The U.S. National Debt is a serious issue right now. On 1/13/2011 the U.S. Treasury reported that Total Public Debt Outstanding hit 14,007,216,975,377.59 ($14 Trillion). $9.3 trillion was held by the public and $4.6 Trillion was intergovernmental (source: TreasuryDirect.gov). According to the real-time U.S. National Debt Clock at USDebtClock.org, the National debt is at $14,049,024,219,550. The main problem right now is there's a debt limit in place. Last year Congress raised the debt ceiling to $14.29 Trillion and it is expected to hit that level in May. So Congress will be making major moves in the next few months. I found an interesting fact sheet from the Heritage Foundation that explains what is going: The Debt Ceiling: Time, Options, and Action:
Congress Has Time: Gross federal debt has reached $14 trillion. Ongoing deficit spending (projected at $1.4 trillion for 2011) means the ceiling of $14.29 trillion will initially be reached around mid-March. Treasury’s traditional financial toolbox and revenue surges in April and June should delay the final moment of reckoning to mid-May and possibly as late as July.
Full Consideration and Deliberation: Members of Congress have time for full consideration and deliberation before making a decision on the debt limit and necessary spending cuts.
No Risk of Default: Keeping the debt ceiling at its current level would not, in and of itself, risk default on the debt. Federal taxes will still be collected by the Treasury from which interest and principal on the debt should be paid. Since default is not immediately a realistic scenario, the federal government’s credit-worthiness would not be damaged. [continue reading]
On 1/6/2011, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned congressional leaders that the debt ceiling must be raised. From MSNBC:
WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner warned congressional leaders Thursday that the government could reach its borrowing limit by spring and failure to raise it could affect millions of American jobs.
The government will reach the limit between March 31 and May 16, Geithner said in a letter to congressional leaders. Not increasing the $14.3 trillion debt limit could lead to job losses, he said. Inaction could drive up interest rates and make it more costly for U.S. companies to borrow money.
Also this is a must read article at WSJ.com (1/15/2011): How the Debt Ceiling Could Ding You
The holders of U.S. debt, meanwhile, are different today. Back then Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany—in that order—were the biggest international holders of U.S. debt. Now it is China, Japan and the U.K. That makes it difficult to predict what the market reaction will be."