Solving our financial problems

Does the U.S. have enough assets to solve some of its financial problems?


Whenever politicians discuss need financial needs of the nation, the Republicans always say that what the Democrats suggest will drive the country into bankruptcy.  Now, this is certainly a possibility, as in the ten years of Obama and Trump, the debt of the nation has more than doubled. Obama added $8.588 trillion in 8 years and Trump plans to add $5.088 in four years.  The debt stood at $11.657 at the end of Bush’s last budget in 2009.   

What is the value of American assets?  American households held over $98 trillion of wealth in 2018. Wealth, or net worth, is defined as total assets minus total liabilities. Assets are resources with economic value—think houses, retirement funds, and savings accounts.  I am assuming that this figure includes government bonds and notes, and that the latter outweigh the value of assets held by the government. In other words, there are no government assets free from debt.

In 2018, there were 127.59 million households in the United States. This is a significant increase from 1960, when there were 52.8 million households in the U.S.  The average net worth of all U.S. families is $692,100, according to The Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. If you look at the median, or those at the 50th percentile, the amount is significantly lower: $97,300 — and that may be a better gauge, since the super rich can pull up the average.

If you multiply 127.59 million households times $692,000 (the average) you get $88.305039 trillion.  On the other hand, if you divide $98 trillion by 127.59 million households, you get an average of $780,316.90.  The latter seems more correct from what I can tell.

The amount held by the poorer half of the population averages $11,000 per family, which would be $701.745 billion among 63.795 million families.  If you subtract that from $98 trillion, you get $97.298255 trillion, the amount to divide among the upper half of income earners. That leaves an average of $1.52517055 million for each of the richer families.

Subtract the average for all families ($780,316.90) from $1.52517055 and that leaves $780,031. Multiply that times 63.795 and you get $49.762 trillion.  So if the wealthier half loses half their average wealth and the poorer part stays the same, then the society gets $49.762 trillion to solve its problems.  That’s half of the total wealth of the country. Of course, you can see that the wealthier half of the society collectively owns almost all the wealth, so they should bear the burden by giving up half.

The wealthiest 10% of the country holds 70% of the total wealth.  If they gave up half their wealth (35% of the total wealth), $34.3 trillion would go into the public coffers.  They would keep $34.3 trillion. That’s $2,688,298.46 per family, which isn’t chicken feed. So, on the whole, that seems a better solution.  $2.688 million seems a perfectly reasonable amount to have, especially when the nation can probably solve a good many problems with a donation (or tax, if you prefer) of $34.3 trillion.

Elizabeth Warren says that Medicare for All would cost $20.5 trillion.  That would leave $13.8 trillion from the wealthiests’ donation.  Outstanding student debt runs at $1.5 trillion. We could get rid of that problem and have $12.3 trillion left.   We could use that money to pay off half of our national debt and be back to where we were in 2008.

I don’t pretend that raising the money by selling assets would be easy.  After all, a good portion of the assets of the wealthy are in real estate or other illiquid form.  But the rich also hold liquid assets (stocks, bonds, savings accounts, etc.). At the end of the day, the assets can be sold, and the U.S. would have no student debt and an operating Medicare for All, plus it would have gotten ride of half of its debt.  The Republicans can label this “socialism,” but I would call it sensible.


If you liked this article, please donate $5 to keep NationofChange online through November.