Without A Legal Debt Limit, Government Borrows At Historic Pace

campaign finance illustration

As Congress naps between fights over whether (or, rather, when and by how much) to raise the Federal debt limit, we’re technically without a legal cap on how much money the government can owe.

And it shows. According to the Treasury Department’s Oct. 31 statement, the Federal debt jumped in October by the second-largest margin in the Nation’s history. Last month, the Federal debt increased by nearly $409 billion, surpassing the $17 trillion mark for the first time.

That’s the largest single-month increase in history, behind only October 2008, when Congress passed the TARP bailout and the debt limit climbed by $545 billion.

From CNS News:

At the close of business on Sept. 30, 2013, the last day of fiscal 2013, the federal debt subject to limit stood at $16,699,396,000,000. At the close of business on Oct. 31, 2013, the first month of fiscal 2014, the debt subject to limit stood at approximately $17,108,378,000,000.

Thus, during October, the debt increased $408,982,000,000 — or about $3,567 for each of the 114,663,000 households the Census Bureau estimates there are in the United States.

Much of the $409 billion increase came all at once, as the temporary end of the Congressional debt limit fight opened the way for an immediate infusion of borrowed Federal money. The government hiked the debt by $328 billion in a single day as soon as the government shutdown ended.

“The giant jump comes because the government was replenishing its stock of “extraordinary measures” — the Federal funds it borrowed from over the past five months as it tried to avoid bumping into the debt ceiling,” The Washington Times wrote at the time. “Under the law, that replenishing happens as soon as there is new debt space.”

Until Feb. 7, the government exists in a no-man’s land of legal exemption that affords President Barack Obama to set the de facto debt limit because Congress chose to set a deadline — and not a dollar cap — on spending under its so-called “clean” continuing spending resolution. As the Times story reports, “[T]hat means debt can rise as much as Mr. Obama and Congress want it to, until the Feb. 7 deadline.”

Personal Liberty

Ben Bullard

Reconciling the concept of individual sovereignty with conscientious participation in the modern American political process is a continuing preoccupation for staff writer Ben Bullard. A former community newspaper writer, Bullard has closely observed the manner in which well-meaning small-town politicians and policy makers often accept, unthinkingly, their increasingly marginal role in shaping the quality of their own lives, as well as those of the people whom they serve. He argues that American public policy is plagued by inscrutable and corrupt motives on a national scale, a fundamental problem which individuals, families and communities must strive to solve. This, he argues, can be achieved only as Americans rediscover the principal role each citizen plays in enriching the welfare of our Republic.

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