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The U.S. government’s total public debt outstanding finally surpassed the grim milestone of $20 trillion on September 8, 2017, following President Trump’s surprising deal with Congressional Democrats to suspend the statutory debt ceiling through December 15, 2017. On that Friday, the national debt jumped by $317.6 billion to reach $20.16 trillion.
The total public debt outstanding increased as the U.S. Treasury Department exchanged new borrowing from the public with I.O.U.s that it had been accumulating through the extraordinary measures it had taken to maintain the national debt at the statutory ceiling of $19.85 trillion set on March 15, 2017. Those I.O.U.s primarily consisted of deferred payments to the pension funds operated by the U.S. government for the benefit of its civilian and military employees.
Once the U.S. government’s statutory debt ceiling was suspended on September 8, 2017, the U.S. national debt almost immediately snapped to the level to which it would have risen if the nation’s borrowing limit had not been in force.
To put that $317 billion increase in the national debt into better perspective, that amount of increase was reached on President Trump’s 231st day in office. By contrast, by President Obama’s 231st day in office, the national debt had risen by $1.16 trillion, over 3.6 times faster than the rate at which the national debt was increasing some eight years later.
Much of the increase in that period can be attributed to the economic “stimulus” package that President Obama sought after assuming power.
Meanwhile, during President Obama’s last 231 days in office from June 3, 2016 through January 20, 2017, the U.S. national debt increased by $732 billion, which is 2.3 times as fast as has the national debt has increased during President Trump’s total of 231 days in office.
So the good news, if you can call it that with the national debt having exceeded $20 trillion, is that the rate at which the U.S. national debt is increasing is well below the pace that U.S. politicians found acceptable during the Obama administration.
The bad news is that too many of those same politicians are looking at the rate of national debt growth and are now salivating at the prospect of being able to spend taxpayer dollars at a faster rate, which is the surest path to having a more serious national debt problem.