For the first time, U.S. national debt hit $20 trillion. The debt per taxpayer is over $167,000.
U.S. national debt hit $20 trillion on Monday, an unfortunate milestone that puts a hard number on America’s addiction to spending.
America’s gross debt-to-GDP ratio is now nearly 105 percent, meaning that total U.S. debt is more than the annual value of America’s economy.
For decades, the U.S. hovered at or under the so-called “prudential” rate of 60 percent debt-to-GDP. Debt was less than 60 percent of GDP up until the early 1990s, hovered around there through the Clinton and George W. Bush presidencies, and then went sky-high in the early years of the Obama administration.
The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) wrote in July 2016 that “By Most Measures, Debt Roughly Doubled Under Obama“:
From a numerical standpoint, Trump is correct that the debt has almost doubled in dollar terms since Obama’s first inauguration. Using the gross debt figure Trump cites, debt grew from $10.6 trillion on Inauguration Day 2009 to $19.4 trillion as of July 21. Using the more economically meaningful figure of debt held by the public, which excludes money that the government owes to itself, debt more than doubled from $6.3 trillion to $14 trillion.
CRFB noted that while some of the debt accumulated under Obama was due to “laws and economic conditions in place before [he] took office,” he did pass several laws “worsening this debt situation.”
First of all, much of the debt increase was the result of laws and economic conditions in place before Obama took office rather than laws that passed under his presidency. The Congressional Budget Office’s first current law projections of the Obama presidency already projected debt held by the public would rise from $5.8 trillion to $9.1 trillion when Obama left office – and these projections didn’t incorporate the entire depth of the Great Recession, which reduced revenue and therefore further increased debt.
Importantly, though, President Obama did sign many laws worsening this debt situation. Among the most significant are the 2009 stimulus, extending the 2001/2003 tax cuts temporarily in 2010 and making most of them permanent in 2012, the 2015 permanent “doc fix,” and the tax extenders/omnibus bill at the end of 2015. President Obama also signed several pieces of legislation to reduce projected debt, most significantly the Budget Control Act. But importantly, these laws were written not by the president but by Congress.
The U.S. regularly spends more than it takes in, and there’s no sign of that trend abating in the next several years.