Congress to Raise Debt Ceiling, AgainDecember 12th, 2009 by Lee Eldridge
Lots has been going on in politics lately and I’ve had little time to write about it. The health care debate continues. ClimateGate. Copenhagen. Afghanistan. The EPA considers naming carbon dioxide as a pollutant. The jobs summit. But right now, nothing has me more concerned than our ballooning national debt.
The Debt Limit
By law, Congress cannot surpass our federally imposed debt limit. So whenever our debt begins to get close to our debt limit, Congress just votes to increase that limit. Don’t you wish you could do that?
Congress is discussing raising our debt limit from $12.1 trillion to almost $14 trillion. This isn’t anything new. Congress has repeatedly raised the debt ceiling over time. In 2006, Congress raised the debt ceiling to almost $9 trillion. And they’ve raised it several times since.
Since 2006 and the democratic takeover of Congress, we’ve watched as Congress has raised the debt limit at least five times. I say at least because this has been a difficult subject to research. Congress tends to sneak these debt ceiling increases into other bills, making them hard to track. And our media does not always spend much time reporting on national debt. It’s not sexy news.
The most recent increase came earlier this year with the passage of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the stimulus bill), which was signed into law on February 17, 2009. This bill raised the debt limit to around $12 trillion, where it now stands. At the time, this was the third increase within a year.
The Politics of Raising the Ceiling
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner began asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling a couple months ago. As we are quickly coming up on the cap, it appears likely that Congress will raise the debt ceiling before the end of the year.
So let’s do the math. In 2006 our debt limit was just under $9 trillion. And by late 2009, Congress will have raised our debt limit to almost $14 trillion. Which means they’ve raised our ability to go into debt by more than 50% in just over three years.
In a purely political move, the democrats are doing two things that I find distasteful:
1. They plan to raise the debt limit by $1.8 trillion so that they won’t be faced with having to vote for another increase before next year’s elections.
2. They’re including the proposed debt ceiling increase into a bill for the funding of our troops in order to make sure that the republicans must vote for it as well.
My goal isn’t to pick on the democrats. I’m an independent and have no love for either party. But Congress controls our government’s expenditures. And this Congress loves to spend our money.
Debt as a Percentage of GDP
These numbers are so big that they’re difficult to fathom. I have always found it more relevant to look at our debt as a percentage of our GDP (gross domestic product).
During the recent Bush years, this rate was on a slow but steady increase:
Now look at the projected numbers for this year and next (projections from this site that tracks government spending):
So once again, look at the numbers since 2006 when democrats took over Congress. At the end of 2006, our debt was basically 65% of GDP. And it’s projected to be more than 90% by the end of this year. That’s an increase of almost 40%. And at almost 100% of GDP within a year, which would be an increase of more than 50%.
And in case you don’t trust this website, here’s information from the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) and their long-term budget outlook. Notice that both of their budget scenarios have significant increases in our debt level compared to GDP.
The Ugly Truth
The estimated population of the United States is 307,453,688 so each citizen’s share of this debt is $39,352.74. The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $3.84 billion per day since September 28, 2007!
What does all of this mean? We are witnessing one of the largest and most aggressive expansions in our federal government in the history of our country.