The National Debt Hit $22 Trillion at the End of 2018

Growth alone won't get us out of this mess.



Like many politicians before him, President Donald Trump promised to address the national debt. In fact, Trump told The Washington Post reporters in 2016 that he planned on eliminating the then $19 trillion debt in just eight years—the length of his presidency should he serve a second term. While his promise was always rather aggressively optimistic, a new report indicates that the American debt is steadily moving…in the wrong direction.

A report from the Treasury Department shows that 2018 ended with the national debt standing at $21.974 trillion. This means that $2 trillion in debt has accumulated since Trump's promise to eliminate it completely.

The debt consists of $16 trillion in public debt, or what the American government owes to domestic and foreign investors, and $5.8 trillion in intra-governmental debt, which is what is the American owes to public accounts like Social Security. If those numbers aren't terrifying enough, Reason columnist Veronique de Rugy explains, the national debt has more than doubled since George W. Bush's presidency in 2009. To give some perspective, in "the last 10 years, the federal government has accumulated more debt than in its entire existence leading up to that period."

Trump is not solely to blame for this problem. Though he previously rallied voters over entitlement reform, former House Speaker Paul Ryan failed to make any meaningful changes while the Republican Party controlled Congress, and long-term structural problems plague the whole endeavor.

The impending debt crisis cannot simply be solved by economic growth either. In an interview Brian Riedl, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Riedl told Reason's Eric Boehm that America essentially has two options left: "Either significantly raise taxes on the middle class or significantly cut benefits to current seniors. If we do neither, you will have a major financial crisis."