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Key bit:   Now, more than a decade after the last recession ended, the United States is carrying a record amount of debt: more than $23 trillion. The country is on track to add more than $1 trillion to that total in every year of the coming decade, with old age entitlements ramping up as Baby Boomers retire and the country as a whole ages.

“Debt matters because it’s the one issue that impacts all others,” says Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonpartisan policy center dedicated to fiscal issues. “Debt threatens our economic health and hinders our ability to make important investments in our future. If we want to tackle big issues like climate change, student debt or national security, then we shouldn’t saddle ourselves with growing interest costs.”

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the national debt will approach the size of the entire U.S. economy by the end of the current decade—and will keep on growing until it hits 144 percent of U.S. GDP in 2049. The current situation, warns the Government Accountability Office (GAO), is “unsustainable.”

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