National Debt

September 1, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 30
Do rising annual deficits threaten the U.S. economy?
By Matthew K. Benjamin


A “United States Official Taxpayer” protests at the Trump International Hotel in Washington (Cover: Getty Images/Mark Makela)
A “United States Official Taxpayer” protests at the Trump International Hotel in Washington before Donald Trump's inauguration on Jan. 20, 2016. Critics say Trump's budget proposals, including tax cuts and a costly border wall with Mexico, are economically unsustainable. (Cover: Getty Images/Mark Makela)

The clock is ticking, so-called budget hawks warn about the nation's growing national debt: Public debt has soared from $925 billion in 1982 to almost $14.4 trillion in 2017. If debt keeps piling up at this rate, by 2032 the federal government will owe an amount larger than the U.S. economy — an outcome that could be disastrous, many economists say. Republicans and Democrats agree that Washington needs to act, but they are far apart on how to lower the debt. One problem is the growth in Medicare and other entitlement programs. With the massive Baby Boom Generation retiring, entitlements are consuming a larger and larger proportion of the budget. Another problem is a tax code that is failing to bring in sufficient revenue. Some economists say the threat of financial catastrophe is overblown. They note the dollar remains the dominant global currency and that foreign investors continue to flock to U.S. markets, meaning the government will be able to continue borrowing for the foreseeable future.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Federal Budget and National Debt
Sep. 01, 2017  National Debt
Jul. 12, 2013  Government Spending
May 15, 2012  State Capitalism
Mar. 18, 2011  National Debt
Nov. 14, 2008  The National Debt
Dec. 09, 2005  Budget Deficit
Apr. 13, 2001  Budget Surplus
Feb. 01, 1991  Recession's Regional Impact
Jan. 20, 1984  Federal Budget Deficit
Sep. 09, 1977  Federal Reorganization and Budget Reform
Nov. 24, 1972  Limits on Federal Spending
Jan. 08, 1969  Federal Budget Making
Dec. 06, 1967  National Debt Management
Aug. 01, 1962  Fiscal and Budget Policy
Nov. 27, 1957  National Debt Limit
Mar. 20, 1957  Spending Controls
Dec. 24, 1953  Public Debt Limit
Feb. 13, 1952  Tax and Debt Limitation
Nov. 30, 1949  Government Spending
Jan. 06, 1948  Legislative Budget-Making
May 23, 1944  The National Debt
Feb. 01, 1943  The Executive Budget and Appropriations by Congress
Dec. 27, 1939  Revision of the Federal Budget System
Oct. 10, 1938  The Outstanding Government Debt
Nov. 20, 1937  Budget Balancing vs. Pump Priming
May 02, 1936  The Deficit and the Public Debt
Oct. 19, 1934  The Federal Budget and the Public Debt
Feb. 10, 1933  Extraordinary Budgeting of Federal Finances
Dec. 01, 1932  Reduction of Federal Expenditures
Dec. 01, 1930  The National Budget System
Oct. 02, 1930  Federal Revenues and Expenditures
Nov. 02, 1927  The Public Debt and Foreign Loans
Nov. 15, 1926  Rising Cost of Government in the United States
Feb. 05, 1925  Four Years Under the Budget System
Budget and the Economy
Deficit, Federal Debt, and Balanced Budget
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Economic Crises
Federal Taxes
Financial Institutions
Tax Reform