The US debt stood at $10.6 trillion when Obama took office in 2009, but by implementing an economic stimulus plan aimed at heading off a depression the figure has soared, negating the president’s pledge to halve it by 2012.
Total outstanding US public debt hit $16 trillion late Friday, but the Treasury only released the statistic on Tuesday, after a holiday-weekend.
Two-thirds of the national debt is owed to the U.S. government, American investors and future retirees, through the Social Security Trust Fund and pension plans for civil service workers and military personnel. China, it turns out, holds less than 8 percent of the total U.S. government debt. China has actually decreased its holdings of U.S. debt over the past year, dropping from $1.31 trillion in June 2011 to $1.16 trillion a year later, according to the Treasury Department. Japan holds nearly as much, at $1.12 trillion.
The Republican National Committee and the campaign of Mitt Romney, the man challenging Obama for the White House in November’s election, released a one-minute video highlighting Obama’s own pledge to cut the debt in half by the end of his first term.
And it heaped pressure on his administration to explain the federal spending that has added around $5-trillion to the debt since Obama took office.
House Speaker John Boehner said the news marked “another sad reminder” of Obama’s broken promise to slash government spending.
“Instead of working in a bipartisan way to fulfill his promise, the president went on a ‘stimulus’-fueled spending binge that stuck every American man, woman and child with a $50,000 share of this $16 trillion national debt,” Boehner said in a statement.
“This debt is a drain on our economy and a crushing burden on our kids and grandkids, and it’s yet another indication that the president’s policies have made things worse.”
Republicans have hammered Obama on multiple fronts this week as he prepares to accept on Thursday his party’s nomination for re-election.
First they asked an age-old US election campaign question: are voters better off now than they were four years ago? Then they pounced Tuesday when Obama gave himself a grade of “incomplete” on fixing the economy.
In their web video, the Republicans showed clips of Obama as a candidate in 2008, slamming the $4-trillion rise in national debt under president George W. Bush as “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.”
“If we keep on adding to the debt, even in the midst of this recovery… at some point people could lose confidence in the US economy in a way that could actually lead to a double-dip recession,” Obama says in the clip.
“By his own measurement, President Obama has failed,” according to the video’s text.
The interest alone is expected to cost taxpayers five trillion dollars over the next decade. Each day, the debt grows by roughly $3.5 billion, or about $2 million per minute. Twelve years ago, before the election of George Bush, the debt stood at $5.6 trillion. This year marks the fourth consecutive year with a $1 trillion budget shortfall. The spiraling debt means that lawmakers and whomever wins the White House in November will have to pass legislation to raise the government’s borrowing cap from the current ceiling of $16.4 trillion.