In my previous “Throwback Thursday” post, I looked back at candidate Obama’s unfulfilled promise in 2008 that he would cut more than he would spend. Federal spending has average 22 percent of GDP during his years in office, up from the 19 percent average seen during his predecessor's two terms. And as a result of the spending hikes and sluggish economy, the federal debt has skyrocketed.
This throwback post doesn’t go too far back in time, but since the new Fiscal Year started October 1, the federal debt subject to limit has jumped by a whopping $636 billion. That is more than the budget for Medicare in all of 2015 ($639 billion).
On March 13, the level of publicly issued debt reached $18,112,975,000,000, just $25 million shy of the statutory limit. It remained frozen at the level for 233 days while the Department of the Treasury implemented “extraordinary measures” (i.e., accounting gimmicks) in order to continue to finance the government’s obligations. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, signed into law on November 2, suspended the ceiling until March 15, 2017.
Upon suspension of the debt ceiling, the Treasury reported that the total public debt subject to limit had increased by $339 billion. Since November 2, another $297 billion has been tacked on. As of December 8, the Treasury reported total debt of $18.749 trillion.
But this just builds upon a longer-term trend that has seen the debt rise relative to the economy.
In 2000, the debt subject to limit stood at $5.6 trillion, 54 percent of GDP according to the Congressional Research Service (the GDP data in the chart is from Table 1.2 of the Historical Tables of the Budget). In 2014, debt exceeded GDP by 4 percent.
On the up side, Fiscal Year 2015 marked the first time since 2001 that the debt subject to limit grew at a slower rate than the economy. Although they have subsequently been weakened, the spending restraints enacted through the Budget Control Act of 2011 have worked.