WASHINGTON — The national debt passed $20 trillion for the first time in history, prompting debt watchdogs to urgently press for a plan to rein in the “frightening” number.
In its balance sheet report from last Friday, the Treasury Department said the U.S. had $20,162,176,797,904.13 of debt outstanding. That includes $14,622,661,213,046.99 in debt held by the public and $5,539,515,584,857.14 in intragovernmental holdings.
The jump of about $317 billion coincided with President Trump signing legislation Friday to suspended the debt ceiling, and allow unrestrained borrowing by the Treasury, until Dec. 8.
The Fix the Debt Coalition includes on its steering committee former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-Wyo.) and former Clinton White House chief of staff Erskine Bowles, the pair who chaired President Obama’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and found many of their belt-tightening recommendations ignored. Co-chairs former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and former Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell (D) noted in a statement today that Trump “spent much of the campaign warning about our $20 trillion debt; we have now officially hit that frightening milestone.”
“The United States now holds more gross debt than at any time in history, and our debt held by the public is a larger share of the economy than at any time since World War II,” Gregg and Rendell added. “With deficits rising, interest costs growing, and major trust funds headed toward insolvency, it’s time for our leaders to build a plan.”
“We should use this frightening $20 trillion milestone as a turning point when leaders put fixing the debt ahead of political priorities and work together to put our debt on a sustainable path, so we can grow the economy and improve the economic well-being of the American people.”
According to the National Debt Clock, the U.S. pays $442,541,399,266 in interest per year — an accumulation of $14,033 per second — and the debt amounts to $61,267 per citizen.
“Cap spending,” Freedom Caucus founder Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told MSNBC this morning. “I’ll vote for a debt ceiling increase but only if we’re addressing the $20 trillion problem. The debt just hit $20 trillion today. So how can you just raise the limit on the credit card, say for the next three months you can spend, you can borrow as much as you want with no repercussion, how can you do that when you’ve got a $20 trillion problem?”
“The fact is, we didn’t give the president any options,” Jordan added. “We didn’t give him any choices. So the choice was, do you want a longer-term debt ceiling increase that doesn’t address the underlying problem, or do you want a shorter-term debt ceiling increate that doesn’t address the underlying problem? Frankly, there’s not a whole lot of difference between those. That’s why we said put a cap on spending. I’ll raise the debt ceiling if we actually do something to address the $20 trillion problem. And, frankly, I think taxpayers would prefer that.”
Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Bloomberg that making the debt-ceiling deal was “a positive thing” to avoid a government shutdown at the end of the month.
“Now, let’s build on it. Before the end of the year, let’s get a budget that’s good for this country to go forward, let’s deal with tax reform in a way that doesn’t reward the rich but helps working families who are facing their own struggles,” Durbin said. “Let’s make sure as well that we extend the debt ceiling. There’s not uncertainty in our future. If we do that on a bipartisan basis, that is a good outcome.”