My eyes caught the full-page graphic in the print version Washington Post Business Section Sunday entitled “Our Mountain of Debt” and they strained to see all the numbers and text about them because this is a subject of considerable interest and importance right now to me and many others.
The article said: “In the American political conversation, the national debt has become something almost mythical. The debt has become a metaphor for all that ails the United States, a scary monster under the bed. It isn’t. It’s an accounting concept. The nation’s numbers, in the billions and trillions of dollars, start to get away from us quickly. But the challenge is not unlike any household’s juggle to manage its finances.”
I decided to go to the online version hoping to get a more readable version and even the actual numbers in a table – no such luck – it was a PDF file that was even harder to read unless I enlarged it considerably.
Since I had done a previous story on Debt Reduction (to be published) I decided to take the same approach to actually extract the numbers and reproduce the graphics so they were interactive, and then research what was being said about them that I thought was really important to the readers.
First, I looked for what Mark Zandi had said because I had heard him interviewed several times recently on TV and respected what he said: “Moody’s, my company, just put U.S. debt on review for a possible downgrade. Defaulting on the nations’s debt would be cataclysmic.The U.S. Treasury’s AAA rating is the one constant in the world’s financial system.” President Obama’s advisors have tried to persuade Moody’s and other similar companies to not do that.
Second, I found that one of the cited sources of the information was Bill Grosse, founder and co-chief investment officer of the investment management firm Pimco, who said about all of this: “Now, as that road approaches a dead-end cul-de-sac via interest rates that can go no lower, we are left untrained, underinvested and overindebted relative to our global competitors.”
He leads the largest private investment company in the world and says that Economist David Rosenberg of Gluskin Sheff sums up his feelings rather well.
“I’d have a shovel in the hands of the long-term unemployed from 8am to noon, and from 1pm to 5pm I’d have them studying algebra, physics, and geometry.” Deficits are important, but their immediate reduction can wait for a stronger economy and lower unemployment. Jobs are today’s and tomorrow’s immediate problem.
My data tables and graphics are shown in interactive form on a wiki page elsewhere.
Now the reader can see the numbers, download them in spreadsheet form, and interact with them, using software by Spotfire.