To do the following calculations, I assumed you are a college student graduating this year (2011), and you will have a 40 year working career ending in 2051. I also made the safe assumption that between now and 2051 the principal on the federal debt will not be touched, but only the interest payments will be made each year. Why did I include only the interest? You can argue all day about the cost vs. benefit of Obama's deficit spending, but one thing is certain: taxpayers get nothing from paying the interest on the national debt.
All my budget data came directly from the Office of Management and Budget's 2010 analysis, or the excellent website usgovernmentspending.com, which aggregates the same OMB data into easily downloadable spreadsheet format. My tax calculations used the 2006 IRS tax brackets, FICA rates, and standard deductions (I wanted to pick a pre-recession tax code) -- in other words, I assumed your actual tax rates will NOT go up any time in the next 40 years, which is a very generous assumption. Nationwide average wage/salary data by occupation came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics database. Inflation rates came from inflationdata.com.
Methodology and analysis:
I calculated the average annual interest rate paid on the national debt from 1980-2010 by dividing the yearly federal interest payment by the gross public debt for each year. That average comes to 5.875%. The 2010 interest rate was very low at 2.19%, but OMB projections have interest rates increasing in the coming years, and given historical trends and the S&P's recent downgrading of the U.S. financial outlook, I think 5-6% interest on our national debt is a good estimate for the next 40 years.
Next I needed to estimate total federal spending from 2011-2051. I did this by taking the OMB estimate for federal outlays from 2012-2016 and extrapolating that trend to 2051. I did the same for federal revenues. The OMB projects both revenues and outlays to increase linearly from 2012-2016, and extrapolating those trends, the federal budget will be balanced in 2029, and from 2030 on revenues will exceed spending. By 2051, revenues will have exceeded spending by a total of $815 billion. Looking at the historical spending and revenues trends back to 1980, I think a linear extrapolation is quite reasonable, and is the most fair and politically balanced estimate -- e.g. it does not include any massive increases or cuts to spending or revenues. By this method, total federal spending from 2011-2051 will be $321,845 billion, or $321.8 trillion. This may seem like a huge number (and it is!), but this was arrived at with a linear spending increase each year, and we can project GDP growth will increase by a constant percent each year -- which means GDP grows exponentially instead of linearly. From 1980-2010 the average rate of GDP growth was 5.68%. Assuming this is the average growth rate from 2011-2051, that $321.8 trillion in federal government spending will account for only 16.6% of the total GDP for that period. At the peak of the US economy in 2000, federal spending was 18.0% of GDP (it is 24.9% in 2011). So the financial outlook from these projections is actually pretty favorable, and in fact may be a little too much so.
Now on to the cost of Obama's deficit spending. I calculated the total public debt added by Obama's deficit spending from 2009-2012 using the OMB data (2011 and 2012 are estimated of course). To be as fair as possible, I subracted from each year the 2008 deficit of $459 billion. Even though the 2008 budget was passed by Democrats when Obama served in the Senate, it cannot be ascribed to him. In other words, $459 billion was the annual deficit "baseline", and I included only the 2008-2012 deficits over that amount in determining the cost of Obama's spending. The total debt from 2009-2012 is $5.45 trillion, and Obama's portion of that is $3.62 trillion.
Next, I used the average annual interest rate of 5.875% to calculate the total cost of the interest payments on the $3.62 trillion in Obama debt. From 2011-2051, interest payments on Obama's 2009-2012 deficit spending will total $8.72 trillion. To look at it another way, when Obama sold us his 2009 "Stimulus" bill at a cost of $1 trillion, he failed to mention its true cost to taxpayers is actually $3.4 trillion ($1 trillion principal + $2.4 trillion in interest over 40 years). When the government is running a deficit, any politician's sales pitch for new spending is a bait-and-switch scam so massive it should be illegal.
We now have enough information to calculate the cost of a vote for Obama. The $8.72 trillion in interest payments on Obama's 2009-2012 deficit spending will account for 2.7% of total federal spending from 2011-2051.
Using IRS data, I calculated the total federal taxes (income tax + Social Security and Medicare taxes) paid by heads of household earning incomes between $10,000 and $240,000. I then matched and interpolated these numbers with Bureau of Labor Statistics data to calculate the average total taxes paid during a 40-year working career for each occupation in the BLS database, and adjusted for an annual inflation rate of 4.1%, which is the historical average rate from 1980-2010. Finally, I calculated the fraction of those tax dollars that will go to pay for the interest on Obama's 2009-2012 deficit spending. The results for various occupations are given in the table below. The first entry, average of all college graduates, assumes a lifetime average salary of $45,000 (in 2010 dollars).
According to these results, the average college student graduating this year will pay $25,941 just to cover the interest on Obama's deficit spending. Many students will pay much more. If you voted for Obama, that 30-minute trip to the polling station was probably the most expensive 30 minutes of your life.
Table: Scroll down to find your occupation and see how much your vote (or someone else's vote) for Obama cost you.
|Your occupation||Your vote for Obama cost you||Days of lost income to pay for it|
|Average of all college graduates||$25,941||89|
|Elementary school teachers||$34,447||94|
|Middle school teachers||$34,506||95|
|Secondary school teachers||$34,743||95|
|Social and community service managers||$43,215||100|
|Tax examiners, collectors, and revenue agents||$34,543||95|
|Architects, except landscape and naval||$53,065||105|
|Computer hardware engineers||$79,091||112|
|Anthropologists and archeologists||$35,050||96|
|Community and social services occupations||$25,648||89|
|Child, family, and school social workers||$25,751||89|
|Paralegals and legal assistants||$33,993||94|
|Multi-media artists and animators||$43,413||100|
|Reporters and correspondents||$25,715||89|
|Broadcast news analysts||$44,069||101|
|Writers and authors||$43,635||101|
|Sound engineering technicians||$34,564||95|
|Family and general practitioners||$137,487||122|
|Obstetricians and gynecologists||$180,178||129|
|Radiologic technologists and technicians||$34,599||95|
|Emergency medical technicians and paramedics||$18,991||86|
|Police and sheriff's patrol officers||$34,747||95|
|Private detectives and investigators||$26,220||90|
|Chefs and head cooks||$25,842||89|
|Janitors and cleaners||$12,709||84|
|Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists||$13,314||87|
|Sales representatives, technical and scientific products||$61,203||107|
|Real estate brokers||$53,007||105|
|Real estate sales agents||$34,440||94|
|Executive secretaries and administrative assistants||$25,812||89|
|Plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters||$26,577||91|
|Structural iron and steel workers||$26,395||90|
|HVAC mechanics and installers||$25,768||89|
|Airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers||$88,943||114|
|Air traffic controllers||$79,541||112|
|Truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer||$19,951||90|
Note: my original post contained some errors in the interest and inflation rate calculations, which have been corrected now.