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National debt tops $22 trillion for first time in U.S. history

National debt hits record high $22 trillion
National debt hits record high of $22 trillion 00:29

The U.S. national debt has topped $22 trillion for the first time in history, according to daily figures released by the Treasury Department on Tuesday.

The debt has ballooned by more than $2 trillion in the two years since President Trump took office in January 2017, when the debt stood at $19.9 trillion. It surpassed $21 trillion for the first time in history in March 2018. Under the Obama administration, the national debt grew from $10.6 trillion to $19.9 trillion, an increase that drew sharps criticism from Republicans.

In an interview with the Washington Post in 2016, Mr. Trump vowed to eliminate the national debt "over a period of eight years." Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who joined the White House after the president said he would eliminate the debt, told CBS News last month Mr. Trump probably didn't mean he would eliminate the debt entirely. 

"I don't know, you know, I wasn't there, I read about some of this — I think what he was really referring to was he would stop the upward rise as a burden on the economy," Kudlow said in January. "In other words, to me, the measure is not, what is the deficit or this or that. It's as a share of GDP. That's your burden on the economy. And I would argue that it is and will continue to come down as a burden on the economy." 

But the ratio of debt-to-GDP has also increased, something that's unusual in a strong economy. In June 2018, the Congressional Budget Office said in a report that the level of debt as a share of GDP had reached its highest levels since World War II. 

Michael Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a fiscal policy think tank, said Tuesday's milestone is only "the latest sign that our fiscal situation is not only unsustainable, but accelerating." 

"Our growing national debt matters because it threatens the economic future of every American," Peterson said in a statement. "As we borrow trillion after trillion, interest costs will weigh on our economy and make it harder to fund important investments for our future ... In order to build the strong and stable future that we want for America, we must put our fiscal house in order and begin to manage our national debt."

Explaining the national debt 01:51
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