does anyone know what the total assets are of the United States?

i always hear about a national debt but i never hear about the actual net worth of the country. any ideas?


i've gotten some good answers but i guess i'm reaching for a little more. maybe i'm oversimplifying the concept here. for example, if a business had assets of 20 million dollars and they had debt of 5 million they would be a healthy business operating well within their means. i'm wondering if the same holds true with the federal government. If our debt is 9 trillion (i don't know what the number is) and the country is worth 50 trillion dollars than the national debt really isn't that bad.

if this is a bad assumption i'm ok with it but i'm curious as to why?

4 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Taxes aren't backed by the government's assets -- land, oil reserves, etc. -- but by tax revenue. Tax revenue is a slightly uncertain, slowly growing stream of income that theoretically lasts from now until eternity, so you'd think it would be very hard to value.

    Fortunately, there is a financial formula called the discounted cash flow model that can help out, here. It basically asks: given the annual income, the growth rate, the risk-free interest rate, and the risk involved, what is a stream of future income worth, today?

    Obviously, that's a lot of assumptions. To nail things down:

    In 2008, the government collected $2,524b.

    The risk-free rate is about 2.8%.

    Using a few other assumptions (growth rate of 1% -- that's in inflation-adjusted dollars), and plugging everything into an online discounted cash flow calculator, I get a value for future tax revenue of $63 trillion. So someone wanting to buy out all of our income would have to pay about that much for it, theoretically.

    Keep in mind that the income number I used excludes spending -- if we add in the current rates of discretionary and entitlement spending, and include the future growth rate, the government's assets are swamped by its debts -- either we need the economy to grow really fast, we need to find a way to get more tax revenues for the same growth rate, or we need to cut spending.

    Hope that's what you were looking for.

  • 1 decade ago

    It wouldnt be outrageous for the nation as a whole to have a return on assets in the range of 5%, give or take a few % points. So just multiply the GDP by between say 13 and 30 to get an answer. I really doubt one can get any more accurate than this. So say 14 trillion*13 = 182 and 14 trillion*30 = 420.

    So between 182 and 420 trillion. I would hope its closer to the former than the latter!

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    The net worth concept does not apply in public accounting, only to persons and businesses. So nobody knows is the correct answer to your question.

    To try to find the figure you would first have to define strictly what/who you mean by 'the United States.' Is it the Federal government only, or does it include the 50 states, the counties, cities, districts etc. that might be considered as governmental.

    Or do you also include the assets of the people?

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Well, I guess we can try to figure out the value of the infrastructure. After all, every municipality has to appraise roads and bridges because of the GASB 34 requirements.

    So, I think you're on to something here. Let's sell Yellowstone to pay off some debts.

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