National Debt Tops $22 Trillion, Up $2 Trillion Since 2017

The National Debt officially topped $22 trillion, marking a $2 trillion increase since President Trump took office.

After two years of the Trump Presidency and Republican control of Congress, the National Debt stands at $22 Trillion:

The U.S. government’s public debt is now more than $22 trillion — the highest it’s ever been. The Treasury Department data comes as tax revenue has fallen and federal spending continues to rise. The new debt level reflects a rise of more than $2 trillion from the day President Trump took office in 2017.

Despite being in the second-longest economic expansion since the post-World War II boom, the U.S. is projected to rack up annual deficits and incur national debt at rates not seen since the 1940s, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Over the next 10 years, annual federal deficits — when Congress spends more than it takes in through tax revenues — are expected to average $1.2 trillion, which would be 4.4 percent of gross domestic product. That’s far higher than the 2.9 percent of GDP that has been the average for the past 50 years.

“Other than the period immediately after World War II, the only other time the average deficit has been so large over so many years was after the 2007-2009 recession,” the CBO said last month.

(…)

On Jan. 20, 2017, the total amount of outstanding public debt was $19.9 trillion. On Monday, it surpassed $22 trillion. That’s despite Trump saying in August of last yearthat new tariffs on imported goods would let the U.S. “start paying down large amounts” of the national debt.

“The president is very much aware of the realities presented by our national debt,” White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said last October, when the government said the federal deficit had ballooned to $779 billion in the most recent fiscal year.

Mulvaney said the deficits would be offset by gains in economic growth; he also called on Congress to rein in what he called “irresponsible and unnecessary spending.”

During the campaign, of course, the growth of the national debt under President Obama, much of which was attributable at least in part to the impact of the Great Recession and the results of the spending on two wars and significant new social welfare programs during the Bush Administration was a frequent target of then-candidate Trump. In 2015, for example, Trump noted the increase in the national debt under his predecessor, predicting it would “bankrupt” the country. Later in the campaign, he said that the massive increase in the national debt could only be solved by someone with his experience and acumen. Instead, he has presided over an increase of more than 10% in the national debt after just two years in office and is on pace to see the debt under his tenure double if he manages to get re-elected in 2020 and to reach at least $25 trillion if he ends up being only a one-term President.

All of this is happening, of course, at the same time that we are on course to return to an era where the Federal Budget Deficit hits $1 trillion on an annual basis. The last time we saw this was in the early years of the Obama years, when the record deficit could largely be attributed to a combination of reduced government revenue due to the Great Recession and the increased spending created by President Obama’s stimulus package, which in any case didn’t even become law until we were already at the point where the recession was ending of its own accord. In any event, thanks in part to the fact that the economy started to grow again and in part to the fact that Republicans taking control of the House in the 2010 elections meant that the powers-that-be in Washington were forced to the bargaining table when it came to the budget deficit. This resulted in a number of changes to the budget process, including most notably the Budget Control Act of 2011, which aimed to control discretionary non-entitlement spending via sequestration and other means. As a result of these factors, the trillion-dollar deficits disappeared and the budget deficit returned to at least somewhat more normal levels.

All of that changed when Republicans completed their quest to control the House, Senate, and White House in 2016. This time, the record-setting deficits that we are likely to see for the foreseeable future are coming at a time when the economy continues to boom during what has become one of the longest economic recoveries in history, and they come at a time when financial markets are becoming increasingly sensitive to higher levels of debt and interest rates. When the final budget deal for Fiscal Year 2018 was put forward in mid-February of last year, it included massive spending increases in almost every budget category and busted through the controls that had been put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. As The New York Times noted at the time, this effectively means that Republicans have learned to love the deficits and debt they once claimed to abhor. In other words, the Republican Party, which had spent the Obama years railing about spending and deficits, had become the party of deficits and debt. By April of last year, the Congressional Budget Office had officially forecast that we’d be seeing trillion dollars deficits by the end of Fiscal Year 2019 and just a few months later, the national debt crossed a new benchmark and was north of $21 trillion. Now, less than a year later we’re at $22 trillion. So much for Republicans and fiscal responsibility, huh?

Republicans allegedly weren’t planning on this, or at least that’s what they claim. They believed that the tax cut passed at the end of 2017 would boost the economy and create new jobs in such numbers that it would lead to significantly larger revenue for the Federal Government. So far, that doesn’t appear to be happening. While we’ve seen some good news in the Gross Domestic Product and jobs numbers recently, they haven’t been anywhere near GOP projections and, overall, the economy isn’t really growing at a much faster pace than it was during the last few years of the Obama Administration. Moreover, the economy is projected to slow down after 2020 if not sooner due to a number of factors including the length of the recovery from the Great Recession, which is close to being the longest in American history and will pass the length of recovery that lasted from 1991 to 2001 in about four months. (Source), as well as the impact of higher interest rates.  Finally, the Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that Federal spending will rice from its current level of 20.8% of Gross Domestic Product to 23% by 2029, in no small part because of increases in Social Security and Medicare obligations made necessary by an aging population. All of that points to the deficit and the debt getting worse, not better, in the coming years.

Nice work, Trump.

