The Runaway National Debt

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A showdown is looming in Washington. And it's all about debt.

Just to put this into perspective, our national debt stands at about $14 trillion. According to the national debt clock on brilling.com, the debt is $14,107,455,627,940.78, and the estimated population of the United States is 309,976,811. So each citizen's share of this debt is $45,511.33. The national debt is increasing by approximately $4.16 billion per day.

To put this simply, the federal government spends more money than it takes in. That's called a deficit. When you do this year after year, it creates a large amount of national debt. Did you know that since about 1970, we've run federal deficits every year except 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001? The politicians in Washington sure like spending our money.

The federal government also has what's called debt ceiling. The Congress votes on and sets a national debt ceiling, the total amount of money the federal government can go into debt. In recent years, this debt ceiling gets raised almost every year. Sometimes more than once per year. Last year, the democratically controlled Congress raised the debt ceiling to $14.3 trillion, a political decision to push the next increase after the 2010 elections. We are expected to reach this ceiling within the next month or two.

The CBO (Congressional Budget Office) recently reported that we are likely to set a new record this year with almost a $1.5 trillion federal deficit. Studying our federal deficits over the last 25 years, it's been clear that we've run through several groups in control of Congress with various fiscal priorities.

Fiscal Conservatives
In 1994, Newt Gingrich lead the Republican Revolution, and voters elected fiscal conservatives into Congress, taking control of both the House and the Senate for the first time in many years.

First let's look at budget deficits before the 1994 election. These numbers have all been adjusted for inflation.

1986: $429.128 billion deficit
1987: $279.939 billion deficit
1988: $277.808 billion deficit
1989: $260.775 billion deficit
1990: $358.344 billion deficit
1991: $420.108 billion deficit
1992: $438.504 billion deficit
1993: $374.997 billion deficit
1994: $290.576 billion deficit

Keep in mind that by the time the new Congress was in place in January, 1995, the budget was already in place for the '95 fiscal year from the '94 Congress.

So what happened with deficits during the time that fiscal conservatives controlled Congress? They became surpluses for the first time since 1969.

1995: $227.96 billion deficit
1996: $145.125 billion deficit
1997: $29.04 billion deficit
1998: $89.96 billion SURPLUS
1999: $159.512 billion SURPLUS
2000: $290.772 billion SURPLUS

Fiscal Moderates
By 2000, moderates and liberals had made significant gains into Congress. While the House and Senate were still controlled by Republicans, they were now controlled by moderate Republicans instead of fiscal conservatives. These moderate Republicans controlled Congress be small margins through 2006. And by 2002, we returned to budget deficits instead of budget surpluses.

2001: $152.76 billion SURPLUS
2002: $186.204 billion deficit
2003: $430.1 billion deficit
2004: $462.56 billion deficit
2005: $347.71 billion deficit
2006: $260.4 billion deficit

Fiscal Liberals
In the 2006 election, Democrats finally wrestled away control of Congress from the Republicans. Here are the federal deficits we've run during the last few years with Democrats in control. Keep in mind, that like the example above, the 2007 budget was already in place by the time Democrats came into office in January of '07.

2007: $165.24 billion deficit
2008: $455 billion deficit
2009: $1.416 trillion deficit
2010: $1.294 trillion deficit
2011: Projected $1.5 trillion deficit

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years. Fiscal conservatives now have control over the House, but Democrats continue to control the Senate and the White House.

Do you want to know what President Obama had to say about our increasing national debt? He called it a "sign of leadership failure". But at the time, he was Senator Obama, and the year was 2006. And Senator Barrack Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling. Back then the national debt was only about $8 trillion. Since then, our national debt has increase by about 75%. That was only five years ago.

On this one, I agree with Barrack Obama completely. Our current level of national debt is certainly a failure of leadership.

Lee Eldridge is a writer, musician and marketing consultant with more than 20 years experience in custom promotional products. Lee writes for several blogs, and has launched a new site focusing on Wedding Coasters and Drink Coasters.

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