There’s also the national debt, which it turns out is not really like debt you or I might have at all, and — this was mind-blowing to me — most economists don’t even think the national debt is bad, and some actually think we should have more national debt...
Government debt is indeed different than personal debt. It is true some of the USA debt we owe to ourselves (we also owe a lot to China, Japan and others). The situation is fairly odd now for the USA in that the interest rates are extremely low. That makes the huge amount of debt less painful - but even now 15% of the spending by the government is just paying interest. And that could easily double without interest rates really even getting high. That is a real problem. To the extent we owe it to ourselves it is less of a problem but we owe lots to people overseas which means we are going to be paying back hundreds of billions of dollars to people in China, Japan... At these rates it might be fine (or even a good deal) sometime in the next 20 years it is likely to be very costly.
I wrote about the issue of government debt and the different impact of it being held overseas or within the country.
Japan has far more debt than even the USA. But it is also much more owed to themselves than is true in the USA.
The USA also has significant advantages over other countries. We can hold more debt safely than other countries due to the perception of the safety of the US$ and the size of the USA economy.
Related: Chart of Net Government Debt from 1980 to 2013 by Country - Which Currency is the Least Bad? (2012 - USD) - Who Will Buy All the USA’s Debt? (2009) - USA Federal Debt Now $516,348 Per Household (2007)