FILED UNDER: Congress, Deficit and Debt, Donald Trump, Economics and Business, Politicians, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    “When I said I would eliminate the debt, I did not mean it would grow smaller.” Donald “Tiny Hands” Trump.

  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Based on the conversation over on the Wall Post…I can only assume that Pearce is going to tell us that Dennison is actually cutting the debt by raising the debt.

    Despite being in the second-longest economic expansion since the post-World War II boom, the U.S. is projected to rack up annual deficits and incur national debt at rates not seen since the 1940s

    This is the crux of my problem with this…we are exploding the deficit by the greatest amount ever during a non-recession economy, and it makes no sense to do that.
    Meanwhile members of the middle-class are doing their taxes and discovering that the big beautiful tax cut Republicans passed is fuqing them in the ass…hard.
    And a real danger sign…7 million Americans are 90 days or more behind in their car payments…higher than any time since 2010 when we were still recovering from the Bush Contraction.

  3. Kathy says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Meanwhile members of the middle-class are doing their taxes and discovering that the big beautiful tax cut Republicans passed is fuqing them in the ass…hard.

    I don’t see how you can blame the GOP or El Cheeto for this. After all, if they won’t take advantage and deduct their private jets, boats, cars, vacation homes, etc., and won’t keep a high-priced tax accountant on retainer to help them get the most out of the tax cut, they have only themselves to blame.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    Republicans allegedly weren’t planning on this, or at least that’s what they claim. They believed that the tax cut passed at the end of 2017 would boost the economy and create new jobs in such numbers that it would lead to significantly larger revenue for the Federal Government.

    I know it has not escaped your notice that Republicans, not just Trump and Romney but Republicans generally, lie a lot.

    In other words, hoocudanode?

  5. Tyrell says:

    There was a time when the word “trillion” did not exist as far as vocabulary usage; even stars were numbered “billions and billions”.
    Now it is common place to hear it, usually connected with the Federal government debt. People hear it and no longer give it a second thought. Few give any heed to warnings of the coming economic apocalypse that is being predicted (you will not see any of that on the mainstream news for obvious reasons)
    “A billion here, a billion there and it starts to add up”: Senator Everett Dirksen

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  6. An Interested Party says:

    Remember, deficits don’t matter…well, only if there is a Republican in the White House…if the president is a Democrat, deficits are worse than bubonic plague…

  7. DrDaveT says:

    The U.S. government’s public debt is now more than $22 trillion — the highest it’s ever been.

    Truly, or only nominally?

    Almost anything measured in nominal dollars will be bigger today than ever, because a dollar is worth less today than ever. Movie gross, price of a gallon of milk, top CEO salaries — if you want to compare them honestly across the decades you need to adjust for inflation.

    For the National Debt, even that might not be enough, because the real measure of the debt is against the earnings that make people willing to lend us money. How large is the debt as a percent of GDP these days? Is that an all-time high?

  8. gVOR08 says:

    @DrDaveT: Dept/GDP is close to the level at the end of WWII. That was paid, and inflated, down pretty quickly. Since then, there’s been nothing remotely approaching the current level.

  9. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Tyrell: From Wikiquote:

    Misattributed
    A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon, you’re talking real money.
    Although often quoted, it seems Dirksen never actually said this. The Dirksen Congressional Research Center made an extensive search when fully 25% of enquiries to them were about the quotation. They could find Dirksen did say “a billion here, a billion there”, and things close to that, but not the “pretty soon you’re talking real money” part. They had one gentleman report to them he had asked Dirksen about it on an airflight and received the reply: “Oh, I never said that. A newspaper fella misquoted me once, and I thought it sounded so good that I never bothered to deny it.”
    Funny, I remember Senator Dirksen, in his gravily voice, saying it on TV in the 1960’s quite distinctly. Perhaps, either it wasn’t recorded, or any TV station with him saying it, has never come forward, despite the claim of the man who said he talked with Senator Dirksen on a flight about it. I remember him saying it in his often theatrical, exaggerated style, for the purpose of mockedly belittling the notion of a billion dollars being a “small” sum of money.

    Tgdf (talk)Except if you look at the years when this was supposedly said, I believe Dirksen (or at least the actual speaker) said “a million here, a million there, pretty soon you’re talking real money”. This was already inflated to billions decades ago. But at the time, there was NOTHING that individually cost a billion dollars. Even hundreds of millions was VERY RARE in the 1960s. I don’t know if I actually saw tape of him saying this, but I do remember the correction of billions to millions in the ’70s or ’80s. And when you think of it, the confusion of millions & billions alone makes the quote all that more outré. I could swear that I heard him say it on TV also….but the 1960s were a long time ago.Tgdf (talk)[emphasis added]

  10. wr says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: To me, the problem is not so much that we’re blowing up the debt… it’s that we’re blowing up the debt and getting nothing for it. If we were taking that money and building roads and bridges and rail systems and airports, the extra debt would be fine, because we’d be laying to groundwork for economic expansion. Instead we’re just taking all that money and shoveling back at billionaires, who will use it to buy $250 million apartments…

  11. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @wr:

    we’re blowing up the debt and getting nothing for it

    Yup…

  12. Tyrell says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Great research and information! Dirksen was a favorite.