Visualizing Debt

Visuals are the way most of us receive information and good visuals can be very powerful.

U.S. Debt Problem Visualized

That's $100,000,000, yep, One Hundred Million Dollars in $100 dollar bills (the most counterfeited currency in the world) and it fits nicely on a pallet.

That's One Trillion Dollars and the caption partly reads: "If you spent $1 million a day since Jesus was born, you would have not spent $1 trillion by now...but ~$700 billion- same amount the banks got during bailout." Those double stacked pallets would cover an entire football field.

That's 15 Trillion dollars . . . the amount of projected U.S. Debt by December 2011 at current rates.

"If you live in USA this is also your personal credit card bill; you are responsible along with everyone else to pay this back."

Visit to see even more debt visuals including one of the U.S.'s unfunded liabilities.

U.S. National Debt Clock

Tables are a very common way to visualize data and the internet can take that a step farther by allowing visual motion. The U.S. National Debt Clock is a real-time, ever-changing running debt clock table. It is not a static data table, it constantly changes.

Here's a screen shot taken of the running U.S. National Debt Clock on July 30, 2011 at 11:40 a.m.

This visual is hard to read, but here are just three pieces of data: as of July 30, 2011 the U.S. National Debt was $14,553,695,312,277. The debt per citizen was $46,660 and the debt per taxpayer was $130,111. For a better real time visual - Click here to go to the U.S. National Debt Clock and see how those numbers have changed.

After looking at the illustrations of the "U.S. debt problem visualized", why do you think the creators made visual statements rather than just giving readers dollar figures? Why include the Statue of Liberty?

How does the U.S. National Debt clock create urgency?

How do U.S. debt visuals alter your perception about the U.S. debt? Do you find them disturbing or reassuring?


  1. Nikolay GoncharenkoOctober 6, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    The creators made visual statements because the sum of $14 trillions doesn't give a full comprehension of how huge the debt is. We hear the phrase "trillions dollars" many times aday from TV screens, from newspapers, and radio, so our brain used to hear it. The visual statement help to imagine the money we all owe and compare this sum with the tall buildings, big statiums, and statues that are known evrybody who even can’t read in English.

  2. It's ridiculous to show how much debt there is in actual dollars. There's only a total of a billion one-hundred dollar bills in circulation created by the Federal Reserve (The Fed doesn't even know the exact amount!). The rest of the money is kept track on a virtual system. We'll never be able to pay off that debt. The whole U.S. economic system will collapse along with the rest of the world on the day when the market crashes.

  3. This debt crisis is getting out of control. Looking at these visuals is really sickening especially because my generation had nothing to do with this. This is the doing of a bunch of greedy bankers, and yet we are the ones who have to deal with it. This better clear up fast because I don't want it to jeopardize the future of my children. If it's hard to get a job now, imagine 20 years from now.

  4. Visuals are a very effective form of communication, and when dealing with such an astronomical subject as U.S. debt, it helps many see how grave of an issue it is. While many average U.S. citizens ran up their credit cards so did Uncle Sam. The difference between the U.S. government and individuals running up debt are simple, the individual is solely responsible for their dues, but when the government does it all the U.S. citizens are on the hook. For me the solution is simple we need to address the debt issue now before it grows even further out of hand.

  5. The creator makes a clear picture of the debt that we have by comparing the amount of the debt with the football field and the Statue of Liberty. It really show how seriously this debt crisis can get. I think the creator's demonstration is easy to understand because you can actually picture the amount of actually money instead of having to think how much 14 trillions dollar would actually cost. Visual is really effective in this case.

  6. After looking at the illustrations of the “U.S. debt problem visualized”, I think the reason the creators made visual statements rather than just giving readers dollar figures is because it gives a better picture of how serious the debt can get. And since in today’s world all we hear is amounts such as trillions and billions and so forth, we don’t really realize how much money that really is, but by visually showing the amounts, this makes one realize how much a trillion dollar really is.
    As for the inclusion of the Statue of Liberty, I think the reason it was included in the visual images was because of the size of the Statue of Liberty. We all know how large the Statue of Liberty is in real life; therefore by adding this to the image, its gives a better picture, once again to allow one to realize how much the amount really is.

  7. I know that America's government has really screwed up on funding, which has put us in an overwhelming debt, but seeing these visuals really paints the picture of where we really stand within all of this. People don't really think about the situation we are in, because we see numbers, however if everyone was presented the problem through these visuals, we would probably be one small step forward to finding a way of solving this issue.

  8. Visual illustration helped readers have a more concrete concept about the US debt. It's similar to comparison, which compares two things to make readers have a better understand. It's also way more effective than just showing readers numbers; since one zero doesn't make a big difference in numbers but a huge difference in actual value.
    National debt is a urgent problem that US government have to seriously cope with. Through the pictures we can tell. And i think every Americans has to take responsibility. If nobody's willing to make some concession, scarify themselves a little bit, then the debt crisis will never be solved.
    To make this blog more effective, i think the writer can also visualize how much is the debt increasing for each day.

  9. the debt clock doesnt really help me visual the amount of debt the us is in. it does show me the actual amount, which is ridiculously high, but the average person cannot gauge how much money that really is. i think it does alarm most people because it shows the amount continuously increasing. what happens most, in my opinion though, is that people just get discouraged by seeing just how debt their country is in, and try to ignore the problem because it is not something they want to deal with.

  10. I remember the first time I saw the national debt clock, my jaw dropped. you hear everyday that the United States is broke but to actually see that number is shocking. The image of the statue of Liberty stunned me the most because I don't think in my lifetime I will ever see that much money in one place ever. I think a lot of people are aware of the problem but don't really care to fix it. Recently the federal budget was increased but what happens when we run out of money again? Eventually the economy will just completely come crashing down and then everyone is going to wish they tried harder to fix the problem. It is a huge political debate but by seeing the visual more people will hopefully become involved.

  11. It is nerve racking to visually see the debt of United States of America. The author does a great job of putting the numbers in figures instead of numbers. It makes a clear picture of the debt and make it more disturbing. Everyone around the globe are aware of the U.S. debt, and yet we are taking very little measure to bring it down. Japan and China are the biggest creditors and U.S. is the largest debtor nation. Surprisingly, The United States used to give loans to rest of the world after World War II and within a half a century we are taking loans from all over the globe. We have raised our borrowing limit number of times since the end of Cold War. In next few years The United States our total debt will be larger than the next 50 countries combined.

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