 70 years have been, we should, and could have, liquidated that debt. Then a $5.3 trillion debt to handle a virus could have been repaid in the next prosperous time or perhaps by the children, but not now. We have squandered our wealth in foreign endless wars, foreign aid and domestic welfare.

I had hoped with the robust Trump economy (the best in several decades) that we could get to paying back the debt. I previously published that we could survive and turn things around if we did three things: made significant cuts in our top 6 major expenditures, did not elect a big spending congress, and did not incur a big funding event. Unfortunately we made no major cuts in spending, maintained a big spending congress, and did incur a big funding event—the coronavirus.

Trump remains our only hope for rebuilding the economy because he already did it once, but chances of removing even the coronavirus portion of the national debt enslaving us is slim.

Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. Newspapers have permission to publish this column. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit


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