Finally: National debt crosses magical $14 trillion threshold

The perfect companion piece to this essay in the new issue of Foreign Policy. American decline: It’s real and it’s spectacular.

The U.S. Treasury website today reported that as of last Friday, the last day of 2010, the National Debt stood at $14,025,215,218,708.52.

It took just 7 months for the National Debt to increase from $13 trillion on June 1, 2010 to $14 trillion on Dec. 31. It also means the debt is fast approaching the statutory ceiling $14.294 trillion set by Congress and signed into law by President Obama last February…

Some Republicans in the new Congress have said they’ll seek to block an increase in the Debt Ceiling unless a plan is in place to significantly reduce federal spending and unfunded government liabilities on entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

It’s hard to conceptualize the rate at which debt is being incurred for us to be able to say we’re “fast approaching” a limit that’s more than $250 billion away. Imagine how drastically spending would have to be cut to run budget surpluses capable of making a dent in that overall number. When it comes to revenue-generators, we’ll have to be creative. Maybe start seizing small assets? Maybe start seizing … large assets?

Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard tweeted this afternoon that he’s hearing the GOP will tie its acceptance of a new debt ceiling to a balanced budget amendment. A bold stroke, if true, but I hope Boehner realizes that once he’s onboard that rocket, there’s no way to get off. If Democrats call his bluff by refusing to agree to a BBA, he’ll be forced either to oppose raising the ceiling or to cave and drop his amendment demand, which will turn his name into a curse word among tea partiers. Is he ready for high-stakes poker? Exit question: Which rabid conservative once said this on the Senate floor before voting against raising the debt ceiling?

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

Jim DeMint, you say? Not exactly.