This was a commercial back in 1986. It paints a bleak picture of America in the future, presumably caused by the growing national debt ($2 trillion then, about $21 trillion now-adjusted for inflation the 1986 figure would be about $4.4-4.5 trillion now, so we have still risen quite a bit). I think this thing is way over the top but there may be some real dangers from the debt that I mention below. You might have to watch a brief commercial for some product first. We have been covering the deficit and debt this week in my macro classes. If the embedded video does not appear, use the link below it.
Ridley Scott - W. R. Grace Deficit Trials
Real problems the national debt might cause
1. About 31% of the debt is owed to foreign citizens. When they get paid back, they come and buy American goods. That leaves fewer goods for Americans (who can't afford to buy as much due to higher taxes that were needed to pay back the debt). BUT THIS MIGHT NOT BE A CONCERN IF WE ORIGINALLY BORROWED THE MONEY FOR A GOOD PURPOSE.
People borrow money all the time to buy houses and cars. Then they pay it back to a person outside of their family or household. We don’t consider this a burden since the money was put to good use. Right after World War II, the national debt was 120% of the GDP. This was much higher than it is now and we survived. No one complains that we borrowed to win the war. The national debt is about 105% of the GDP now. In 1986, the year the video was made, it was about 50% of GDP.
2. Raising taxes might hurt economic incentives. At higher tax rates, people might want to work and invest less. Fewer businesses might expand and fewer news ones created since you will get to keep less profit. But again, THIS MIGHT NOT BE A CONCERN IF WE ORIGINALLY BORROWED THE MONEY FOR A GOOD PURPOSE. Also, if taxes only go up a little, and the debt is slowly paid off each year (like after WW II), it may not hurt too much.
3. We may have fewer government services in the future if we pay back the debt by lowering government spending. But this means that we are trading more government services today for fewer in the future. THIS IS NOT NECESSARILY A BAD THING IF THE MONEY IS SPENT WISELY (which everyone not might not agree on).
If taxes and interest rates are higher in the future due to the debt, that will lower our future economic growth rate. We will still probably grow, but not as much.
This site shows you the National Debt as it increases along with other interesting data http://www.usdebtclock.org/
Some related links:
S&P downgrades U.S. credit rating for first time by Zachary A. Goldfarb of The Washington Post (from 2011)
The US Doesn't Deserve a AAA Credit Rating by Marc Joffe of the Fiscal Times (from 2017)
Here's Why America Will NEVER Be Vulnerable To Foreign Debt Holders by Henry Liu of Business Insider (from 2010)
"The world’s biggest net foreign debtor, by a large margin, is the U.S." See China rebalances away from bonds to buy equities, particularly in Europe by David Marsh of MarketWatch (from 2017)
Just Four Large Countries Have a Higher Debt Burden Than the U.S.