The nation's debt leapt $166 billion in a single day last week, the third-largest increase in U.S. history, and it comes at a time when Congress is balking over higher spending and debt has become a key policy battleground.
The one-day increase for June 30 totaled $165,931,038,264.30 - bigger than the entire annual deficit for fiscal year 2007 and larger than the $140 billion in savings the new health care bill will produce over its first 10 years. The figure works out to nearly $1,500 for every U.S. household, or more than 10 times the median daily household income.
Daily debt calculations jump and fall, and big shifts are common. But all three of the biggest one-day debt increases have occurred under the tenure of President Bush, and all of the top six have been in the past two years - an indication of just how quickly the pace of deficit spending has risen under Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush.
"What matters is the overall trend line, and the overall trend line is shooting up," said Robert Bixby, executive director of the Concord Coalition, a bipartisan deficit watchdog group, who said it is one more reason for a fiscal wake-up call.
Fears over red ink have stalled key parts of Mr. Obama's agenda in Congress in recent weeks, including his push for another round of stimulus spending. Just last week, House Democrats had to use a tricky parliamentary tactic to pass an emergency war-spending bill, aid for teachers and new spending caps.
On Wednesday, the Congressional Budget Office said the government has recorded a $1 trillion deficit for the first nine months of fiscal 2010, which began Oct. 1. That's slightly down from 2009's record $1.1 trillion deficit at this point.
CBO said revenues are doing slightly better this year than last year, while spending is down about $73 billion, mainly because the government made giant payments last year to bail out Wall Street, but did not have similar expenses this year. Other spending is higher, including unemployment benefits, which have jumped nearly 50 percent.
Deficits are the difference between what the government raises in revenue versus what it spends each year, while debt is the accumulation of those deficits over many years.
The Treasury Department calculates the country's debt position each day, and big rises and falls are not unusual. In fact, since hitting $13.203 trillion on June 30, the figure has since slipped $25 billion to settle at $13.178 trillion as of Tuesday, the latest day for which figures are available.
June 30 is always a major day for new debt, since debt held by one part of the government to another - for example, IOUs to the Social Security trust fund - are rolled over, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of the Public Debt said.
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