The US Comptroller General David M. Walker of the GAO is interviewed by the BBC. Note - Walker is a "career" government official that's been at the GAO since 1998, he's not a Gee Dubbz hack like Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez. In other words (no Gee Dubbz), Walker is actually worth listening to.
The US Government national debt (aka public debt) is at $8.8 Trillion. Using a ballpark figure of the US population of 300 Million, this means each of us Americans has a $29K per capita debt!
But the current national debt is not the economic ELE.
The economic ELE is that the Baby Boomer retirement, will increase government spending due to all of the boomers' Social Security & Medicaid costs. Note that there are relatively more Baby Boomers (40s - 60s "babies") than Generation X & Y (70s - 00s "babies"), so the ratio of current workers to retired workers will decrease dramatically.
Walker says these 3 things will inevitably happen to address this fiscal crisis.
1 cut retirement-related benefits - SSN, Medicaid, etc
2 cut other government spending
3 raise revenue/taxes
Walker didn't even mention other factors that I feel are quite possible
4 reduction in salary growth (or even salary reduction) in many American occupations due to offshore outsourcing to Asia
5 raising energy costs to 2X+ current level due to somewhat of a "peak oil" type situation
Even worse, this doesn't factor in an actual ELE which hopefully won't but might occur, such as
6 global economic depression
7 severe "crash" (say 30%+) in stock market or house market
8 public health crisis like avian flu
9 WMD-type terrorist attack which forces a quarantine of a major city for a decade or more
Bottom line is make sure you & your family save a lot of money, as you can't really rely on the US government or economy, word to Hurricane Katrina.
Damn I never thought Prince's 1999 song would be used in retrospect, but damn it's true. 1999 USA was awesome, I would "party like it's 1999" if the USA economic & geopolitical situation could return to that relative golden era!