I was doing some research and found this to be a good summary. As can be seen, the Unites States is not in as bad of shape that some would have you
believe. Interesting indeed.
U.S. public debt - From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The U.S. public debt, commonly called the national debt or the gross federal debt, is the amount of money owed by the United States federal
government. This does not include the money owed by states, corporations, or individuals. As of May 2005, the total government debt is approximately
$7.8 trillion, i.e. $7,800,000,000,000 ($7.8 × 1012). This is more than ten times the amount of United States currency in circulation as of 2005,
estimated to be $730 billion ($7.3 × 1011). The debt can also be measured as a fraction of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP); at
present, U.S. public debt is about 65% of the GDP, a rather average level when compared to other nations.
Structure of the debt
The Bureau of the Public Debt divides the national debt into two main categories: debt held by the public, and intragovernmental holdings.
Intragovernmental debt includes money for government trust funds, such as pension plans and the debt for social security which is about $1.7 trillion
as of May 2005. Overall, intragovernmental holdings account for over $3.1 trillion of the total debt at this time.
The remaining $4.6 trillion or so has been purchased by the public, including foreign entities. This largely comes from the issuance of Treasury
securities. Nearly half ($2.2 trillion) is composed of Treasury notes (aka T-notes), while T-bills and T-bonds (savings bonds) cover most of the
remaining public portion of the debt. Bonds sold for infrastructure projects are also part of the national debt.
It is common for individual Americans and businesses to buy bonds and other securities, though much of the debt is now held overseas. At the end of
2004, foreign holdings of Treasury debt were $1,886 billion, which was 44 percent of the total debt held by the public. Foreign central banks owned 64
percent of the Federal debt held by foreign residents; private investors owned nearly all the rest (figures are from the Analytical Perspectives of
the 2006 U.S. Budget, page 257 ). The country holding by far the most debt is Japan which held $679 billion at the end of March, 2005. In recent
years the People's Republic of China has also become a major holder of Treasury debt, holding $223.5 billion at that time. 
Calculating the debt
The Bureau of the Public Debt keeps track of money owed by the U.S. government on a daily basis, also issuing monthly and yearly reports. While the
numbers provided by the bureau are the most-commonly used, some economists prefer to use other methods and include additional debts.
There is a question among economists in the United States as to whether the debt held by the 50 individual states should be counted as part of the
national debt. Some economists include sums related to bills the government must pay for goods and services it has contracted for in the current
The debt is usually viewed as an absolute number, but it can also be measured as a percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP). By this measure,
the United States is merely an average nation. The economy of Japan could be more worrisome, as the country has a debt of about 165% of its GDP.
Another method is to measure by the amount payable in any given year. For example, much of the debt is payable in 10, 20, or 30 years—much like a
mortgage. There is debate about how such debt should be represented. Sometimes, alternative measures are used to support their own political
In several cities around the United States, but most famously at Times Square in New York City, there are national debt clocks—electronic billboards
which supposedly show the amount of money owed by the government. Some also attempt to show the money owed per capita or per family. A division of the
United States Treasury Department known as the Bureau of the Public Debt calculates the amount of money owed by the national government on a daily
basis. There is a significant level of fluctuation day-to-day, both up and down, so any "clocks" must be continually re-set with proper values.
A brief history of the debt
The United States has had public debt since its inception. Debts incurred during the American Revolutionary War and under the Articles of
Confederation led to the first yearly reported value of $75,463,476.52 on January 1, 1791. Over the following 45 years, the debt grew and then
contracted (almost?) to zero in late 1834. On January 1, 1835, the national debt was only $33,733.05, but it quickly grew into the millions again.
The first dramatic growth spurt of the debt occurred because of the Civil War—it was just $65 million dollars in 1860, but passed $1 billion in 1863
and ended up at $2.7 billion following the war. The debt slowly fluctuated for the rest of the century, finally growing steadily in the 1910s and
early 1920s to roughly $22 billion as the country paid for involvement in World War I.
The buildup and involvement in World War II brought the debt up another order of magnitude from $43 billion in 1940 to $260 billion following the war.
