With Debt Ceiling Lifted, Federal Government Resumes Borrowing Spree

When Congress saved America from the perilous clutches of a federal government compelled to live within its means without running up the credit card, it came up with a doozy of a deal. From now until February 7, 2014, the U.S. Department of the Treasury can borrow as much as it pleases. Jack Lew and company aren't wasting any time letting their freak flags fly. From October 16 to October 17 (that's overnight, for the calendar-challenged), public debt outstanding jumped $328 billion, from $16.747 trillion to $17.076 trillion. Fast work, folks!

Debt Subject to LimitU.S. Department of the Treasury

The Treasury Department's online calculator runs from January 1, 1993, when public debt outstanding was $4.168 trillion, to the present day. The debt broke $10 trillion on September 30, 2008, and has jumped over seven trillion dollars since then. Despite all the quibbling over the federal budget and "reducing deficits," any deficit adds to the total owed. The tally of debt has risen in an almost unbroken line the entire time.

Here's a question for Barry, Harry, and John: Any thoughts—any at all—on ever paying that down?

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  • Floridian||

    I blame bush.

  • OneOut||

    Booosh it is !

    You are the winner !

    *banners flying...glitter falling...bottle rockets arching thru the background *

    Boosh ! Boosh ! Boosh ! as the crowd shows the cameras the bottom of their sandals

  • rts||

    I have been repeatedly assured that government budgets/debts are not like household budgets/debts, therefore, everything is fine.

  • CE||

    We owe it to ourselves.

  • CE||

    It's like borrowing from your 401k.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    If you're a patriot you borrow from your 401k and spend it. That stimulates the economy, and since you owe the money to yourself, you haven't actually lost anything. -Krugman Skool of Ekonomiks

  • OneOut||

    You shouldn't make fun of a nobel economist who once laughed in his OP in the NY Times that ( since Obama is in office ) creating as much money as we want is perfectly OK and without repercussions.

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    I have heard this often. I cannot recall ever being told specific reasons why they are so different that ever-increasing debt is fine. I would genuinely like to know what rationale is being floated around.

  • DarrenM||

    Because the government can print free money to pay our bills while households can't. Of course, we won't suffer any adverse consequences from the government doing that, so there is no reason not to. Plus all that borrowing and spending will stimulate the economy, which will grow even faster that the breakneck pace it's now on. Revenue will flow into the Federal coffers with which all our debt will easily be paid back. See? There's no downside whatsoever.

  • Jquip||

    True story about the argument. Without shenanigans however: Because the currency can be debased.

    The problem is, that the US hasn't gone the full-Mugabe. It doesn't debase the currency directly. It prints debt obligations. And the Federal Reserve prints money (green debt) to buy that government debt. And private debt. And uncollectable debt. And bottle cap collections.

    So the government has no idea or signal as to how badly the currency is being debased by the Federal Reserve in practice. All the government knows is that expenditures are going 'up' magically. So Congress runs up the national charge card.

    Every other solution does have a visible, and electoral, signal available to them.

  • Ketogenic Paleo||

    You sound like a Republican... a Weimar Republican!

  • The Original Jason||

    It's a long run problem and in the long run, we're all dead.

  • Ketogenic Paleo||

    Correct. As we all know, Keynes won the rap battles. Say it loud and say it proud, we're all Keynesians now.

  • Rrabbit||

    Goverment debts indeed are not like household debts. The people who spend the taxpayers money don't have to pay back the debt, and are usually not held accountable in any way.

    Imagine you could spend all you want, and the taxpayer would have to pay for it.

  • thorsmjollnir||

    No need to worry, we'll just grow our way out of this.

  • Paul.||

    Not to repeat myself, but to repeat myself, I'm hoping that one day we'll look back on the practice of borrowing money to pay off debts in exactly the same way we'll look back on electric cars that have gas engines in them which charge the batteries.

  • waffles||

    The Chevy Volt is an instant classic you say? Buy 100 and garage them. A can't-lose investment!

  • Brandon||

    I wonder if you could even insure that fire hazard?

  • Jquip||

    Eh, good reason to use electric motors and combustion engines. Diesel-Electric trains are a great example.

    But yes, it is farcically stupid to charge a battery with a battery and then state. Therefore, we'll never have an uncharged battery.

  • Andrew S.||

    Paying it down? If I continually max out my credit card (after my credit card issuer keeps increasing my limit for some reason) while making the minimum payments every month, I'll pay it off eventually, right?

  • wareagle||

    only if you're doing it right, and by right I mean having your own printing press to make new money.

