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Grim Milestone Nears for National Debt

Saturday November 26th, 2016   •   Posted by Craig Eyermann at 10:43am PST   •  

Imagine 1 trillion 20 dollar bills Since the U.S. federal government’s fiscal year cycled over to FY2017 on October 1, 2016, the growth of U.S. government’s total public debt outstanding has accelerated. If that faster growth rate holds at the average pace through November 23, 2016, just before Thanksgiving, then the total public debt outstanding will exceed $20 trillion sometime around December 15, 2016.


Extending that projection out further, by the time that President Obama reaches the end of his tenure in office on January 20, 2017, the U.S. total public debt outstanding would be slightly under $20.16 trillion, which would mean that Obama’s fiscal policies would be responsible for having increased the size of the national debt by $9.5 trillion, nearly doubling its size since he was first sworn into office on January 20, 2009. Over the 8 years of his presidency, that represents the national debt of the U.S. growing by an average rate of nearly $1.2 trillion per year.

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget’s analysis, the various fiscal policy proposals that President-elect Donald Trump advanced during the 2016 election campaign would result in the U.S. national debt increasing by another $5.3 billion over the next 10 years, which would represent an average growth rate of $0.53 trillion per year.

The amazing thing is that projected increase is just 44 percent of the actual national debt growth rate realized under President Obama’s fiscal policies, which just goes to show how out of control federal spending has been during the past eight years.

Update: Not long after this article was published, the U.S. Treasury Department began actively managing the issuance of new debt to slow the growth of the national debt. Barron’s reports:

With 2017 just around the corner, Congress has its work cut out for it, as it must approve an increase to the US government’s debt ceiling. If it doesn’t, that could translate into volatility for Treasuries, according to Invesco’s Justin Mandeville.

In his latest note, Mandeville writes that if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the Treasury’s cash balance—regulated by law—would have to decrease “dramatically,” which would in turn curtail Treasury bill issuance.

The Treasury has already started trying to address this possibility, drawing down its cash balance to meet the law’s mandate if necessary, and recent T bill auctions have been scaled back. With little incentive to change this in the first quarter, he says investors should expect low auction sizes that put pressure on rates.

These changes will delay the date at which the total public debt outstanding of the U.S. government will exceed $20 trillion until after President Obama has left office, where it will now likely hit that figure sometime in February 2017.

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November 2016