Explaining the US Debt Crisis — To My Teenagers


Hey kids, pause American Idol for a moment and let me "lay some wisdom on you," as your generation likes to say.

It's about the US debt and what it means to you. If you pretend convincingly that you're fascinated by what I have to say, we'll go out for pizza, OK? Great.

Now, it’s hard to wrap our heads around billions and trillions of dollars, so let’s bring these numbers down to a human level so we can get some perspective. Let's scale it down to the size of a family budget. We'll divide the actual numbers by one billion, and talk about months instead of years.

So let's pretend that we are a family of criminals [the US government] living in a pretty rough neighborhood [the world].

Our family takes in a lot of money [government revenues] by picking pockets, mugging, and running shakedowns and con games. Heck, we even do some counterfeiting. And we spend it all as soon as we get it [government expenditures]. But every month we need $1,500 more than we take in. So every month I borrow that shortfall [the deficit] from the neighborhood loan shark, and we spend it.

The funny thing is, I already owe him $14,000 so far [the debt]. But he’s been pretty patient, for a convicted homicidal maniac [the Chinese government]. I guess he’s been cleaning up his image.

What’s worse, I’ve been running a pyramid scheme that's gotten a little out of control, and people are beginning to catch on. I've already promised about $100,000 [total unfunded liabilities], spread out over the next few months, to pretty much everyone in our extended family [voters with entitlement programs]. Some are well-off and won't miss their share, but some are desperate and could really use the money I scammed. Either way, they’re all going to sue me when they find out — but too bad, I already blew the money long ago.

Anyhoo, I sat down with Mom to figure a way out of this mess. I [a Republican] bravely proposed spending $100 less this month, but she [a Democrat] screamed, “What about the children!” and said it would be an unacceptable cut in our standard of living. She said we should open more credit cards in your names [borrowing], mug more people [taxation], and try some more counterfeiting [“quantitative easing”].

Finally we agreed that things will work out somehow. We just need to spend $30 less this month [the 2011 budget deal].

So I called up the loan shark and explained that he’ll eventually get all his money back —  we crossed our hearts and promised on our kids' lives  —  if we can just borrow another $1,470 this month, while we figure things out.

I figure we can always just give him counterfeit money, so we're good!

By the way, he said to say "Hi" and that he's really, really, looking forward to meeting you kids soon.

So that's what the debt crisis is basically all about. Now, who's up for pizza?

What? Whaddya mean you're not hungry?

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Did a good job of explaining the current Federal debt situation. 2 little wrinkles that weren't included in the story:
1. The ratio of protected businesses to children benefiting from the stolen money will suddenly increase as the Boomers (born in or after 1945) suddenly turn 65, and realize that with family budget cutting on the way, they better cash in while they can.
2. A family can always earn more money by providing businesses with even greater protection.

Chris Diamond

I just posted a note on Facebook regarding how I could teach my children about liberty over their short summer visit with me. Im so glad I saw this... Thank you very much!

Andy Hanlen

This makes it about as clear as it can be. Nicely done.


Mr. Isenberg did a great job simplifying the very complicated subject of finance and debt. I couldn't stop thinking about what the conversation would look like if I had the same talk with my three teenage children. I imagine after explaining to them how their mother and I had pawned them to the loan shark for money and probably were going to have to default they would reply "so are we getting pizza or not?" I would then stress that because of my fiscal irresponsibility they soon might be running numbers for the local pawn shark. They would reply with something along the lines of "sooo... are you saying we can't order extra toppings?" Yes indeed...all three could have a great future in congress!


Unfortunately, MKAllen, this reaction would not be restricted to teenage children only; most adults would respond similarly. "So-o-o-o, are we going to get 'free' health-care benefits or not?" "Does this mean I can't get another extension on my unemployment benefits?"

Jim Henshaw

Finally, an article explaining things from the perspective I've had for several years now -- the federal government is a mafia-like gang, but with better PR.


Oh I dunno... I bet the Dons don't have Twitter accounts.... just sayin'.

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