Peterson Foundation Statement on the National Debt Surpassing $23 Trillion

Nov 1, 2019

NEW YORK — Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, commented today on the national debt surpassing the $23 trillion mark for the first time, as noted in this afternoon’s Daily Treasury Statement:

“Reaching $23 trillion in debt on Halloween is a scary milestone for our economy and the next generation, but Washington shows no fear.

“Just 10 months ago, we crossed $22 trillion in national debt. Now, with no end in sight and no plan for the future, we will likely hit $24 trillion by the presidential election. Piling on debt like this is especially unwise and unnecessary in a strong economy.

“Debt matters because it’s the one issue that impacts all others. Rising debt threatens our economic health and hinders our ability to make important investments in our future. If we want to tackle big issues like climate change, student debt or national security, then we shouldn’t saddle ourselves with growing interest costs. This year, we’ll spend more than $1 billion per day on interest. That’s more than we spend on our kids. And, even worse, if we don’t change our policies, interest will double every 10 years.

“Lawmakers should work to manage our fiscal outlook now, when the economy is performing well and while we have time to manage the debt gradually and responsibly. The good news is that this is one serious challenge that’s entirely within our control, with many viable solutions on the table.”

Facts and figures about our national debt:

  • $23 trillion amounts to $179,000 per U.S. household or $70,000 per person.
  • $23 trillion is roughly the size of the economies of China, Japan and Germany — combined.
  • $23 trillion is enough to cover a four-year college degree for every American high school graduate for the next 55 years.
  • Last week, the U.S. Treasury reported that the annual deficit for 2019 totaled $984 billion. Going forward, the deficit is projected to grow rapidly.
  • Interest is the fastest growing program in the federal budget. It will exceed $6 trillion over the next 10 years, and will soon be nearly as much as national defense.

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