(Photo: Reuters/Andrew Kelly)
The national debt has surpassed $17 trillion, or about $53,765 for each U.S. citizen, including children. Total unfunded liabilities, what the federal government is projected to owe minus what the federal government is projected to receive in revenue, is over $126 trillion.
The U.S. Treasury Department posts the national debt, to the penny, on weekdays, not including holidays, at around 3 p.m. On Friday, Treasury reported the national debt at $17,075,590,107,963.57, the first time it has surpassed the $17 trillion mark. By Monday afternoon it was down slightly, at $17,074,260,390,144.95.
Part of that amount, about $5 trillion worth, is debt the government owes to itself, in the form of the Social Security trust fund. Since Social Security now pays more to beneficiaries than it receives in revenue, through a payroll tax, the program trades in its special Treasury bonds to make up the difference.
The national debt first reached $1 trillion in the early 1980's. By 1990, it was over $3 trillion. The national debt nearly doubled, from about $5.7 trillion to about $10 trillion during the eight years of the George W. Bush presidency, 2001 to 2009.
The nation is now on track to double the debt again, from 10 to 20 trillion dollars in Obama's two terms. Nearly $2 trillion was added to the national debt in Obama's first year as president, which was the start of the Great Recession. Over $1 trillion has been added each year since.
As part of last week's agreement to fund the government and raise the debt ceiling for a few months, a bipartisan conference committee was created to agree to a longer term government funding bill and debt ceiling increase. Many of those concerned about the national debt are hoping for a "grand bargain" that will both cut the growth in government spending through entitlement reform and increase government revenue through tax reform. Compromise legislation appears unlikely, though, with a deeply divided, deeply partisan, Congress.