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National debt tops $22 trillion, treasury reports

by Frank E. Lockwood | February 13, 2019 at 3:53 a.m. | Updated February 13, 2019 at 3:53 a.m.

WASHINGTON -- The national debt has surpassed $22 trillion, the federal government reported Tuesday.

The milestone was noted in the U.S. Treasury Department's Daily Treasury Statement, which outlines the nation's revenue, expenditures, account balances and debt.

The national debt was $19.947 trillion on Jan. 20, 2017, the day President Donald Trump took the oath of office. It has climbed more than $2 trillion since then, to $22.013 trillion.

The share for every man, woman and child in the U.S. is more than $67,000. The debt has risen more than $6,000 per person during the Trump presidency.

The growth of annual budget deficits is outpacing the growth of the economy, Congressional Budget Office Director Keith Hall told lawmakers last month.

The debt, at the end of 2018, equaled 78 percent of the gross domestic product. It is on pace to reach 93 percent by 2029 and 150 percent by 2049, the budget office forecasts.

Even in the wake of World War II, that figure never surpassed 106 percent, Hall noted.

Under Trump, spending increases, coupled with recent tax cuts, have resulted in rising annual deficits and a growing national debt, the budget office stated.

The national "debt is on an unsustainable course," Hall warned during his testimony before the House Budget Committee.

Last week, Trump said strengthening the military had been a higher priority than balancing the budget, "which I can always do at the right time."

In an interview Friday, former White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty said the country can't afford to "push that [deficit and debt] to the side and try to ignore it."

"This is a serious issue. It clearly affects not only our current economy in the intermediate outlook but it affects future generations," he said. "You can't spend beyond your means. You have to balance your budget."

In a written statement, Peter G. Peterson Foundation CEO Michael A. Peterson said the latest figures are a sign that "our fiscal situation is not only unsustainable, but accelerating."

The foundation, which seeks to highlight "key fiscal challenges threatening America's future," has repeatedly urged federal officials to address the issue.

"Our growing national debt matters because it threatens the economic future of every American," Peterson added.

Former Republican U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and former Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell, co-chairmen of the Campaign to Fix the Debt, called this week's milestone a "sad reminder of the inexcusable tab our nation's leaders continue to run up and will leave for the next generation."

In their written statement, they called for "responsible leadership to fix the debt."

The U.S. hasn't had a balanced budget since fiscal 2001.

After dropping during President Bill Clinton's second term in office, the national debt began climbing shortly after George W. Bush became president.

On the day he took office, the national debt stood at $5.728 trillion; on the day he left, it stood at $10.627 trillion.

The deficit spending continued under President Barack Obama. Annual deficits topped $1 trillion in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crisis as the nation struggled to pull out of recession.

By the time Obama departed, the debt was approaching $20 trillion.

Given current spending, taxation and economic growth, the budget office foresees a return to trillion-dollar annual budget deficits by fiscal 2022.

This week's milestone is "another reminder that America must change course," U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers said in a written statement.

The former House Budget Committee chairman, currently its ranking Republican, said the nation "must confront unsustainable mandatory spending or face insolvency. The longer we wait to face these challenges head-on, the bigger the consequences will be. We have a moral obligation to act now -- we can't leave this burden for our children and grandchildren."

A Section on 02/13/2019

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