After strolling past the exclusive boutiques on Berlin's Friedrichstrasse, tourists, locals and cabinet members may find solace -- or distress -- in the capital's newest sight: the rapidly ticking national debt clock.
In decentralized Germany, the western city of Wiesbaden must be fuming. It's been deprived of one of its most popular tourist destinations for the benefit of the capital. On top of being the seat of the federal government, Berlin is now the home of Germany's national debt clock.
"Our debt clock depicts the entire scale of this catastrophically high level of debt and its growth," Karl Heinz Däke, head of the taxpayer watchdog group Bund der Steuerzähler (BdSt), said as the red-numbered digital clock was unveiled on a building façade in the government district Wednesday.
"I would advise politicians from the federal government and the states to come here as often as possible to get an idea of how high the national debt is and how swiftly it increases," Däke said.
The taxpayer group recently moved into the building down the street from the Federal Finance Ministry.
Nearly too fast for the naked eye
The last four digits on the clock move so quickly you can hardly register them. On Friday morning it stood at €1,361,959,207,548.
Every second, Germany's national debt increases by €2,186 ($2,621), BdSt, the self-proclaimed "financial conscience of the nation" calculated. That figure reflects the average monthly salary of a German employee. The group estimated that Finance Minister Hans Eichel had to spend every fifth euro paid in taxes last year to cover the €38 billion interest the national debt acquired.
As they continually put pressure on politicians to stop the state from racking up more debt, Däke and the BdSt seem to think their pleas will one day be heard. At least their clock only has space for 13 digits, suggesting the debt won't reach €10 billion.
Just days after the clock started ticking in the capital, it's already hit €1,361,959,273,128 -- and counting.