  • gaijin||

    I actually view it more like creating your own credit cards. There is no intention of paying anything off. Just creating another source of credit with which to circulate an ever expanding balance sheet.

  • Paul.||

    The merchants love it!

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Wait a minute. Who's getting all the points/miles for the federal spending?

  • OneOut||

    Them

  • CE||

    It's more like rolling the whole amount owed over to new low-interest rate cards with higher limits. Until the introductory rates expire.

  • Square||

    You can keep that going a surprisingly long time . . .

  • DarrenM||

    Exactly. Just borrow the minimum payment needed from your Visa to pay on your Mastercard. You'll be debt-free in no time.

  • creech||

    Do we know how much of the $328 billion sopped up existing dollars and how much was created out of thin air by the Fed?

  • CE||

    None of it was created out of thin air. Treasury borrowed it from the Fed, and the Fed bought the notes from itself.

  • Ketogenic Paleo||

    So it was printed out of thin air?

  • ||

    Here's a question for Barry, Harry, and John: Any thoughts—any at all—on ever paying that down?

    Nope. Why would they? They'll be out of office, rich, connected, and perfectly well off. Why should they care?

  • Pro Libertate||

    They should be hunted down, tarred and feathered, and kicked out of the country. While still tarred and feathered.

    Fuck, I hate this feeling of total helplessness. It's not like the corruption, abuse of power, and lies aren't totally obvious. I mean, if you could actually prosecute these idiots, it wouldn't be hard to prove your case.

  • ||

    This is why I constantly reiterate that we do not live under the rule of law, but the rule of man. Too many people--including you--fell for the crap that the ruling class spews about "laws". You'll note, they don't really care that much about them and just do what they want.

    The only positive thing is that they've gotten so bold about it that more and more people can see it. Of course, they're doing that because they know the people can't really do jack and shit about it, especially when they have them successfully ghettoized into TEAMs and have the full partisan backing of their TEAM no matter what they do.

  • From the Tundra||

    Do you think, though, that they can push things too far? I know anecdotes don't count for shit but I have heard a number of reliable TEAM players expressing fear about the debt and long term viability. Never heard that before from either side (except when they were trying to villify the other).

    Will we finally reach a tipping point where the squishy middle finally wakes up?

  • ||

    Maybe. The thing is, people are still comfortable. Yeah, there is high unemployment, but people still have their iPhones and computers and internet and Netflix and a car and so on.

    The "squishy middle" will wake up when suddenly, they really can't have that stuff because it's gotten so bad. But the politicians will do anything, anything at all, to push that off as long as possible. Then what happens, I have no idea.

  • Restoras||

    Then what happens, I have no idea.

    Well at that point it will be too late to really do anything about it.

  • DarrenM||

    Well at that point it will be too late to really do anything about it.

    It's never too late. Our options may be severely reduced by then, but there will always be *some* option available.

  • OneOut||

    Too late for them to do anything about it, but not too late for the people to do something about it.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I think this is the key to it all. People are comfortable. Obama getting reelected shows that, for maybe the first time, voters are willing to ignore a slow economy and not worry about the future. I can't recall a time where a president didn't get pummeled for a poor economy.

    They won't be so comfortable for very long, though, especially if ACA helps add to the already overwhelming debt.

  • ||

    I agree that the ACA may be the turning point. I can't believe how badly the Obama administration fucked this up. It's almost as if they are utterly incompetent megalomaniacs or something. But people finding their health insurance rates and deductibles going up by massive amounts? They're not comfortable any more.

    It would be completely awesome if Obama's "signature legislation" turned out to be the (massive) straw that broke big government's back.

  • CE||

    The ACA is a minor sideshow compared to the complete financial ruin of the federal government.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Is it too late? That's really the only question remaining.

  • From the Tundra||

    The ACA is gonna spank everyone, one way or another. There is absolutely no way to hide the mess and the financial devastation. In a weird way, this might be the best thing that ever happened to those of us with a government intolerance.

  • Square||

    I agree - the Democrats made the colossal miscalculation of passing a hugely overpublicized piece of legislation that damages mainly poor people.

    It doesn't even damage poor people indirectly. The average low-wage working person who, let's face it, possibly isn't paying very close attention to the ins and outs of the legislative process is now going to see a penalty tacked onto his taxes because he's not forking out for insurance.

    At that point he says to everyone within earshot, "who the fuck did this?"

    Gonna be hard to hide.

  • thorsmjollnir||

    The problem is that the single payer option will be floated as the solution.

  • DarrenM||

    They won't be so comfortable for very long, though, especially if ACA helps add to the already overwhelming debt.

    I keep hearing about how the U.S. can do all these things because the dollar is the 'reserve currency'. What will it look like when this ceases to be the case? What will the process of this coming to be look like?

  • ||

    I can't recall a time where a president didn't get pummeled for a poor economy.

    Roosevelt was elected to 4 terms.

  • Long Range Boredom||

    And gets credit for 'fixing' it.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Everyone knows WWII got us out of the depression. 'Cause blowing your stuff up makes you richer. Right? It does, right?

  • OneOut||

    If they can ever get it to work ( which I doubt after reading some of the coders on here ) it will definitely add to the overwhelming debt.

  • DarrenM||

    Do you think, though, that they can push things too far?

    Sure they can, but then they'll just dial it back a bit until the drones accept the bs they are fed and go back into hibernation. It's then back to business as usual.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I hear you, but what's the solution? Even if the rule of law was illusory, it was certainly more effective at limiting the crap even as recently as a couple of decades ago.

    I've been watching a bunch of lectures on ancient times, and I swear that the decline of all of those old empires/republics/city states sounds a whole lot more like us than ever before. We've crossed an important line. I'm not sure when it happened or whether it's even possible to back up, but something is extra broken.

    The dam will probably completely break with the next major crisis, likely an economic one.

  • gaijin||

    I like Thomas Cole's course of empire series. I wonder how close we are to consummation of the empire? Savagery awaits.

  • Restoras||

    Yeah, think I'll pick up some more ammo this weekend.

  • ||

    The problem is that the scale is so much vaster for modern times than in those old empires. The US government is so much bigger, the debt so much more, the populations so much more, the standing armies so much bigger, and so on. Do you really think the US federal government would just allow itself to collapse?

    I don't think history has even seen a government that is this big, and certainly hasn't seen one this big start to flail as it begins to fail. I really have no idea what would happen.

  • Pro Libertate||

    No, and you know what I think. Before our economy falls apart completely, we'll know it's coming and be further down totalitarian street. With a huge military. The inevitable is inevitable then.

  • gaijin||

    I really have no idea what would happen.

    Fragmentation is my guess. It takes energy to hold together something this massive. Once the energy is less than what is reuqired to hold it all together(i.e., currency collapse?) what was held together will fragment into something sized more stable.

  • Square||

    Rome, but on a larger scale. But the fall of the Roman Empire wasn't nearly the catastrophe it's often made out to be.

    When you have a huge network of institutions that starts to come unraveled, they merely separate - they don't evaporate.

    The main one to be concerned about is the military. Other institutions will continue if people care to continue them (like the Catholic Church surviving the Roman Empire), others will simply wither away.

    A military unconstrained by a civil government is a very dangerous thing, and we have a huge military. Hard to say what will happen with that, which is why to me limiting military spending the most important concern we have right now.

  • gaijin||

    A military unconstrained by a civil government is a very dangerous thing, and we have a huge military.

    True. I don't know if I believe the military is more loyal to the government than it is to the people. In other words, I think sizable numbers of military would rather go live near family and friends from their home states than go kill family and friends from their home states for some future commander in chief who is no longer part of anything resembling a civil government.

  • Square||

    You make a very good point. A truly dangerous situation would require a charismatic leader of some kind from within the military, and they seem to deliberately discourage that (for good reason).

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    A truly dangerous situation would require a charismatic leader of some kind from within the military,

    The military hasn't had a truly charismatic general since MacArthur. As you pointed out, people with that kind of personality are typically eased out or pushed out in some way.

    Our generals are largely managers in the Eisenhower mold, not warriors, and it would take a warrior to build that kind of fanatic loyalty.

  • Bgoptmst||

    Limiting military spending should be a concern because military spending is captured by business interest and not military interest. I would offer that there is no reason to have a Cold War capable military in this day and age.

    In addition, I think you would be amazed about how disgusted a lot of military members are about the current state of affairs. My last few units have been full of people who call themselves conservative, but are really small govt social conservatives.

    The real question in my mind is what happen if DC pushes through immigration reform that makes Texas a blue state. That could be the "final straw."

  • OneOut||

    I think we are beginning to see the flailing with Benghazi and Syria.

    International flailing. Weakness.

    More to come.

  • Square||

    I think the very most important distinction between now and ancient times is the speed of communication, and I really do think it's a game changer.

    Ancient empires never had what we today would consider real control over their territories. If someone rebelled in a distant province it could literally take weeks to even hear about it. People who lived more than 20 miles apart rarely shared a common language.

    I think part of the frantic big government posturing we've been seeing over the last 15 years has been an increasingly panicked sense by government people that they are becoming obsolete. A sort of collective shriek of "PAY NO ATTENTION TO THAT MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!"

    Their disappearance is likely to be messy, but I think it may be inevitable in the long run, like a dead limb.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    An actual breakup of the republic would likely be extremely violent if it happened organically rather than voluntarily. One of the more remarkable aspects of the Civil War is that in the buildup to Sumter and then later Bull Run, you never heard stories of units comprised of soldiers from different states getting in brawls or killing each other beforehand. It was, "Well, good luck and godspeed, hopefully I don't see you on the other side," and off they went.

    I don't think we'll see the same degree of politeness the next time this happens.

  • OneOut||

    Hear ! Hear !

    Cleanly put.

  • Restoras||

    What Epi said.

    Not only will the debt never be repaid, but all those unfunded liabilities that people think they are getting? Yeah, no one is getting any of that either, to the tune of $125 trillion (and counting). That's about $1.1 million per household. Oh, and that's only federal debt and unfunded liabilities. Throw in the state debt and you've got $50-$60 trillion of debt and something in the neighborhood of $200 trillion of unfunded liabilities.

    And let's not forget about all the personal debt; mortgages, credit cards, student loans.

    All of it has to theoretically be paid back out of a $15 trillion economy that isn't growing.

    None of it is going to be paid back, and everyone that thinks they are getting something from the government...well, they are going to get soemthing allright but it isn't going to something they want.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Don't worry. We'll only repudiate the commitments to GenX. They're a small cohort anyway and many of the boomers will have died off by the time the X'ers start to peak. That'll give the millennials plenty of time to salvage their finances.

  • gaijin||

    Here's a question for Barry, Harry, and John: Any thoughts—any at all—on ever paying that down?

    Sedition!

  • Swiss Servator, Zurichmania!||

    And Treason!

  • gaijin||

    Hey, let's start a petition!

  • DarrenM||

    A sedition petition!

  • OneOut||

    Racists !

  • From the Tundra||

    I think I'm gonna buy a couple Dobermans and name them Sedition and Treason. Then I'll call them in the same voice as Higgins from Magnum PI.

    "Sedition! Treason! Kill, lads!"

  • wareagle||

    good times. At least until February or so when the new and improved debt ceiling is judged constricting and outdated. Then we'll get a new one.

  • waffles||

    Fuck Yeah! Buy me a pony!

    But I'll never be connected enough to get a real pony. I will just get a shitty pink plastic one with a brush to comb it's mane. Ratfuckers.

  • Swiss Servator, Zurichmania!||

    Brony stimulus?

  • Restoras||

    Can we please collect all the bronies out there, put them on a cruise ship, and then use that ship for target practice with WWII Dauntlesses and fleet boats?

    I'd pay a lot of money to participate.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Are they really that bad? I'd rather stuff the cruise ship with Beliebers. I didn't understand why everyone hated that guy until I watched the 'Everything Wrong With' rip of his stupid movie.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Obama: This is President Obama. We tried it once your way, Senator Cruz, are you game for a rematch? Senator, I'm laughing at the "superior Constitutional authority."
    Senator Cruz: Fuck you, cut spending!
    Speaker Boehner: No, sir! You have the House! You can have whatever. . . .
    Senator Cruz: [grabs Boehner in anger] CUT SPENDING! [shoves him aside] FUCK YOU!

  • Paul.||

    Who's the hero in this play?

  • Pro Libertate||

    The madman who wants to cut spending.

  • Paul.||

    So Rand Paul. Is he uncredited?

  • Pro Libertate||

    Cruz, Paul, anyone who ever thought that spending infinity is a bad idea.

  • gaijin||

    That's it man, game over man, game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?

    And when Clinton is elected president, and has control of the house and senate, we'll all wish we'd ridden the stock rocket to the moon where we can buy all the gold that is waiting for those who make it to the other side of our once famous currency.

  • Paul.||

    Clinton? Clinton?! What about Biden? It's his turn!

  • Restoras||

    Please God letit be Biden! Please God letit be Biden! Please God letit be Biden! Please God letit be Biden! Please God letit be Biden! Please God letit be Biden! Please God letit be Biden! Please God letit be Biden! Please God letit be Biden! Please God letit be Biden!

  • Dr. Frankenstien||

    At least when the ancients spent their empires into oblivion they left monuments that lasted for millennium. What do we have to show for the largest spending spree in history?

  • From the Tundra||

    Someone bought a dam yesterday. Does that count?

  • Dr. Frankenstien||

    If I was God Emperor and just spent trillions there would have at least been a monument to my glory on the fricking Moon. The Moon I tell you.

  • From the Tundra||

    Speaking of monuments to glory on the moon:

    http://t.co/zXxwxN6PMx

  • gaijin||

    There's lots of stuff orbiting the earth. And some equipment on mars. Oh and all those roadz.

  • ||

    Well, cronies got paid, power was accumulated, enemies were fucked, and egos were stroked. Oh, you mean "we" as in us, not "we" as in Obama and company. "Us" have nothing to show for it...oh wait, yes we do! Massive debt and a colossal, overbearing government! Yay!

  • Pro Libertate||

    The ISS?

    It's not all doom, because it's been a long time since either party had a significant minority that questioned the status quo. Will it be enough?

    The test will come in the next election. If the public is really scared about the economy and even about some of the other things the government is doing (e.g., IRS politicking, NSA spying), maybe reform-minded GOP types take both houses in big numbers. The test, though, isn't that. It's what the new House and Senate do then. Probably more of the same rather than not, but maybe they'll actually try to fix some of this mess. It's a forlorn hope, but it's all we've got at the moment.

  • tarran||

  • Brandon||

    Cowboys Stadium?

  • Dr. Frankenstien||

    O.k. fine beside the ISS, other stuff orbiting the Earth, Cowboys Stadium, a dam, some equipment on Mars and roads what else do we have to show for all of that spending.

  • Raven Nation||

    A burned out embassy in Benghazi?

  • Raven Nation||

    This is a pretty typical imperial remnant:

    http://diplomacy.state.gov/img....._944_1.jpg

  • Pro Libertate||

    The aqueduct?

  • Raven Nation||

    I seriously did not realize how big he US embassy in Baghdad is...440k sq meters about the same size as Vatican City and employs 15k people.

  • Square||

    The wine?

  • OneOut||

    There's the Astrodome down in Houston.

    Better hurry though, they are about to tear down the 8th wonder of the world.

  • wwhorton||

    So, what you're saying is that now is a great time to start moving into Bitcoin...

  • Mike M.||

    Now that's what I call a hockey stick chart right there.

  • Will Nonya||

    Isn't the problem that so many people make money from US dept that it's essentially an industry in itself?

  • BMFPitt||

    The real chart is actually a gently upward slope. It just looks straight due to mutually agreed upon accounting fraud.

  • pcolsen||

    This is foolish. The money that the Treasury is again borrowing is needed only to write the checks for appropriations already made. Whether or not the appropriations were well-thought-out when they were made has nothing to do with whether we should borrow to fund them now.

    The men and women who have been so vociferous about holding to the debt ceiling would be a lot more believable if they would take an oath, as many of them have about taxes, not to introduce bills with any new spending bills. Unfortunately their campaign financiers let them.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    Whether or not the appropriations were well-thought-out when they were made has nothing to do with whether we should borrow to fund them now.

    This is stupid. The House has the power of the purse (well, at least it used to). If they find out they don't have enough money to fund what they wanted to spend it on, there's no reason to take out more debt to do so.

    The fact that the media would make this into a shitstorm doesn't change the rules of basic math.

  • BMFPitt||

    Congress is always free to repeal spending that it decides it doesn't want.

  • Danno||

    Is a year's time Debt with be over $18.5T and within 5 years time $30T, if the $ does not collapse by then. I expect $ trouble in 2014 as US gov has to roll over massive short term debt and China shuns the $.

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  • thorax232||

    Numbers on a computer make the world go round and round. Where it stops? Collapse, corruption and destruction.

  • CatherineJLin||

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    http://WWW.JOBS72.COM

  • juliajuli330||

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  • pcolsen||

    Two things.

    First your graph is misleading. Your y-axis should start at zero. not at $16,500+ billion. The offset graph makes the increase seem much greater than it is. It's a huckster's trick. You should know better. See Tufte's "Visual Display of Quantitative Information" and Huff's "How to Lie with Statistics" for more information.

    Second, you know, or should know, that the debt limit doesn't drive the debt, appropriations do. Raising the limit merely allows us to pay for commitments already made, however foolish they might have been. The implication that we could just stop borrowing and "prioritize" payments is silly. Aside from all the legal and political reasons, both domestic and international, the executive branch will wind up doing the prioritizing. Do you want President Obama to have effectively unfettered control of who gets paid and who doesn't? I thought not.

    A publication with the title "Reason" shouldn't use numbers to tell lies and it shouldn't advocate silly ideas.

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