After this period, the debt's growth closely matched the rate of inflation until the 1980s, when it again began to skyrocket:
* 1981 $1 trillion
* 1986 $2 trillion
* 1990 $3 trillion
* 1992 $4 trillion
* 1996 $5 trillion
* 2002 $6 trillion
* 2004 $7 trillion
The public debt briefly started to go down in 2000 when the country had a budget surplus, but quickly started growing again.
At any given time (at least in recent decades), there is a debt ceiling in effect. If the debt grows to this ceiling level, many branches of
government are shut down or only provide extremely limited service. However, the ceiling is routinely raised by passage of new laws by the United
States Congress every year or so. Still, Congress has failed to act in time at least once. In 1995, the federal government closed down for six days
from November 14 to November 20 due to partisanship wrangling between the congress and then-President Bill Clinton.
Viewed alternately as a percentage of the GDP, the national debt rose sharply during World War II, reaching about 122% of GDP in 1946. As soon as the
conflict ended, the debt began declining, reaching a postwar low of 32.6% of GDP in 1981. The debt then started rising again and peaked at 67.3% of
GDP in 1996. It then dropped to 57.4% of GDP by 2001 but began rising again after congress and the George W. Bush administration implemented several
tax cuts (though the economy also hit a recession at the time). In 2004, the debt reached 63.7% of GDP and is projected to continue rising, reaching
70% of GDP in 2010. It should be noted that the debt of United States on par with what it is in many other developed countries, such as Germany and
France. In any case, all of the above debt figures can be found in Historical Table 7.1 of the 2006 U.S. Budget. 
The famous national debt clock in New York City's Times Square was actually deactivated in 2000 when the debt began to go down. However, following
large increases, the clock was reactivated a few years later. (Interestingly, some "man on the street" interviews showed that some people felt that
the sign's deactivation meant that the debt had been eliminated, though it remained at roughly $5 trillion.)
U.S. public debt
These are two lists of the world's economies sorted by their Gross domestic product (GDP) at market or government official exchange rates.
The first list was produced by the World Bank in July 2005 for GDP figures of 2004 based on what has already happened.
The second list includes ranking for the world economies with for the year 2005 produced by the International Monetary Fund in April 2005 based on
projections for what is expected to happen.
List by the World Bank List by the IMF
Rank Country 2004 GDP
millions of USD
— World 40,885,976
— European Union 11,139,013
1 United States 11,667,515
2 Japan 4,623,398
3 Germany 2,714,418
4 United Kingdom 2,140,898
5 France 2,002,582 +
6 Italy 1,672,302
7 People's Republic of China (Mainland) 1,649,329
8 Spain 991,442
9 Canada 979,764
10 India 691,876
List by the IMF
Rank Country 2005 GDP
millions of USD
— World 44,168,157
— European Union 13,926,873
1 United States 12,438,873
2 Japan 4,799,061
3 Germany 2,906,658
4 United Kingdom 2,295,039
5 France 2,216,273
6 People's Republic of China (Mainland) 1,843,117
7 Italy 1,836,407
8 Spain 1,120,312
9 Canada 1,098,446
10 Russia 755,437
List of countries by GDP (nominal) per capita
This is a list of countries of the world sorted by their Gross Domestic Product (nominal) per capita, the value of all final goods and services
produced within a nation in a given year, divided by the average population for the same year. GDP dollar numbers are derived from foreign exchange
rates of the country's currency.
Rank Country GDP (nominal) per capita
— World 6,851
1 Luxembourg 77,595
2 Norway 61,852
3 Switzerland 52,879
4 Iceland 52,063
5 Ireland 50,303
6 Denmark 49,182
7 Sweden 42,392
8 United States 41,917
9 Qatar 39,607
10 Austria 39,292
List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita
This is a list of countries of the world sorted by their gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita for the year of
2005, the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year, divided by the average population for the same year. GDP
dollar estimates here are derived from purchasing power parity (PPP) calculations.
Rank Country GDP (PPP) per capita
— World 9,239
1 Luxembourg 66,821
2 Norway 41,941
3 United States 41,557
4 Ireland 40,003
5 Iceland 35,686
6 Denmark 34,718
7 San Marino 34,600*
8 Canada 34,444
9 Switzerland 33,168
10 Austria 32,962