When the U.S. government reports its debt, it does not include payment that it is required to make to seniors, veterans and retired employee. If those were included, as they should be, the US debt would be an far greater number than the already outrageous number the government does publish.
Accountant Sheila Weinberg, founder of the Institute for Truth in Accounting, has done the accounting correctly and has come up with these numbers: Total US debt $61 trillion, which comes out to $534,000 per household.
These numbers provide a picture of why the debt is really such a big problem. No way, no how can it be paid off, given the simple fact that most households don't have $534,000 to turn over to the government.
Default is really the only long-term option. It will be done either in straightforward fashion, where the government pays pennies on the dollar for what it owes. Or it will be done in stealth fashion by the Fed printing up dollars to pay for the government obligations, which will create huge price inflation that will screw the average worker and also those on fixed incomes such as retirees.