Late this December, the Unites States Treasury will reach the $12.1 trillion statutory ceiling on the national debt. It will mark the 91st time Congress has had to raise the debt limit since the original $43 billion ceiling was established in 1940.

Many on the left argue that the United States federal government can borrow and spend as much money as it wants, and that any concerns about what it might cost us in the future are just a Phantom Menace. But as the chart to the right shows, we are already paying a hefty sum in monthly interest payments that are equal in size to what we spend in an entire year on other government priorities.

And the situation is only going to get worse under President Barack Obama’s budget. Heritage Foundation fellow Brian Riedl reports:

Federal spending (which has remained around 20 percent of economy since the 1950s) would surpass 28 percent of economy by 2019. Federal spending per household would rise from $25,000 per household in 2008 to more than $37,000 per household by 2019.

This spending would drive a permanent, unprecedented increase in the national debt. After borrowing just under $6 trillion from 1789 through 2008 (plus nearly $2 trillion in 2009), Washington would borrow $13 trillion over the next decade–nearly $100,000 for every household. By 2019, annual budget deficits would approach $2 trillion and push the public debt to nearly 100 percent of the economy. Merely paying the interest on this debt would soon cost taxpayers $1 trillion annually, and spending and deficits would continue to rise.


For more charts see Heritage’s National Debt Charts Facebook photo album.