That number is the total amount of federal government debt outstanding as of 12/31/2010. Of that, $9,390,476,088,043.35 (plus about $10 million, or if you prefer, $0.00001 trillion in what is termed “guaranteed debt of government agencies” that is somehow not part of the public debt but is part of the “debt subject to limit”), and $4,585,749,068,174.55 in “intragovernmental debt” (that would be, for the most part, the various “Trust Funds”). To put it in a bit of text perspective, the Gross Domestic Product was $14.119 trillion in 2009, and if projections can be believed, will come in at just over $14.7 trillion in 2010. That makes the public debt just under 64% of GDP and total debt over 95% of GDP.
That dry text doesn’t, however, do it justice. I decided to go through 40 years’s worth (or, give or take a few shakes of a lamb’s tail, about the length of time I’ve been walking the Earth) of calendar-year-ending Monthly Statements of the Public Debt, grab the GDP for each of those years (estimated for 2010), and whip up a “little” frightening chart for you:
The short version of that chart:
- Between 1970 and 1981, total debt remained right around the 37% of GDP, and publicly-held/guaranteed debt remained right around 27% of GDP.
- Publicly-held debt plateaued right about 40% of GDP between 1986 and 1989, but because of changes to Social Security, the increasing intragovernmental debt, which crossed the 10% of GDP threshhold in 1988, caused total debt to continue to increase at an unchanged rate.
- Sticking with intragovernmental debt briefly, it steadily increased to a high of nearly 32% of GDP in 2009 before multiple “trust funds” began running deficits, both primary (cash) and gross, helping to increase the publicly-held debt as said “trust funds” get monetized through borrowing while there is exactly $0.00 set aside or otherwise available for the purpose.
- Back to the publicly-held debt, it again plateaued at 50% of GDP between 1992 and 1996, with total debt plateauing around 68% of GDP, before “unified budget surpluses” and a gangbusters economy allowed them to go down as a function of GDP.
- By 2000, total debt dropped to about 57% of GDP, with publicly-held debt hitting its post-1981 low of 33% of GDP in 2001. While publicly-held debt remained about 37% of GDP through 2007, the increasing reliance on “trust fund” surpluses caused total debt to increase to about 66% of GDP in 2007.
- The muzzle came off the debt monster in 2008, with publicly-held debt increasing to about 64% of GDP and total debt increasing to about 95% of GDP by the end of 2010.
Several of those in my bloated feed reader, like Dad29, Zip, Allahpundit Stephan Tawney, and ultimately NRO’s Corner crew, found yet another utterance from Barack Obama that has reached its expiration date – one from a 2006 debate in which he opposed raising the debt limit as Senator, an act which his economic advisor now calls “insanity”:
The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.
The publicly-held debt was 37.3% of GDP at the end of 2005 and 36.6% of GDP at the end of 2006, while total debt was 64.6% of GDP at the end of 2006 and 64.4% of GDP at the end of 2006.
Revisions/extensions (7:02 am 1/4/2011) – The Emperor links, and provides a further link to Aaron Worthing at Patterico’s Pontifications and the full Obama remarks that were walked back. The relevant extension:
Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion. That is “trillion” with a “T.” That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.
For those who can’t do the math, Obama was complaining about a potential $12.1 trillion total debt by the end of 2011. Well, we’re at just over $14 trillion before we got to the beginning of Calendar Year 2011 (or if you prefer, a quarter of the way through Fiscal Year 2011). The kicker – had Pelosi taken up Obama’s proposed budget, the total debt would be $15.1 trillion at the end of FY2011.
R&E part 2 (7:45 am 1/4/2011) – Dan Spencer points out just how much the debt has gone up under Nancy Pelosi’s now-expired Speakership – $44,662 for every man, woman and child who make up the 310,574,015 U.S. populace.
A minor point of order – the first 9 months of 2008 were largely budgeted by the prior Congress, while the last 3 were budgeted solely by Pelosi and Senate Democrat leader Harry Reid. That explains why the deficit, at least as a percentage of GDP, didn’t increase all that much in 2007.
I might redo the chart to reflect fiscal years instead of calendar ones, but it is a bear to get the numbers.