Society

U.S. Debt Hits $19 Trillion

| by Diana Kruzman
The U.S. Treasury Department buildingThe U.S. Treasury Department building

The national debt surpassed $19 trillion for the first time in U.S. history, coming in at $19.012 trillion on Jan. 29.

The current figure represents almost $60,000 of debt for every U.S. citizen alive today, Russia Today notes. The public debt makes up about $13.7 trillion of the total, while the rest stems from government borrowing.

According to David Walker, the former Comptroller General of the United States, the actual debt may be closer to $65 trillion.

“You have to consider not just the public debt; you have to consider the debt we owe to the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, as well as the huge unfunded obligations for our social insurance programs,” Walker told Russia Today. “When you add all those numbers up, the number is over $65 trillion, rather than the lower numbers a lot of the economists want to talk about.”

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The Comptroller General directs the Government Accountability Office, which oversees government spending and works with the president to create the federal budget.

Currently, the federal government is borrowing without a debt limit after Congress voted in November 2015 to suspend the debt ceiling until March 2017, according to The Blaze. The previous debt ceiling, which stood at $18.1 trillion, had been in place since December 2014.

The national debt has increased significantly in recent years, from $10.8 trillion when President Barack Obama took office in 2009. Furthermore, the rate of increase has been rising; while it took approximately 14 months for the debt to reach $16 trillion, $17 trillion, and $18 trillion respectively, it took only 13 months to reach the new figure of $19 trillion.

Government spending accounts for most of the debt increase; in fiscal year 2015, the federal budget was $3.8 trillion or about 21 percent of the GDP, according to the National Priorities Project. Mandatory spending, such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security programs, makes up the greatest portion of that budget, forming $2.45 trillion or 64.63 percent of it. Of discretionary spending, which takes up $1.11 trillion or 29.34 percent of spending, the overwhelming majority -- $598.49 billion or 53.71 percent -- goes to military expenditures, with other sectors such as education, health, housing, energy, science, transportation and agriculture splitting the remainder.

Sources: Russia Today, The Blaze, The National Priorities Project / Photo Credit: Sebastian Bergmann/FlickrErvins Strauhmanis/Flickr

 
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