The United States government’s accumulated debts have grown by more than $7 trillion – with a ‘t’ – since Barack Obama became president on January 20, 2009.
The sad milestone was revealed on July 31 by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on a ‘debt to the penny’ website that calculates the debt at the end of every business day.
On Obama’s first day in office the debt stood at $10.626 trillion. Last Thursday it reached $17.687 trillion.
America’s first 43 presidents took 223 years to rack up the country’s first $7 trillion in red ink.
Obama has duplicated that dubious achievement in less than five years and seven months.
After the same number of days in office, former President George W. Bush had increased the national debt by a comparatively paltry $2.720 trillion.
Bill Clinton’s debt load at the same point in his presidency had increased by just $1,324 trillion.
The right-leaning Cybercast News Service was first to point out that Obama had cleared the $7 trillion hurdle in added financial obligations.
During a July 2008 campaign speech in North Dakota, then-Senator Obama ripped into the Bush administration for running up the federal debt by a total of $4 billion near the end of his second term.
‘The problem is,’ he said, ‘is that the way Bush has done it over the last eight years is to take out a credit card from the Bank of China in the name of our children, driving up our national debt from $5 trillion for the first 42 presidents – #43 added $4 trillion by his lonesome, so that we now have over $9 trillion of debt that we are going to have to pay back – $30,000 for every man, woman and child.’
‘That’s irresponsible,’ Obama said then. ‘It’s unpatriotic.’
The Republican Party ripped into the president on Monday with an email blast charging that after ‘[i]gnoring warnings from all corners, Obama has one of the worst records on the federal debt in U.S. history.’
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for a response.
In February the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that ‘federal debt held by the public will equal 74 percent of GDP at the end of this year and 79 percent in 2024.’
At the end of 2008, that number was just 39 per cent. At current rates of spending, by 2019 the debt will be larger than the nation’s annual GDP.
‘Such large and growing federal debt,’ the CBO warns, ‘could have serious negative consequences, including restraining economic growth in the long term, giving policymakers less flexibility to respond to unexpected challenges, and eventually increasing the risk of a fiscal crisis.’
Debt held by the public makes up about 71 per cent of the total federal debt. The rest consists of ‘intragovernmental holdings’ – government-speak for gaps in the Medicare Trust Fund, the Social Security Trust Fund, and other revolving funds.
Those lines on Uncle Sam’s balance sheet totaled $5,036 trillion at the end of last Thursday, a number that represents how far behind the government is in meeting its long-term obligations to retirees and other benefit-takers.
Government spending has skyrocketed during Obama’s time in office due to a combinations of his policies, a spendthrift Congress and recession-related automatic stabilizers like unemployment insurance that can quickly drain the Treasury.
The annual deficit – a single year’s addition to the larger debt – was $1.413 trillion in 2009, Obama’s first year in the White House. He has steadily reduced it year-on-year, and the 2014 deficit is expected to be $492 billion.
That number, however, is still larger than any other annual deficit in the history of the U.S. before he became president.