U.S. National Debt Surpasses $33 Trillion

Originally published September 19, 2023 7:49 am PDT

The United States is grappling with an alarming milestone, as the Treasury Department reports that the nation’s gross federal debt has now exceeded the $33 trillion mark.

To many, this towering figure underscores not only the immediate challenges faced due to the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic but also the long-term fiscal issues that have been brewing over the past several decades.

While such a staggering sum can be challenging to comprehend, it essentially consists of the debt the U.S. government owes to external entities combined with obligations it owes internally to various government accounts.

Maya MacGuineas, the president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, commented on the matter, saying, “The United States has hit a new milestone that no one will be proud of: our gross national debt just surpassed $33 trillion.”

She further added, “Debt held by the public, meanwhile, recently surpassed $26 trillion. We are becoming numb to these huge numbers, but it doesn’t make them any less dangerous.”

It’s striking to note the sharp rise in debt over the years.

Roughly 40 years ago, the figure stood at a comparatively modest $907 billion.

However, recent developments, particularly those related to the pandemic, have rapidly accelerated the pace at which the debt has been accumulating.

As the Congressional Budget Office has highlighted, if current trajectories hold, the U.S. could witness the national debt doubling over the next 30 years.

As of the end of 2022, the national debt had reached roughly 97% of the gross domestic product.

By 2053, it’s projected to soar to a staggering 181%—a level unparalleled in history.

“As lawmakers drift from one short-term fiscal crisis to the next, our national debt just keeps piling up, trillion after trillion,” said Michael Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

The recent rise in the debt has been especially swift.

Congressman Dan Bishop pointed out that the United States has added $1 trillion to the existing national debt since June to exceed US$33 billion.

He highlighted that this amounts to a share of $260,000 per family.

However, amid the discussions on the spiraling national debt, Congress finds itself in a tussle to secure funding to keep the government running.

Some House Republicans have voiced opposition to the proposed short-term funding bill, largely due to concerns over unchecked government expenditure.

Ironically, as Bishop noted, the legislative response to this ballooning debt seems to be to pass another continuing resolution to continue to fund the government.

This looming crisis has also seen proposals such as the one put forth by the House Freedom Caucus and the Main Street Caucus.

Their joint proposal seeks a short-term funding solution through October 31, with an 8% budgetary cut across federal agencies, sparing only defense, veterans affairs, and disaster relief.

Yet, even this measure faces hurdles, intensifying the battle in Capitol Hill.

Despite the widespread concern over the national debt and its implications, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen remains optimistic about the nation’s economic direction, even in light of the growing inflation and interest rates.

Read the full Treasury statement below: