The national debt surpassed $22 trillion for the first time today, a milestone that experts warned is further proof the country is on an unsustainable financial path that could jeopardize the economic security of every American.
The Treasury Department’s daily statement showed today that total outstanding public debt stands at $22.01 trillion.
The debt has ballooned by more than $2 trillion in the two years since President Trump took office in January 2017, when the debt stood at $19.9 trillion.
The debt figure has been accelerating since the passage of Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax cut in December 2017 and action by Congress last year to increase spending on domestic and military programs.
The nation has added more than $1 trillion in debt in the last 11 months alone.
Under the Obama administration, the national debt grew from $10.6 trillion to $19.9 trillion, an increase that drew sharps criticism from Republicans.
In an interview with the Washington Post in 2016, Trump vowed to eliminate the national debt “over a period of eight years.”
Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who joined the White House after Trump said he would eliminate the debt, said last month Trump probably didn’t mean he would eliminate the debt entirely.
An effort to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the constitution while Republicans controlled Congress failed last year.
“Reaching this unfortunate milestone so rapidly is the latest sign that our fiscal situation is not only unsustainable but accelerating,” said Michael A. Peterson, chief executive officer of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization working to address the country’s long-term fiscal challenges.
For Americans, the growing debt should be a concern, experts said, because over time it can push up interest rates for consumers and businesses.
The higher rates can ripple through the economy, nudging up rates for mortgages, corporate bonds and other types of consumer and business loans.
A big national debt can also make it harder for the government to increase spending to combat the next recession or devote more money to retraining workers and helping the poor, among other programs.
Peterson attributed the growing national debt to “a structural mismatch between spending and revenues.”
The biggest drivers are the aging population, high healthcare costs, and growing interest payments, combined with a tax code that fails to generate sufficient revenue, he said.
The debt eclipsing $22 trillion “is another sad reminder of the inexcusable tab our nation’s leaders continue to run up and will leave for the next generation,” said Judd Gregg and Edward Rendell, co-chairmen of the nonpartisan Campaign to Fix the Debt, a project of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
With deficits rising and gross debt scheduled to jump by more than $1 trillion annually, Congress must take action to put the country on a more sustainable path, Gregg and Rendell said.
“The fiscal recklessness over the past years has been shocking, with few willing to step up with a real plan,” they said. “We need responsible leadership to fix the debt, not a worsening of partisanship.”