Congress Raises the Roof on Debt

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


The national debt is currently $8.3 trillion , and Congress just approved a $781 billion increase in the government’s debt limit, raising the ceiling for the fourth time in Bush’s presidency. Previous increases of $450 billion in 2002, a record $984 billion in 2003 and $800 billion in 2004 have all contributed to the statutory debt limit rising more than $3 trillion since Bush took office.

Senator Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee, insists that Congress’ latest approval should be a wake-up call to everyone in the House, Senate as well as the President. “The question is: Are we staying on this course to keep running up the debt, debt on top of debt, increasingly financed by foreigners, or are we going to change course?”

Can the U.S. keep up this type of spending? Economists believe the national debt is more ominous today than it was in the 80’s, when hitting the one-trillion mark gave rise to national apprehension about deficits. According to Alice Rivlin, former vice chair of the Federal Reserve, “the situation now is really very different from the 1980s. As the costs of programs such as Medicare rise, we can’t go on into the next decade … still running deficits as our major way of coping… In the next decade the upward pressure on federal spending is going to be very, very large.”

While the Bush administration has acknowledged that it won’t come anywhere close to meeting its goals of reducing the defiict, it has no plans to let up on defense and national security spending, putting Congress in a difficult position. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) is fully aware of the astronomical pace at which the deficit continues to move. But “without an increase in the debt limit, our government will face a choice that we shouldn’t make and we wouldn’t want to make, a choice between breaking the law by exceeding the statutory debt limit or, on the other hand, breaking faith with the public by defaulting on our debt.”

Ironically, Canada’s net worth just hit $4.5 trillion, making it worth exactly half on the U.S. national debt.

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate