The Treasury Department said Tuesday that the national debt has topped $16 trillion, the result of chronic government deficits that have poured more than $50,000 worth of red ink onto federal ledgers for every man, woman and child in the United States.
The news was greeted with a round of press releases from Barack Obama's GOP rivals, who used the grim-but-expected news to criticize the president for the government's fiscal performance over his 3 1/2 years in office. Obama has presided over four straight years of trillion dollar-plus deficits after inheriting a weak economy from his predecessor, George W. Bush.
"We can no longer push off the tough decisions until tomorrow," said No. 2 House Republican Eric Cantor, R-Va. "It's time to address the serious fiscal challenges we face and stop spending money we don't have." Last summer, Cantor dropped out of a set of budget talks hosted by Vice President Joe Biden, citing the insistence of the White House on tax increases to help close deficits that require the government to borrow 33 cents of every dollar it spends.