The Federal Government's flood of red ink hit another high-water mark as the Treasury Department quietly reported today that the National Debt hit $11-trillion for the first time ever.
(AP / CBS)
To be exact, the Debt now stands at $11,033,157,578,669.78. Divide it by the U.S. population and it comes up to over $36,000 in debt for every man, woman and child among us.
And the government is running up mountains of debt with increasing speed. It took just over 5 ½ months for Uncle Sam to go another trillion dollars deeper in debt since hitting $10-trillion last September 30th. It's the fastest jump in U.S. history.
The hundreds of billions of dollars being spent as part of the federal bailout of the financial markets is a leading factor in the rapid increase. Over $400-billion in debt has been accrued in the 57 days since President Obama took office.
And the federal budget he unveiled last month projects even faster increases in the National Debt. It'll hit $12.7-trillion by the end of the fiscal year on September 30th. The Administration's four year estimate shows that by the end of September 2012, the Debt will have soared to $16.2-trillion – which amounts to nearly 100% of the projected Gross Domestic Product that year.
The U.S. is running up so much debt so quickly, some investors are worried. Over the weekend, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, who says his country has about a trillion dollars invested in U.S. Treasury notes, said he wanted a guarantee.
President Obama said Wen's got nothing to worry about.
"Not just the Chinese government, but every investor, can have absolute confidence in the soundness of investments in the United States," he said on Saturday.
That's because the U.S. government's power to tax stands behind all of its debt. If Uncle Sam ever needs a bailout, then as now, taxpayers get nailed.
It took the U.S. government 191 years – from 1791 until 1982 – to run up its first trillion dollars in debt. The second and third trillions got on the scoreboard much more quickly – each in just four years.
By the time George W. Bush was inaugurated in 2001, the National Debt stood at $5.7-trillion. He ran up more debt faster than nearly all of his predecessors combined: just under $4.9-trillion.
The National Debt stood at $10.6-trillon on the day Barack Obama took office. But if his budget projections are accurate, he'll run up nearly as much government debt in four years as President Bush did in eight.
Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here.